Oregon, like all the states, has had it’s share of growth from immigrants from around the world.  Most of us in the United States are the descendants of immigrants.  Many came from Europe, others came from Asia, Africa, or elsewhere in the Americas.  In most cases, our ancestors were met with suspicion or contempt by those already here.  It is no surprise that this situation has not changed over the years.

However, over the years, we have become more enlightened in how we deal with assimilating those around us into society.  We have programs to help people settle in our land.  We encourage all groups of people to work together without regard for their origin or that of their forefathers.  One program to help newcomers adapt is to teach children who speak other languages in ways that allow them to grow.

Currently, we assess our children in a number of ways to see what they need to make the most of their education.  If a child has a physical or mental disability, we place them in an appropriate program.  If a child is slower than average in learning, we will do what it takes to get them up to grade level.  In fact, we have programs for testing and programs such as “No Child Left Behind” to ensure that all children get the instruction that they need.  That is why I don’t understand why, if a child has a disadvantage because they have spoken a different language all their lives, that they should not also be offered a program designed to meet their needs.

We currently have programs that do just that.  If a child does not understand English as well as necessary to keep up with their class, there are English as a Second Language (ESL) classes that get the children up to grade level.  The goal is always to get them into regular classes as soon as possible, without getting them behind in their other subjects.  This is why Oregon Ballot Measure 58 is so unfair to our children.

Ballot Measure 58 would require children to be placed in “mainstream” classes within a certain period of time, rather than putting them together with the other students when they are ready.  It is a worthy goal to see that all children can be taught together in the same classrooms so that they can socialize together.  But there is no logical explaination as to that is suposed to happen at the same rate for every student.  this measure adds layers of rules to a school system that is already trying to do its best to teach all students in the most appropriate way.

The measure does away with ESL classes after one to two years, depending upon the child’s grade level.  It replaces them with a program of “English Immersion Classes,”  a concept that is not defined by the ballot measure.  This could mean that all children must go to classes with the rest of the students, whether or not they would benefit from that arrangement.  This would certainly not make sense, since the measure itself defines non-English speaking students” as those students not capable of being taught in English.  It could mean setting up a new English Immersion program, which would cost us money to set up and run, and would get the student behind in other subjects.

This ballot measure starts out by stating that “English is the language of oportunity in America” and that “Learning English opens the doors to better jobs and opportunities.”  I do not disagree with either of those statements.  But I also believe that learning English, as well as mathematics and science and social studies and other subjects will also open doors to better jobs and opportunities.  We need to teach our children in ways that meet that individual child’s needs.  Putting a child in a science class where they might not yet understand what the teacher is saying will only serve to alienate the student and cause them to fall farther behind.

Most schools or teachers or administrators will tell you that this type of ballot measure is a good idea.  That is because the measure is not in the best interests of educating our children.  It is also not in the best interests of our society to have children held back from learning to their full potential.  Besides, it will not save us money to replace the current ESL system of learning with an undefined system of English immersion classes, which will likely require more teachers to implement.

No, Ballot Measure 58 will only serve to amuse the folks who want to covertly put up roadblocks at every turn for new immigrants to our country.  We have a history of discriminating against newcomers throughout history.  This one is especially mean, though.  It does not only serve to impede newcomers to our area, it is detrimental to the families and the children who have just immigrated to our country.

Shame on Bill Sizemore and his crew for atacking our children to keep them from learning at their fullest potential.  Next time you want to pick on a group that you hate, please try to pick on someone your own size.