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The Wrong Protest
Try marching against a failed education establishment...

[Xiaochin Claire Yan] 3/30/06

For the third straight day this week, tens of thousands of students walked out of their schools Wednesday to protest against legislation that would make illegal immigration a felony. The Los Angeles County Office of Education reported that more than 36,000 students walked out from district schools on Tuesday. Among heavily Hispanic schools in downtown Los Angeles the news of the boycott spread through hallway posters and public address systems. Many schools went into lockdown, with some officials literally fighting with protestors to keep the doors of the school closed and the students in the classrooms.

While some students appeared to truly care about the issue at hand, others admitted that they simply did not want to be at school. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa met with student protestors and won cheers for his opposition to the legislation. Yet later in the day, when he came out of city hall to tell students it was time to return to school, he drew boos, taunts and obscenities in Spanish.

Guest Contributor
Xiaochin Claire Yan

Xiaochin Claire Yan is a Policy Fellow in Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco.[Yan index]

Many of those interviewed at the protests echoed the message that they and their families were just here to make a better life. Sadly, by walking out of the classroom — a move that was not only disruptive, but also financially costly to schools whose federal funding is dependent on student attendance — they took themselves away from the one place that offers them the best chance at a better life. Yet some school officials appeared unconcerned with the loss of valuable learning time and said they were please to see this week’s show of “political activism” from students.

While the students were out protesting, the California Department of Education released new numbers showing that nearly a third of English learner students in the class of 2006 have not yet passed the high school exit exam. Among Hispanic students at large 18 percent have yet to pass. Meanwhile, the dropout rate in Los Angeles is estimated to be near 30 percent and higher among Hispanic students.

Partly to blame is that for years basic skills such as reading, writing, and math have been obscured by multiculturalism, self-esteem, and other politically correct fads. Rather than teaching immigrant students how to assimilate into the civic mainstream of America and giving them the tools they need to make that better life, schools have instead let them pass from grade to grade without really keeping track of their progress or holding anyone accountable.

Students and parents themselves must also take responsibility. Where is the outcry over letting generation after generation of immigrant students pass through our schools with no marketable real world skills? Where are the mass protests over the now discredited bilingual education blunder that kept immigrants, mostly those from Mexico, from achieving English literacy?

Public demonstrations are an exercise in freedom of expression. But as with the Proposition 187 protests in 1994, many students are being exploited by those who urge them to stay out of school in solidarity with the Latino community. All immigrant communities need better educated youths.

In these protests, much has been made of the fact that America is a nation of immigrants. Indeed. But if this immigrant success is to continue, we need to help those who are here, and those who will continue to arrive, understand the tradition and heritage of this country and gain the skills needed to build a bright future. CRO

copyright 2006 Pacific Reasearch Institute




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