Education Letter to the Editor

Watch Words

December 21, 2005 2 min read

Normally I enjoy your magazine very much. It comes directly to our school, and all of the teachers read it as time allows in the faculty lounge.

Today, we saw the latest edition [October 2005]. We were all shocked and appalled by your cover reference to undocumented immigrant students as “illegals.” Not only is this not politically correct; it is downright rude and unprofessional.

There are many students in our county who themselves and whose families meet the criteria for being undocumented immigrants. In fact, the corresponding story [“Penalty Shot”] referenced a student in the county next to ours. Referring to them as “illegals” simply is unacceptable. As school employees, we would never do this, and not only because the school system says that we should not. We simply have more respect for all students and families, no matter what their status.

As a magazine (and normally a fine one) that is focused on students and teachers, you too should hold yourselves to the same standard as the staff at our schools do.

Trinity Pellas

Coordinator, Hunter Elementary

Communities in Schools

Raleigh, North Carolina

I was shocked and disgusted to read the cover of October’s issue of Teacher Magazine. The headline “Why illegals are the new dead-end kids” is racist, negative, and just plain ignorant. It promotes a stereotype that is not only false but also detrimental to the success of all students, immigrant or otherwise. To clarify: No person is born or ever comes to be “illegal” simply by living. Even persons living in a country where they do not have official documentation are still just that: people. Naming a group of children “dead-end kids” promotes negative attitudes and stereotypes that a publication for public educators should be working to eliminate. When children of immigrants read these words, it only furthers the feelings of inadequacy or alienation that, embarrassingly, they often develop as a direct result of attitudes propagated within our public school system.

As your article shows, children of immigrants do face many challenges. Further, children forming the varied and heterogeneous group known as immigrants work hard to rise above these challenges despite the lack of equitable services or resources available to them. I imagine that your publication had only good intentions in choosing to highlight this issue and showcase the work of the many amazing students and teachers who are working to make our schools and country safe and full of opportunity for children of immigrants. However, your cover headline indicates that your staff, as do all teachers and citizens working for a just society, need to further examine our personal and societal biases that are only perpetuating the challenges faced by immigrant children.

Sarah Fonte

Spanish Immersion Teacher

Davis, California

A version of this article appeared in the January 01, 2006 edition of Teacher as Watch Words