Assimilation will help city schools

The article "Plan to revamp schools" (Nov. 17) provided a profile of not only the poor performance of many city schools but also insights into why some of the problems exist — namely, the plans to provide special programs for the "growing international population" and to strengthen English for Speakers of Other Languages programs.

One of the poor performing schools cited, Patterson High, happens to be my alma mater. In the '60s when I attended, the community had its fair share of immigrants who did not arrive in the U.S. fluent in the English language. However, unlike many of today's immigrants, they came here legally, with support and ties in the community. They had to learn the English language to survive and thrive (there certainly was no "press 1 for Greek, 2 for Polish," etc.) and they did. While maintaining the unique food and other characteristics of their ethnic backgrounds, they assimilated. I never once heard any of these immigrants voice an expectation that stores, banks and schools accommodate their language, but rather that they had a responsibility to learn the language of the country that so generously welcomed them and provided them with an abundance of opportunities.

Perhaps some consideration should to be given to the idea that by reducing the need for immigrants to learn the language of their new country, we have delayed their assimilation and their progress in learning the English language, factors contributing to scholastic and employment success. Let's look at the example of previous generations of immigrants who overcame similar hardships in learning English and by doing so were equipped with the skills and strength to achieve their best. And let us not underestimate the capabilities of the current immigrants to overcome the same obstacles mastered by generations of immigrants before them.

Charlotte Eliopoulos, Glen Arm

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