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Education and cultural heritage

Aspen Times writer

Dear Editor:

I thank the Advocates for Carbondale Education for their time and sincere efforts to make this valley a better place to educate our children. As I review the issues at hand, I am most interested in and concerned with providing the most effective education for our Hispanic children coupled with ethnic preservation, especially as it relates to language.

I fear that the school administration and school board may dismiss the notion that language and cultural preservation in the Latino community is a positive, and focus merely on shortsighted and non-retentive approaches. Such has been the case over academic decisions made of late at the Carbondale Elementary School.

One concern is, as recent immigrants, Hispanics represent a very young population. What can we do with our population of school-aged children to both educate them and retain their language and culture into adulthood? Several models have been studied and recommendations made for best practice within schools. The most recent approach in our schools appears shortsighted, and, at the very least, without a logical foundation.

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According to Dr. Melissa Roderick, Hispanic-Americans are currently amongst the most educationally disadvantaged group in America. The ability of our community to address poor educational performance is imperative. Hispanic youths will shape the future of this community, and our ability to address the disadvantaged position of our Hispanic youths will shape America’s future. An investment of time, of money, of collaboration between advocacy groups, teachers, parents, the school administration and school board is well worth our effort.

Two well-known educators and scholars, Dr. Melissa Roderick and Dr. Pastora Cafferty, suggest that preschool and Head Start programs directly impact on success in school among Hispanic children more than any other programs. Why not start here? I have heard no discussion about investing in early-childhood programs.

Additionally, the degree to which children receive better home support for their education is associated with better school performance. Few models appear to exist in the valley to support Hispanic families in assisting their children at home. I encourage the school administration and school board to take a close look at underlying factors in education and to begin to cultivate stronger early childhood programs while preserving Hispanic culture and language. Specifically, schools can initiate Spanish-speaking parent groups. Also bilingual parent-teacher meetings can encourage the contribution of Hispanic parents and dialogue between educators who can identify the needs of Hispanic students and parents with unique knowledge of their personal heritage and community experience.

Hispanic parents can instruct educators in aspects of the rich variety of Hispanic heritage as well as other aspects Hispanic cultural heritage, which can enrich the curriculum and engage their children, providing opportunity for the home life and academic experience of these students to can enhance and augment each other.

I certainly do not have all of the answers on how best to educate our Hispanic students, nor on how to preserve Hispanic language and culture. I do, however, believe that the suggestions and comments in this letter are directly relevant to the success of Hispanic children and families.

Amy M. Wescott

Carbondale


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