A few weeks ago, the principal called me into his office.
"I'd like you to represent the Lodi Adult School at the Adult Education Research Conference," he said.
"No way!" I replied. "I haven't done anything to deserve that!"
Visions of the last education conference I attended came rushing back to me. Within hours, the event's crushing boredom ground me down to the tiniest nubbin. Long-winded teachers gassing about cross-cultural training, brain-based learning, or whatever the nonsense du jour may have been.
I pleaded my case with the principal. "I'll do anything. I'll teach senior citizens how to send e-mail. I'll give driver's Ed to non-English speaking high school kids. Just don't make me go to that conference," I begged.
"Think of it as an enrichment experience," he said with a grin as he handed me the brochure.
Dejected but determined to make the most of it, I returned to my desk. I mapped out my plan. I'd drive the school jalopy over to San Francisco, show up late, leave early and make plenty of spare time to catch up with old friends. Maybe I'd have a nice dinner down at Fisherman's Wharf.
Opening the brochure, I saw that I had to report to the Cesar Chavez Student Center on the San Francisco State University Campus.
(Chavez again? Is there a Ronald Reagan Student Center in Mexico or postage stamp honoring the U.S. president who amnestied 5 million illegal aliens? If not, there should be. When you think of the benefits Mexicans received from Reagan, a tribute to him would certainly be fitting.)
Once at the Chavez Center, I had to select from five pre-conferences that were held in either the Rigoberta Menchu Hall or the Rosa Parks Hall.
(Rigoberta Menchu? That's when I knew I was in trouble. I thought she had been exposed as a fraud and a phony. Who knew that she had a hall dedicated to her? But this is San Francisco, I reminded myself.)
My five pre-conference choices were:
By this time, I realized that the principal - an all-around good guy - was having a few laughs at my expense. He is fully aware that given my choice between attending one of the pre-conferences and a week spent on the rack, I would take the rack every time.
But I do have two questions:
* Where was the pre-conference focused on Anglo student needs?
For years, I taught a G.E.D. preparation class for welfare recipients. Mostly poor white students were enrolled – the descendants of the Okies whose Depression-Era migration here was chronicled in Steinbeck's Grapes Of Wrath. And they faced lots of educational challenges that aren't covered in A.E.R.C.'s pre-conferences.
They didn't know where or when to use a comma, how to do basic math or how to write a coherent 200 word essay. That may not seem too challenging but when your students haven't been in a classroom for over 20 years, your work is cut out for you.
Of course, these white students were Americans. Who cares about them?
My current Hispanic students don't know about commas etc. either. Most of them have only a few years of education in their native countries; some have never been inside a school at all. But they can't speak English, so their situation is even worse.
Which leads to my second question:
* Where was the pre-conference designed for the English as a Second Language teacher?
Incredibly, there was not one session in A.R.E.C.'s entire four-day conference.
This despite the shocking, staggering, stupefying, mind-numbing, astronomical increases in the Hispanic population over the last two years that were reported earlier this week by the US Bureau of the Census. There are 3.5 million more Hispanics in the US than in 2000—a 10% increase.
Census Bureau director Louis Kincannon announced the news at a LULAC convention in Florida (why?) [E-mail the Census Public Information office at: email@example.com and ask them.] He said the growth was "somewhat surprising given the economy's slip since 2000," but added:
''It is part of the continued growing diversity of this country which strengthens us not only politically but economically."
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.