Saturday, March 01, 2008

Waiting for Change

All the talk of "helping people" is positively Orwellian when seen in light of the daily tragedy of condemning the poorest to the worst schools. It has been that way for a long time and is unlikely to change.

Below is an excerpt from "In L.A., his own wall of China ...Zhao Yan Feng left his hometown to teach Mandarin at Dorsey High. He learns that not all his students see language as a gift." from this morning's LA Times that points to a problem that is not susceptable to more money, higher teacher salaries and higher taxes.

The L.A. Unified School District purchased high-end payroll software last year but has not yet gotten the hang of making it work. Many of its staffers are slow learners. But the District's head goes on local PBS-TV once a week to brag that they are getting ever closer to issuing accurate paychecks on time. He recently boasted about getting the W-2's in the mail. That's is not pre-1989 Eastern Europe, it's South LA.

Zhao Yan Feng finally lost his cool minutes before the bell
sounded, signaling the end of fourth period.

For nearly two hours, his classroom had teetered on the edge
of anarchy. Students chatted on their cellphones. They put their feet on their
desks. Some had their heads down, sleeping. A clique of girls loudly debated
where best to shop for jeans.

"I need your cooperation," Zhao pleaded in a clumsy Chinese
accent. "If you don't want to learn this language or be in my class, just don't
interfere with others learning. I'm just a guest teacher."

It had been three weeks since Zhao (pronounced Jow), 27, left
his hometown in northern China to join a program that sent dozens of Chinese
teachers to school districts across the United States.

His two-year assignment: teach Mandarin at Dorsey High in
South Los Angeles, where test scores are well below the state and national
averages, two-thirds of the students live near the poverty line and most have
had scant exposure to Chinese culture.

"Why do I do this?" he said to the students, who were silent
for the first time. "Because I want to be your friend."

Two girls in the back of the classroom giggled at the remark.
Others stared at their desks. The bell rang, and the teenagers charged out of
the room -- except for a boy who was still asleep. Zhao tapped him on the
shoulder and told him to leave.

It was the end to another humiliating day.

"Two years," Zhao said. "Sometimes I don't know how I'll do

Before he left China for Los Angeles, Zhao, a university instructor, had
been optimistic. A partnership between the College Board in the U.S. and Hanban,
China's language council, had selected him and other teachers to bring Mandarin
to American students. ...