Education is a tool of empowerment, promotes mobility, and has consistently been monumental in advocating for the individuals conquest for identity. Under the current administration, it seems education has become less of a priority and more of an inconvenience to navigate for our officials. In a nation of immigrants, it is critical that we examine how our education system serves all populations and that we ask our teachers to make inclusivity a foundational aspect of schooling.
Dr. Sonia Nieto is the author of countless texts following the importance of responsible multiculturalism in the classroom and recently came to visit Fairfield University to give a talk on her ideas.
I was most touched by Dr. Sonia Nieto’s words on the nonsensical North American attitude that non-native English speakers are at a disadvantage but when native English speakers wish to learn an additional language it is perceived as a strength. Considering the current political moment, it is critical that teachers are aware of the implications of certain rhetoric and language use in the classroom.
Rather than viewing children who are emerging bilinguals with a deficit mindset, we must meet the students where they are and encourage their language development so that the home remains a haven for the native language and items in the school are labeled in both languages. I found it compelling to hear the different perspectives on the panel hosted at our University for Dr. Sonia Nieto’s talk. I was intrigued hearing about the changes that have been taking place from the first bilingual school in Miami for Cuban refugees and the school that Nieto worked in in NYC to the current situation.
There is much work to be done and it requires a larger national dialogue to be had about intersecting identities and disparities between different groups in access to quality education. While teachers can create classrooms which allow for students to have pride in their ethnic backgrounds and which inspire respect for all cultures, the troubles of lack of funding due to a major insufficiency of mixed income communities will still prevail.
If more people were to consider their home as the earth in totality rather than the walls they live within, maybe this situation would appear vastly different. If more people were able to shed notions of the rat race for status in this materialistic society, perhaps we would find more diverse communities rather than segregated counties and gentrification in neighborhoods pushing the primary inhabitants out. Perhaps it is the work of the individual to discover their role in these issues and take the necessary action that will grant us the greatest change.