“Where the silvery Rio Grande gleams along the sand,” begins the alma mater of Ysleta High School from which I graduated back in…well, suffice it to say, a different age. My wife Lai and I spoke to three English classes there about what it’s like to be a writer. In retrospect, I don’t know why they invited us, and I don’t know why we accepted. Many of the kids were like others we encounter back in Georgia. Which is to say, they neither read nor write. The closest they come to writing is when they send a text and the closest they come to reading is when they receive one.
I know it’s traditional for people to bemoan the decline of civilization as they age, so maybe I’m just becoming a grumpy old man. Many of the female students at YHS have babies. Some have two or three. The males who fathered those children have, in most cases, no role in the lives of those children..
The entire Lower Valley area where we grow up is an Hispanic ghetto. The signs on the streets and the conversations on the sidewalks are all in Spanish. The student’s grandparents and parents live near them, mostly employed in menial jobs. To escape this destiny requires not only that the student aspire to something very different from the rest of their family, it requires moving into an English-speaking world.
I’m an advocate of multi-lingualism. I believe every American student should be taught a second language beginning in the first grade when our language acquisition ability is still strong. But a nation cannot reach its full potential without a strong common language and a shared belief system.
Getting off my soap-box now to drive back to Silver City.