I had the opportunity to compare notes with the leader of a high school in Boston which educates a high number of non-English-speaking students – more than any other public school in that diverse metropolitan area. My interest flows from my work with mid-Michigan’s Refugee Development Center, which provides English classes and other services for newcomers to our community.
We both have observed that, almost without exception, these students who are seeking to learn English are highly motivated – considerably more so than most other students we observe. They come early to class and stay after class; and if class is ever cancelled, they come anyway!
We agreed that those who are attempting to revolutionize education with one overhaul or innovation or another may be missing what’s really wrong. We don’t have a structural or systemic problem at school, we have a motivational problem at home.
It may be fashionable for the pundits and politicians to beat up public education in the U.S., but from all around the world people are beating a path to our schools for the quality of education they cannot find elsewhere. And displaced populations – most immigrants and refugees – arrive with motivation to learn and assimilate that puts U.S.-born students to shame.
Really, whose fault is this? It can’t be the schools. But schools must try to respond to the problem they are being presented.
And extracurricular activities and athletics are among the tried, tested and proven tools available to schools to help reach, motivate and educate our young people to stay in school, like school and do better in school than they otherwise would.