Wednesday, July 02, 2008

School board idiocy

I am absolutely horrified by this story. Following a commencement speech at a Lousiana high school in which the co-valedictorians thanked their parents briefly in their native Vietnamese, the school board is considering a formal policy that all commencement speeches must be delivered in English. (Reports here and here.)

How ignorant and xenophobic do you have to be to feel threatened by a high school valedictorian wanting to express gratitude to her parents in a few sentences of another language? I am sick and tired of people believing that living in the United States entitles them never to hear any other language spoken besides English. It's simply incomprehensible to me how the school board can claim that this policy is aimed toward inclusivity.

Hue Vo, one of the co-valedictorians, also said in her speech, "Ellender is very diverse. We have many cultures there. They encourage us to be an individual. That’s why I love Ellender. It helped me be an Asian American and not be ashamed of it because no one judged me." Ironic, isn't it?

(Thanks to Angry Asian Man, who expressed his outrage far more eloquently than I can.)


S said...

I doubt anyone would be complaining if a valedictorian said something in French to honor her French teacher. Or said something in Latin. Knowing that, it's pretty hard to swallow the proposed English only rule as a simple matter of politeness to the audience.

Of all groups, you would expect a friggin' school board to value the ability of a student to express herself in more than one language!

Gail T. said...

Oh wow! Instead of celebrating the parts everyone played (parents, teachers, students) in the graduates' successes, certain school board members, would rather regulate and limit what goes on or is said in graduation ceremonies. Wake up, Mr./Ms. Rickie Pitre and Mr. Roger DeHart, you are now living among global citizens. I can't believe Pitre's gall in suggesting that English-only speakers are discriminated against because two Vietnamese Americans, who only happen to be the best students in their high school, expressed their gratitude to their families in words that mean a lot to them! Yeah, 'cause the smart kids forgot to provide a rough translation for the audience. :(

I just hope the more sensible and truly intelligent members of the school board will put Pitre and DeHart in their places. Mr. Don Duplantis and Board President Hayes Badeaux, I'm counting on you!

Language Lover said...

Very good point, S. I mentioned in a previous post that objections to the use of foreign languages tend to occur most frequently with Spanish and Asian languages, which makes me suspect that the objection to the language is really a cover for an objection to the people.

And Gail, the students---at least one of them---actually did provide a translation into English following the Vietnamese address. But Pitre was insistent that the English had to come FIRST, and that he might permit the student to paraphrase it in translation. How generous of him.

S said...

As a professional speaker, I find the insistence that the English come first asinine. It would totally destroy the effect of the snippet in the foreign language if you had to telegraph for the audience where you're going before you get to say it.

There would be no point in going on to say, "Je pense donc je suis" if I first had to tell the audience I would be saying, "I think therefore I am" in French.

You're absolutely right, LL, that the language objection seems so clearly to be a pretext to the real objection.