Sunday, March 12, 2006

School Notes

We have decided where to send my son to school. We'll be sending him to the German Immersion program at the German American school. This is not the German government-sponsored program in Mountain View. This is the more relaxed, more culturally inclusive program at the Menlo Park German American School campus. We are very happy about our choice. It's pretty funny - a dark horse choice. We looked and looked and I can tell you stories about some of the private schools that we looked at - but I'll probably have to screen the names or risk ... I dunno. What's the middle-class version of retribution? Shunning? At any rate, I have one thing to say about our entire school search. OK. More than one. Let's start with the obvious racism thing. There are so many people in the silicon valley - Northern silicon valley (Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton) who want their children to learn Spanish. Honest. And no, it's not just so that they can talk with their babysitters . Spanish is a very cool language. It's beautiful. It has wonderful children's songs. The Spanish, Mexican, and Central and South American cultures are rich. We live in an extremely wealthy area. Wealthy people are forever looking to see what their money can buy their children, in terms of better schooling. One of the best things to buy your kid is learning another language early. Of course it's best if the family is interested, and if the language comes with some understanding of the world and the culture that the language comes from, n'est pas? There are several international schools around. They teach French and Chinese. (And of course, the occasional German one.) In San Francisco there is a Russian school. There are no private spanish immersion schools. Interesting, hmmn? One school in Palo Alto (Escondido) offers a spanish immersion program. If you live in Palo Alto (I do not), you can enter your child in the lottery and if they win, they can be in the immersion program. Otherwise, you can go to one school in Mountain View, or Adelante school in Redwood City. Does anybody out there have any idea about the amount of interest that a spanish immersion private school would have? I'll bet it would be high. I have spoken with several teachers from South America who tell me that the standards for being a teacher in South America are higher, and the teaching more rigorous, than here in California. Is there awareness of this? Nope. I have not had time to do an incisive reportorial job on this, but have a few poorly-based comments to sling around anyway. A friend of mine tells me that she is considering pulling her child out of one of the public school spanish programs because he is bored to tears. She tells me that there is very little math or science in the program (compared to the private schools), and that as far as she can tell, there aren't even many good textbooks for teaching this stuff in spanish for California students. Interestingly enough, there seems to be a real understanding of what "chinese" culture means for education (pretty strict), and what "french" culture means for education (pretty strict- although I paraphrase :-)). But there doesn't seem to be an understanding of what spanish-based culture means for education. Is this because spanish is spoken by so many countries? Or is this because most of the people in this area don't talk with spanish-speaking people as peers, and they don't really even think of the spanish-speaking cultures as something that could GIVE? Beats me. It's a darn shame that this wealthy, spanish-redolant area cannot start a wonderful private spanish-immersion school. Amazing. I keep wondering if people are afraid that if they send their kids to one, the kids will turn out to be poor immigrants? The German culture for teaching children is a wonderful one, and the German approach at the German school is (uniquely enough, for the silicon valley at this point in time), not fear-based. Instead, it is inquiry-based. Well-structured, but focused on devoping intellect, awareness, good thinking, social context, and the ability to look at things and ask the right questions. The German school teaches to the International Baccalaureate degree, which we like for world view. We had thought to send our child to the Waldorf school, but it wasn't the right fit. The German International school seems to incorporate a lot of what we liked about the Waldorf education without a smidgen of anthroposophy. Since we're allergic to organized religion, that's nice.


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