Culture: Lou Dobbs Wouldn’t Understand

When we heard recently that an elementary school in Cherry Hill had spent most of the past school year reading its morning announcements in both English and Spanish, we were certain we had come across an unlikely battleground in America’s immigration wars. Surely this upscale ’burb was being forced to cater to the needs of a suddenly swelling — and no doubt illegal! — Hispanic population?

But, as they say in Oaxaca, no. Turns out they just want the kids to learn Spanish.

Last fall, Margaret Morales, the new principal at Cherry Hill’s James Johnson Elementary, floated the idea of making morning announcements bilingual. It’s a somewhat curious practice, given Cherry Hill’s rather pequeño Hispanic population. Yet Morales saw it as something that made sense after the district designated Spanish as the world language of choice for all Cherry Hill elementary schools. As it turned out, having students read the announcements (in English or Spanish) also has social benefits. After a new student from Mexico read them one morning, his classroom peers were so impressed that they gave him a standing ovation. “I’m not going to say it’s become a competition, but kids do like to do morning announcements,” Morales says. “They like to be involved.”

Morales, who implemented a similar policy as vice principal of a school in Rahway, says she has yet to hear a complaint. “My ultimate goal would be for fifth-graders, when they leave Johnson, to be fluent in
both English and Spanish.”