for release Friday October 01, 2004
by Melodie Davis
As the World Turns
Three little vignettes, to help us understand our neighbors from the South who increasingly fill our communities:
Maybe it was egotistical of me to assume that the mother putting her son on the bus was excited about her son enrolling in a public school in the U.S. Maybe she was thinking, “In this educational system and culture, will my son lose the values of caring family he’s been brought up with?” An interesting book came out recently, Parenting with Pride: Latino Style written by Carmen Inoa Vazquez, (HarperCollins, 2004) a Latina family counselor who specializes in cross-cultural issues. Vazquez says she raised her children to be both bilingual and bicultural. She counsels parents to retain the best of both worlds: to cherish their cultural values while giving children the skills and tools they need to succeed in this society, even though the immigrant family faces formidable cultural challenges.
The changing language scene, as illustrated by the last story, impacts all of us, whether our native language is English or Spanish: we grumble about wading through pages of complicated directions for a new product in four languages. But the real difficulty in communicating comes in complicated business transactions, like buying insurance, understanding the legalese of a real estate transaction, loans, medical insurance, any legal or criminal matter. Much is demanded of clerks, teachers, police—as well as the person who is trying their best to learn and understand a new language while working full time and maybe being too tired at night to go to language classes. There is a cost to society—in providing education for new immigrants, mix-ups caused by language in medical care, perhaps even life and death situations.
The bottom line which motivates people to come to North America is wanting the things that most everyone has always wanted for their families: a good education, food, a house, a car, nice clothing. Who is small enough to begrudge anyone that?
But of course people do, and it is because the newcomers frequently overload crowded systems—whether it is jobs, housing or education. One U.S.-born child didn’t make it into a Head Start program because there were too many Spanish-speaking children wanting the same slot at her school. She learned that life sometimes isn’t fair. Later, however, a slot for her opened up. Tables turned.
Why were you lucky enough to be born into a society that currently offers a free good education, with (too much) food for most of us, better housing than most countries of the world, low unemployment by world standards? Life isn’t fair. Would you go hungry and risk everything if you thought there was a chance you could provide a better life for your family? While I favor legal immigration (knowing that completely open borders cause too many other problems), we need to try and understand where others are coming from. The world has turned.
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Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 791 words; end material = 105 words
We would appreciate it if you would include the "Globe Syndicate" bug at the end of the column.
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