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This Taiwanese-American mom wants white people to stop putting their kids in Chinese immersion programs

November 9, 2017
Two things to know about this.
First, this San Francisco mom probably isn’t aware that back in 2006, the San Francisco Unified School District specifically created the Mandarin immersion program at Starr King and Jose Ortega elementary schools to bring in a more diverse student body. The schools had primarily African-American and Hispanic student bodies, the district wanted to make them more representative of the city as a whole by adding white and Asian students. 
The push for diversity, which in SFUSD means both white and Asian, was baked into those programs and is the only reason they exist. It’s not the parents, it’s the school district, that pushes for white families in these programs.
But the other thing to remember is that from the sound of it, this mom most likely has a 4-year-old and is looking to enter the SFUSD lottery for a Kindergarten slot. All our grade schools are lottery schools, with only a small bump given for those who live near certain schools.
Fall is the time you tour schools and fall in love with programs your child is likely never to get into (one popular school has 600 applicants for 24 Kindergarten seats.) Which may be exactly what she’s in the midst of.

The system is truly a lottery, you fill out a form, list the schools you want in order and then spend the next two months gnawing at your fingernails.

It’s an incredibly stressful period when you imagine that your child won’t get a space in a school that works for you, and a time when many parents kind of freak out. This essay feels to me like a lot of that anxiety bubbling out. 
Having gone through the process myself, it’s very much a “there isn’t enough pie to go around, how can I make sure my child gets a slice?” feeling. So I can understand this cri de coeur, even though I think it’s misguided.

Hey White Parents Who Enroll Their Kids In Chinese School: STOP

It only takes three generations to lose a language, they say.

My mother, who came to the U.S. in her late twenties, tried to get my siblings and me to speak Chinese. For a while she attempted it at home, until our refusal to answer in the language wore her down. Then we did the Saturday school thing, where we’d get up at the crack of dawn to drive an hour each way so we could congregate with the other second-generation non-speakers to be shamed by the teachers about our lack of fluency. It just wouldn’t stick; we were too American — a culture that neither values nor teaches its children to be bilingual.

Read more here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2017 11:23 am

    This looks like it will wind people up. The solution when everyone wants a slice of the pie, is to bake more pie. FWIW, research shows that language learning is not a lost cause after early childhood either. In fact, middle childhood appears to be “better.” Humans have been bilingual since before we had formal education, somehow we did it :).

  2. Heather permalink
    November 9, 2017 3:43 pm


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