Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More Xenophobia in Minnesota!

Representative Bud Heidgerken is worried about college students in Minnesota. Apparently some of them are having a hard time understanding their professors.

Representative Heidgerken has heard complaints from constituents about this educational problem. As he stated:
"I've had many students say they dropped a course or delayed graduation for a semester because they couldn't get around this one professor they couldn't understand," the Freeport Republican said. "All I'm trying to accomplish is getting the best education we have for postsecondary students."
Thus he has introduced legislation to address this "problem". H.F. No. 2798 states:

1.1 A bill for an act
1.2 relating to higher education; requiring clear English pronunciation as a condition
1.3 of instructing certain students at public postsecondary institutions; proposing
1.4 coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 135A.

1.6 Section 1. [135A.156] PRONUNCIATION OF ENGLISH.
1.7 Subdivision 1. Policy required. The Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State
1.8 Colleges and Universities shall, and the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota
1.9 is requested to, adopt a clear, understandable written policy requiring clear English
1.10 pronunciation as a condition of instructing undergraduate students at public postsecondary
1.11 institutions. The policy shall be made available to students by appropriate means as
1.12 determined by each institution, which may include publication in a student handbook or
1.13 other institutional publication, or posting by electronic display on the Internet, and shall be
1.14 posted at appropriate locations on campus.
1.15 Subd. 2. Policy to include. (a) A policy adopted under subdivision 1 must, at a
1.16 minimum, accomplish the objectives provided in paragraphs (b), (c), and (d).
1.17 (b) Before employing or assigning an individual to instruct undergraduate students,
1.18 the chair of the department in which the individual would be employed or assigned must
1.19 conduct an oral interview with the individual and document that the individual speaks
1.20 English clearly and with good pronunciation.
1.21 (c) If a student notifies in writing the chair of the department and the dean of students
1.22 of the public postsecondary institution the student is attending that the student believes that
1.23 an individual employed or assigned to instruct a class in which the student is enrolled, does
1.24 not speak English clearly and with good pronunciation the postsecondary institution, upon
2.1 request of the student, must reimburse the student for all tuition and fees paid for the class
2.2 and permit the student to withdraw from the class without financial or academic penalty.
2.3 (d) When the dean of students of any public postsecondary institution receives
2.4 notices under paragraph (c), from students equal in number to ten percent of those enrolled
2.5 in a class on the tenth academic day, the individual must be reassigned to a nonteaching
2.6 position and may not be permitted to instruct students until a hearing before a panel is held
2.7 and determines that the individual can speak English clearly and with good pronunciation.
2.8 A panel under this paragraph must include a member of the public postsecondary
2.9 institution's student governing body, selected by the president of the student governing
2.10 body, and a representative selected by the president of the public postsecondary institution.
What's wrong with that? Shouldn't every student in Minnesota be able to learn from a professor who speaks perfect English?

Unfortunately, not all of the brilliant minds and talented professors would pass the test.

Albert Einstein probably wouldn't be able to teach in Minnesota if the law was passed. As reported:
He was the embodiment of pure intellect, the bumbling professor with the German accent, a comic cliché in a thousand films. Instantly recognizable, like Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp, Albert Einstein's shaggy-haired visage was as familiar to ordinary people as to the matrons who fluttered about him in salons from Berlin to Hollywood. Yet he was unfathomably profound — the genius among geniuses who discovered, merely by thinking about it, that the universe was not as it seemed.
Helen Keller probably wouldn't be able to teach in Minnesota either.

As recorded:
Unfortunately though, Helen’s speech never really improved beyond the sounds that only Anne and others very close to her could understand.
But the goal of reaching ethnic purity among teachers is not new in the world. As the holocaust unfolded in Nazi Germany, efforts were made to make sure that only Aryans could teach. According to the Danish Center for Holocaust and genocide Studies, in 1933:
7 April Jews in public jobs are dismissed, including schoolteachers and university professors.
And by 1936:
15 October ‘Non-Aryan’ teachers are prohibited from teaching in public schools.
I am sure that Representative Heidgerken is motivated in the best interests of the students of Minnesota.

But like so many of these "wedge issues", the Republicans have chosen to hurt people who are different than them. Who maybe don't share their religion, their complexion, their nationality, their sexual orientation, or even their way of pronouncing English.

America is the Big Tent. Representative Heidgerken's ancestors probably didn't speak perfect English either. And I would fight to protect their rights as well!

America needs new leadership in Washington, and in Minnesota as well. We need leaders who are tolerant and inclusive and respectful of the various ethnic and religious backgrounds and yes even the different sexual orientations or our citizens.

Freedom is not just another word for nothing left to lose.



Blogger Michelle said...

Besides, learning from a professor you can't understand is practically a rite of passage.

6:50 PM  

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