Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ask me no secrets, and I'll tell you no lies

Please, tell me again the story about how Arizona's new law isn't racist? Because, with their "cracking down" on teachers with accents, it doesn't look good.

Now, if it was just this crack down, I would say Arizona officials are trying to circumvent seniority (or tenure) rules in the state to fire older and more expensive teachers (there's a growing trend in the US about this issue, and I'll probably address this in a later post). However, in light of the other laws recently passed, it has a different flavor. And notice how quickly even that Fox News story linked above keys in on Spanish speakers. Not, say, the sub-continent Indian instructor with a heavy accent (the bug-a-boo of University of Akron students, although, really, I never had a problem with any of the instructors people complained about), or those from Europe or Australia. Or say the odd Chinese or Japanese teacher (did you know there is heavy recruiting of grade school teachers from the Philippines?).

And, as other commentary, here's a language log entry on it. (Grokked from Jay Lake).

No, seriously, time to call it what it is. Gee, Arizonians, if being so close to icky Hispanics are driving you crazy, frickin' move to Wyoming. You're on the border. You were once part of Mexico (yeah, I know, I'm sure the new Texas Schoolbook Standards whitewashed that whole war out of the histories). I understand that the drug violence has got you scared. But the laws you are passing, and these kind of administrative hijinks won't protect you. In fact, it'll make the matter worse.

Hell, I can do an Appalachan accent that will leave you all scratching your head wondering what language I'm speaking. There are people around me who talk that way. I can also do a NJ/PA/NY accent, which is different from my Boston/Maine accent, two types of Southern Accent, and at one time I used to be able to do Valley. Seriously, no accents? As someone who lives in the part of the country news announcers imitate to neutralize their own accents, there is no such thing.

And those Arizona Department of Education evaluators, I want to see their test scores on how they do. You say "saw" with an "r" or "Warshington"? You're out. Say, "um"? Gone. Restart sentences midway? Adios. And they want people to "speak English grammatically"? WTF? As a writer myself, nobody does that. Nobody. Seriously. Let me sit down with these people and I'll have them crying in minutes by nitpicking (and you can ask my critiquers just how badly I comma splice).

edits. from the Fox News story linked above:
"It's my jobs to make sure they're taught English in the most rigorous, possible way so they can learn English quickly, can compete with their peers, and succeed academically," Home told Fox News.

Tom Home is state superintendent of public instruction. Dear Mr. Home, that should be, "It's my job" or "My jobs are", not "It's my jobs." You're fired. Get the hell out. No, I'm serious here. This is the state superintendent who is enforcing this rule of speaking with grammatically correct English. It's call "noun verb agreement."

Also:
"As you expect science teachers to know science, math teachers to know math, you expect a teacher who is teaching the kids English to know English," said Tom Home...

No, Mr. Home. You have superfluous words and some missing ones. You're missing about two "would"s and there's confusion on "who and whom." The end of your sentence would read much smoother as, "... you would expect a teacher (delete "who is") teaching (delete "the") kids English to know English." You don't speak grammatically, Mr. Home. You deserve to be reassigned according to your own standard.

This is an impossible standard, one that is not required or justified by the laws they're citing. And it only goes to illuminate the real problem. This is racism, plain and simple.

6 comments:

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

I'll put here what I put on Jay's blog:

I first heard about this from Andrei Codrescu's piece on NPR: "Arizona Education Loses The Accent Of America", http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126480169 . Good Lord, Andrei uses the English language in a manner that is far superior to any ridiculous Arizona politician -- and he makes sense! So let's hear it for communication skills.

Teh Stupid. It Burnz.

Dr. Phil

Anonymous said...

So... have you lost the Cantonian nasal wheeze since you moved north?

Since the AZ law is pretty much the same as the US federal law on immigration, do you have issues with it as well?

Anonymous Cassie

Steve Buchheit said...

Dr. Phil, yeah. Andrei speaks twice as well as most people I know. Then again, he also has a script.


Cassie, I didn't grow up in Canton, but in Southern Jersey. So I never did have the nasal twang. I did drop the Jersey accent (it's how I'm able to do it so well).

The AZ law is only like the federal law in that "illegal" immigrants are here illegally (here is a factcheck.org article on it). In no other way does it match to federal law. Considering the AZ is mostly a functional change, no, it's not like the federal law at all. The AZ law empowers local law enforcement to enforce immigration law. As I remember (and IANAL), immigration is enforceable by federal officers, not by local (so it's also a usurpation of jurisdiction).

And here is the difference, and why I believe the AZ law is an invitation to racial profiling and the worst policies imaginable by the detractors, the law is at the discretion of local law enforcement. Now, most laws if they are stated that way or not, are at the discretion of the officer on the scene (state troopers don't often stop people for going 1mph over the speed limit, although they have the authority to do so). This law should have been written that while writing any citation, the law enforcement officer shall also verify immigration status. That means for anybody stopped, arrested, given a citation in the home or in public the officer should determine citizenship, naturalization, or visa status. If they did that, I actually wouldn't have much problem with the law (it would be part of confirming ID).

However, they didn't write the law that way. So more than likely the illegal Chinese in this country will not be affected (and in Ohio, we have plenty of illegal Chinese). They won't catch european students who have over stayed their student visas. Nope, pretty much it'll just be brown skin, spanish accented people who will be harassed.

It's a bad law. Poorly written, it will be poorly executed, and in the next year I expect to hear about citizens of hispanic origin being turned over to ICE. It also puts the illegal community at odds with local law enforcement. Ask any police officer how that would affect their work (hint, knowing people and networking is much more important that being at the scene of the crime).

Want to stop illegal immigration? Criminalize the hiring of illegals, as in the end employer (as many companies now use "staffing firms" to hire them in). And send the CEOs, CFOs, and HR Managers to jail for it (instead of fines). That includes the "low level" employers of construction and landscaping (hire a crew with illegals, go to jail). Equalize criminal penalties for drugs that are imported (powdered cocaine, heroin) to drugs locally produced (crack, pot, meth), and go after the major users (middle and upper class). Include economic reforms and treatment programs to reduce use.

Until the hiring of illegals to do our scut work is curbed (also get ready to pay more for your food, both produce and meats) and the drug problem is solved, we will not be able to secure our southern border (and that includes militarizing it, which I am very much against).

Steve Buchheit said...

and I think I've shown in my blog post how poorly conceived the idea of the schools "reassigning" teachers for their speaking grammar or accents is. Really bad idea.

Anonymous said...

Well... I disagree. Putting the word "would" in there weakens the sentence. "Whom" would be wrong. The parallel structure and the analogies need the strong verb "expect" without "would."

Your stylistic preferences aren't mine, but neither are bad grammar.

But yes, "It's my jobs" is bad.

Anonymous Cassie

Steve Buchheit said...

Actually, Cassie, it's "whom" (see this gammar rule, "a teacher" is a "him" not a "he"). Now, if he added the "would" in, then "who" would be correct.

And that exposes the problem. 1) Grammar for the most part is "subjective" not "objective" (no matter what the grammar nazis would have us believe) and 2) nobody speaks in proper English (grammar is for the written form of the language, not the spoken form).

Basically, this policy is a license to harass instructors the administration dislikes. Given the emphasis on "accents" it leave no doubt as to which instructors are on the chopping block.