This week a Storm Lake high school student was suspended for refusing to take a federally mandated English proficiency test. The student, Lori Phanachone, is Laotian, born in California, moved to New York, and finally settled in Iowa. Oh and by the way, she currently has a 3.9 grade point average and is 7th in her class.
You may be asking yourself why a student with a stellar GPA would have to take an English proficiency test. It turns out when she registered for school she truthfully reported English was not her first language spoken at home. Her reasoning for doing so, “Someone told me I should have put English as my first language when I registered for school. But I refused. I will not deny who I am. And I will not disrespect my culture or my mother.” I know what you are thinking. Give me a break! She was born here. Her culture is American. If she is more proud of her parents’ culture, there’s a serious problem in that home.
The article actually gets worse. Lori is quoted as saying, “But I want to fight this because this is what I believe. It’s wrong, not just for me but for all minority students. The test is demeaning.” And what do some of Lori’s classmates think? “She has every right to protest taking the test, because in Storm Lake race isn’t an issue. And the test singles out race… The only reason she didn’t write English down as her first language was that she is proud of her heritage,” said Stephanie Emery. When she’s says “heritage,” she must mean race, right?
What the heck does race have to do with language? I’ve never understood that. Please someone out there enlighten me…please! Whenever language issues come up, be it English as the official language or teaching English in the schools, the race card gets played. If I’m not mistaken, any person can speak any language. Language and race are not interchangeable terms. Neither are heritage or culture and race. Race is a term based completely on physical appearance. It has nothing to do with language, culture, heritage, or the tests you take in high school.
I’m glad the teachers at the Storm Lake high school suspended her for insubordination. How much do you want to bet the multicultural police are ready to step in declaring the teachers and school are racist?
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