We thought we knew all the gimmicks that self-appointed "education reformers" have conjured up in their unending battle against America's public schools. But a San Bernardino Superior Court ruling revealed a unique "reform" when the judge's order was printed. By judicial decree, Adelanto's Desert Trails Elementary School students will have a one-of-a-kind educational experience. Desert Trails will become a "chatter" school.
A what? According to the court order, the judge granted "Petitioners' petition... to change Desert Trails Elementary School into a chatter school." [Italics added.]
Chattering students create a situation most teachers try to avoid. It disrupts the thinking process, makes it hard for diligent students trying to parse a sentence, and may be so loud that the teacher in the next room complains. But not next year at Desert Trails. By court order, chattering is in.
This will be specialized chattering. Unless this mind-boggling decision is overruled, Desert Trails will be run by a reportedly "non-profit" educational organization headquartered in Hesperia. In press reports of this take-over, the organization is noted for its curriculum, which emphasizes Latin. That's right. Latin in elementary school. In the 21st, not the 1st, century.
At Desert Trails, chattering may be justifiable and downright beneficial. But only if school rules insist that all chatter has to be in Caesar's language. Can't you hear it now? Little third-graders amo-ing and amat-ing all over the place. Chatter away, it's part of the curriculum.
Some Scrooge will object, of course. She will complain that the reason the school is transforming from a traditional K-5 elementary to a chatter school is that an overwhelming proportion of the kids are deficient in English. And it's not because they speak Latin at home. Most students are Hispanic, living in or near poverty, with English as a second language. Well, Spanish is one of the Romance languages.
Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? Kids can't write English so we teach them Latin. How does that help? You remember how your high school Latin teacher frequently repeated that old bromide justifying Latin - it's the root of our language. Maybe it is, but converting to Latin seems to be the reverse of English immersion, which has usually been the silver bullet offered by other reformers. English immersion made some sense but it never got off the ground. So now we are to try Latin. If nothing else, it will help those students who attend church where the Mass is still conducted in Latin to understand it better. But it won't be much help to a fourth-grade agnostic.
Perhaps Desert Trails won't become a chatter school after all, although Latin will still be taught there. Perhaps the court reporter misread his notes or didn't hear well, and misunderstood what kind of school was being considered. Perhaps Desert Trails will become a "charter" school. But in the opening paragraph of the official publication announcing the judge's decision it is clearly referred to as a school that chatters.
A better hearing aid or more careful proofreading and there wouldn't have been any grist for a magazine article here.