Thursday, April 26, 2012

Burro Genius

I just finished reading the book, "Burro Genius" by Victor Villasenor. It's a memoir of his childhood and schooling - not surprisingly an "English only" education. However it wasn't a policy, it was prejudice. The belief by teachers, community members and church leaders was that Mexicans are stupid, lazy and not worth much. It's heart-wrenching to hear Villasenior's childlike thoughts as he tries to figure out what is wrong with Mexicans. His family is warm, funny and wise and gives him the foundation to keep going. As an adult Villasenior was diagnosed with dyslexia and suddenly all the years of pain and insults about his inability to read were put into a new context. Finally Villasenior could fully understand the cruelty and injustice of his "education.". I have never seen such open prejudice and cruelty by teachers, but I couldn't help wondering about my students' experiences outside of my accepting ESL classroom. It breaks my heart to think that they would ever be devalued as a human just because of how they look or sound. I want them to believe that they are smart and kind and important. My goal as a teacher is to teach them in ways that show them they can meet academic challenges and that they have more not less and that's why sometimes it's hard.

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