Que Pasa, Sam Brownback?

To get a few things out of the way upfront:  You know we’re from Kansas, right?  And that we live in the Olathe area, right?  And that Kansas is going through a “bit of a tough time, financially”, right?  (That last was not a direct quote–I just needed you to know that it drips, nay reeks, of sarcasm on my part.)  Okay.  I just needed to make sure we were all on the same page, or a lot of this isn’t going to make sense.  Right, let’s begin.

A few days before school began, the girls had a babysitter–a neighborhood girl who is (or whose parents are) more in touch with local goings-on than we are, it would seem, and the next morning, Maddie had some news for us:  There will be NO SPANISH classes offered this year.  In fact, her former Spanish teacher will now be working in the cafeteria.  Whut.  To confirm, Jon and I checked the school’s website, and sure enough, there was no Spanish listed in the schedules, and Senora was no longer listed among the teaching staff.  Instead it appeared Maddie would have library twice a week, and I mean, I love, LOVE, libraries and books and all things literary, but I do not think she actually needs library twice a week.  I’m not saying she’s not going to get anything out of it, but I do not think she will get as much out of it as she would learning a second language.

A little further searching showed that Spanish at the elementary level had been cut district wide, which is honestly not that surprising when you consider that Olathe will be suffering the biggest budget cuts of any Johnson County schools in the 2015-2016 school year:  $10.2 million dollars, to be exact.  (This is only slightly less than the $10.8 million KCK schools are losing, and it makes me doubly pissed, when I think about how little they can afford that.)  Nevermind that we were estimated to be gaining 417 new students this year.  Screw them.  You will now do for even more children with even less than you had before, even though you had already been told in 2014 that your state government was underfunding education in an unconstitutional manner.   Also, Jon just informed me that our school district, among others, went to the legislature and asked for further funding, but of course, they were denied anything near the amounts they requested.  So shocking.  *Eye roll*

Normally, when cuts are made to specific programs, people look at the school board, but not this time.  This time, they’ve basically gone on record as saying this really sucks, and we really wish we didn’t have to do this, but what the hell else are we going to do there is literally no f’ing money, we’re so very sorry.  (At least, that is how I interpreted the much nicer and more correct comments in the article linked above.)  So, who am I blaming (because obviously someone, why else would I be writing this?), and why does this bug so much?  Well, I’m blaming our Neo-conservative led legislature and their diabolical Evil-in-Chief, Governor Sam Brownback.  They jacked up our state budget long ago (and if you want to know how and why, I suggest you google “Kansas Budget Crisis” and let the New York Times and the Posts Washington and Huffington outline all that for you.  There’s no shortage of articles on how badly things are going at the moment), and now our children are paying for it.  (Well, our kids and people of lesser means.  Let’s all talk about that sales tax increase, shall we?)

As for why it makes me so angry:  Because I think you’re disenfranchising my kid, that’s why!  I’ve always felt that learning a second language was important, and I’ve always heard and believed that the younger one can learn that second language, the better it will take and the more natural it will become.

BUT!  I don’t expect you to believe me just because I say so, and so I did some research.  Studies by the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab (CLAL) show strong links between learning a second language and better cognitive habits, including paying attention in the face of distractions.  Martha G. Abbott, Director of Education for the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) has this to say regarding early adoption of foreign language study (read the full article here):

It is critical that foreign language instruction be available to all students throughout their PK-12 academic experience. Knowing other languages and understanding other cultures is a 21st Century skill set for American students as they prepare to live and work in a global society. No matter what career students enter, they will be interacting with others around the world on a routine basis and doing business locally with those whose native language is not English.

Beginning foreign language instruction early sets the stage for students’ to develop advanced levels of proficiencies in one or more languages. In addition, younger learners still possess the capacity to develop near native-like pronunciation and intonation in a new language. Finally, young learners have a natural curiosity about learning which is evident when they engage in learning a new language. They also are open and accepting of people who speak other languages and come from other cultures.

All of the better study habits, etc., is very well and good, but the part that really hits home for me is “…as they prepare to live and work in a global society.”  Hell, we live in a part of Olathe with a very high Hispanic population.  Learning Spanish, and eventually being able to speak it well enough to carry on a conversation, could have made her an asset to the community*, but now, because someone decided to “experiment” with the Kansas budget and some other people were too scared, stupid, or brainwashed to step in and tell him it was a really terrible idea, she won’t study Spanish again until middle school (assuming we haven’t privatized education completely by then or some equally ridiculous nonsense).  She’ll have to rely on the kids’ placemats at Mexican restaurants to remind her that “verde” means green and “rojo” means red.  She’ll only know that “pollo” means chicken thanks to her dad’s “Breaking Bad” “Los Pollos Hermanos” t-shirt.  And she’ll only remember how to alert someone that their bathroom is on fire because it was her mother’s high school journalism teacher’s favorite Spanish phrase to yell nonsensically, and she is still prone to just spout “Su banjo es en fuego!”  (Which I have just Googled and learned is not particularly accurate.  Oh well.**  I feel that, in the moment, the person I was speaking to would get the general drift.  And hopefully a fire extinguisher.)

Oh, and when I Googled “arguments against teaching second language as a young age, I got the following:

screenshot

It would appear no one in our statehouse knows how to use Google, either.  Sigh.

Basically, Sam Brownback, we*** trusted you with the future of our state, and this largely means the future of our children, and you have royally screwed us over.  You and your cronies have made us a national laughing stock, and now just hearing that my daughters come from Kansas is going to be one strike against them.  In 2014, you said of the school funding problems “We will fix this.”  Um, when exactly are you going to do that? Apúrate, por favor.

*I’m not saying it would have definitely or anything like that.  I don’t know how involved Maddie plans to be in the community.  I’m just saying it could have, okay?

**With all due apologies to Mrs. Orozco, who was fabulous and should in no way be blamed for my lack retention.  It’s because I didn’t start Spanish until high school, that’s why.

***And by we I mean people who actually voted for you, and they do not include me.  Or really anyone I’ve talked to recently.