A couple of days ago I posted about the two St. Paul schoolchildren who (according to their mother) were denied further use of their schoolbus because they were native English speakers. The argument that followed prompted me to do some more research on the topic, which led into a Borgesian labyrinth of bureaucratic multiculturalism.
But first, the context. For my original post I was quite rightly taken to task by a reader in New Zealand for the way I presented the story. In a followup note my correspondent said this:
Thanks for a reply and to your credit it had been made public. The issue I have is that it looks like you left out the rest of the story for the sake of convenience leaving it opened to an attack from a wrong angle.
Emphasising that “white Christian English kids” were left out is more reactive then constructive. According to the article all academies have their own route and busses and the issue is IMO more in logistics then the school being racist or discriminatory. Surely more can be done to speed up the integration of Hmong kids into the society but you left this idea untouched.
I don’t know whether there is a “bureaucratic monstrosity” that left the kids without any means to get back home. The article simply doesn’t provide enough information but I would optimistically assume that there is a bus that is designated to their school and operates on the route that suits most of the kids in the area and is available for them to get back home. I would be outraged if the school doesn’t give the parents time and opportunity to arrange an alternative transport, but I doubt there is a school that would simply leave any kid without any means to get back home from one day to another without a single warning. But I can only guess as there is nothing further on this in the article.
The problem simply isn’t where your blog post seems to be pointing, that’s all.
Our reader is right: In my outrage I left out the school’s side of the story (the family had moved out of the school’s district; it was all a misunderstanding) in order to emphasize the appalling fact that the kids were left stranded at school because they were not allowed to ride the bus home.
Various commenters weighed in on the topic. Some agreed that I was sensationalizing the incident; others thought I was presenting the outrage in a straightforward fashion.
But the reader from New Zealand isn’t right about Hmong students being in a separate school — they go to the same elementary school that the two English-speaking children attend, Phalen Lake Elementary School.
Commenter pigpaws had this to say:
1. From what I understand, the buses are shared by different schools and students. Pay your taxes, buses are provided. Get yourself to a stop, you can ride. What I don’t get is why the school waited until now to remove the kids. Children are usually told which bus they are to ride at the beginning of each school year. Even if this family moved, by the way the bus system is provided, it shouldn’t have mattered. The bus still goes to the school that the children attend. 2. Looking at the school website, Hmong and Spanish are the languages of choice for the accelerated program of the school. Or am I looking at it wrong and it is for Hmong and Spanish only?
No, you’re right: Hmong and Spanish are the two languages selected out for special attention.
I spent a long time last night looking at the nooks and crannies of the school’s website, and then the St. Paul school district’s sites, and then various Minnesota state government sites, staying up into the wee hours googling and peering until my eyes went crossed from staring at the screen.
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I found out that Phalen Lake’s Core Knowledge Academic Program is “a school reform model described nationally as ‘gifted education for all.’“
That sounds like Lake Wobegon to me: “At Phalen Lake, all children are above average.”
But leave that aside. The site goes on to say this:
The school’s NEW World Languages enrichment classes allow students to explore the cultures and customs of the Spanish and Hmong speaking worlds.
Based on the experience of the two children stranded at school last Monday, it would appear that only children who already speak the language are allowed to “explore the cultures and customs” of those exotic folk.
According to a 1998 article in Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Hmong is the language most widely spoken by immigrant children in Minnesota.” Yet it seems that the Hmong program at Phalen Lake doesn’t have much of a web presence — the largest amount of information I could find was a single sentence on the Hmong language class: “We are practicing on how to prounouce [sic] words.”
But Spanish — that’s another matter. When I looked at the Spanish-language section of the school’s website, the first thing I encountered was the acronym LCD.
“Aha!” you say. “They’ve bought liquid crystal displays for the children! A good use of school funds.”
Well, not quite. The number of TLAs is finite, and they have to be recycled. “LCD” is used throughout the Minnesota educational establishment to refer to the “Latino Consent Decree”. The LCD is an elusive legal decision which compels the state to expend large amounts of money on bilingual education, cultural awareness, celebrating diversity, and all the other multicultural activities which have become so depressingly familiar.
The Phalen Lake LCD page contains a single paragraph:
The Latino Consent Decree(LCD) program services Latino students in our Phalen Lake Elementary School. The program provides bilingual support for students who are in the process of learning academic English.
If you troll through all the individual schools of the “spps.org” (St. Paul Public Schools) sites, you’ll find clones of the same paragraph with the school’s name changed. Some schools have additional information, most of which seems to be drawn from a document available here (in pdf format).
The Latino Consent Decree is a legally binding court order that requires the district to provide specific educational services for Hispanic/ Latino students in the district. The Latino Consent Decree program (LCD) in Saint Paul Public Schools is designed for Spanish-speaking students who need additional support; LCD students also learn about Latino culture and history.
At the elementary level, the LCD program provides eligible elementary students with bilingual content support and ESL services. The extent of these services is determined by the student’s Spanish language proficiency, divided into three categories of services:
Secondary LCD students take high school courses in various academic subjects taught in Spanish as they continue to learn English. Courses include U.S. History, World History and Diverse Perspectives, Math, and Science. At ELC schools, content courses are offered in Spanish that include the cultural component as well, with students learning about their Latino history and culture both in English and in Spanish. Coursework is aligned with district standards to ensure that students learn the essential skills in the subject areas needed for graduation.
In 2006, the ELL department developed ‘Embedding Latino Culture in the K-3 Social Studies Curriculum. General education teachers attend workshops to learn how to embed elements of Latino culture in the social studies curriculum. They also receive Latino culture kits, which include lesson plans, books, flags, maracas, and other items.
My blood started to simmer as I read through all this material, because we all know what this bilingual multicultural jive means: forcing students to speak Spanish and remain “Mexican”, and preventing them from becoming Americans.
But I reached a full boil when I hit that last paragraph: “how to embed elements of Latino culture in the social studies curriculum.” Yup. Uh-huh. Mexican history, Latino pride, the Spanish language, Cinco de Mayo, the whole ball of wax. “Flags”? Flags of what country? I’ll give you three guesses.
There is a huge chunk of the educational bureaucracy wedded to these multicultural ideals. They’re convinced that America is bad. They’re certain that encouraging foreign children to speak English and join the mainstream culture is a racist act, and they’re determined to prevent it.
All ordered by some judge, and paid for by your tax dollars.
But what, exactly, is the “Latino Consent Decree”? Where and when was it issued, and by whom?
That’s actually very difficult to find out. The most I was able to discover about it was contained in the Strib article from 1998, “Kids Learn English But Stick with Native Tongues, Too”:
The number of students in Minnesota who speak little or no English has more than tripled in the past 10 years to about 29,000, with most attending schools in St. Paul and Minneapolis. That’s about 5 percent of total student enrollment, according to the state Department of Children, Families and Learning.
While Spanish is the dominant foreign language in California schools, Hmong is the language most widely spoken by immigrant children in Minnesota. Spanish comes in second here, and at least another 80 native tongues can be heard in school halls, including Russian and Farsi, the official language of Iran.
In St. Paul the kindergarten program offered at Homecroft and at Roosevelt Elementary School is the only daylong bilingual class under the Latino Consent Decree, a settlement reached in a lawsuit filed in the late 1970s by Hispanic parents demanding fair education. [emphasis added]
A total of about 1,500 Hispanic students receive special instruction under the terms of the decree.
In schools with few Hispanics, children attend only ESL classes.
The St. Paul School District’s roughly 8,500 Hmong students also receive ESL instruction, Serrano said. “We just don’t have the materials, the teachers or the resources for bilingual classes in Hmong and English.”
“Fair education”. Right. Meaning “being educated to remain Mexican”.
In the course of my LCD search I encountered this little gem of a memo, issued by the St. Paul Public Schools last winter:
Mexican Consulate to visit Saint Paul Public Schools
2/10/2006 3:20 PM
TO: All Principals and Staff FROM: Valeria Silva, Director, English Language Learner Programs (ELL) Pablo Matamoros, Latino Consent Decree (LCD) Resource Teacher RE: Mexican Consulate to visit Saint Paul Public Schools
We are pleased to announce that Saint Paul Public Schools will have the honor of receiving Mr. Juan Matus, a representative from the Mexican Consulate in Saint Paul, who will present to SPPS Latino families what services are provided by the Consulate and how families can access these services. He will also discuss ways in which the Consulate can partner with Saint Paul Public Schools to better students’ educational experiences and to increase parent involvement. There will be a question-and-answer period at the end of Mr. Matus’ presentation so that community members can express their concerns and ideas.
This event will be held on Monday, February 27, in the auditorium at Humboldt Senior High School, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. We sincerely hope that you will be able to attend. The presentation will be given in Spanish, and an English interpreter will be present.
If you have any questions, or if you would like to suggest additional topics for Mr. Matus to discuss on the evening of February 27th, please contact Valeria or Pablo at 651-767-8320.
At this point I officially reached the state called High Dudgeon.
Why do we have to put up with this?
An official representative of a foreign government was invited by Minnesota state officials to come into the public schools and assist with the indoctrination of Spanish-speaking children and their parents, speaking in his own language.
Why is that a legitimate — or even legal — function of a taxpayer-funded state educational system?
Why don’t the residents of Minnesota rise up as one and dump tea into the Mississippi River?
“Wait a minute, Baron,” you say. “You’re sensationalizing these things again! The kind gentleman from the Mexican consulate was just there to help Mexican parents find a good recipe for refried beans, or perhaps to provide a list of places in greater St. Paul where they can get their maracas repaired.”
Well, that may be true; it might all be quite innocuous. If any of our readers were there, or could find the minutes of the meeting (translated into English), please let me know. In fact, that phone number is probably still good — you could try calling Valeria or Pablo and see what they have to say.
But I never did find out exactly what the Latino Consent Decree is, or was, or might have been. It happened in the 1970s, and continues to compel Minnesota taxpayers to fund the activities described above, year after year. Somebody sued somebody and won, and now all Minnesotans have to pay, and pay, and pay…
No mention of a judge’s name, or a date, or a case number, or a docket. As far as the internet is concerned, the Latino Consent Decree, although everybody knows about it and complies with it, does not exist.
No legislature ever passed a bill to create it. No governor signed it into law. The LCD was created ex nihilo. Although it is invisible, lacking both form and substance, it nonetheless continues to work its will on the citizens of Minnesota.
This all reminds me of the famous passage from Catch-22:
“Catch-22,” the old woman repeated, rocking her head up and down. “Catch-22. Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing.”
“Didn’t they show it to you?” Yossarian demanded, stamping about in anger and distress. “Didn’t you even make them read it?”
“They don’t have to show us Catch-22,” the old woman answered. “The law says they don’t have to.”
“What law says they don’t have to?”
Gates of Vienna readers, especially those in Minnesota, are invited to apply their distributed intelligence to this problem and see if they can locate the Latino Consent Decree of 1970-something. It may actually exist, bound in a dusty volume of legal documents somewhere deep in the storage archives of the Minnesota state government.
Me, I feel like Yossarian:
Yossarian strode away, cursing Catch-22 vehemently even though he knew there was no such thing. Catch-22 did not exist, he was positive of that, but it made no difference. What did matter was that everyone thought it existed, and that was much worse, for there was no object or text to ridicule or refute, to accuse, criticize, attack, amend, hate, revile, spit at, rip to shreds, trample upon, or burn up.
Who consented? And who decreed?