18 March 2009 ~ 0 Comments

English Proficiency Test? Stop this Insanity.

“Someone told me I should have put English as my first language when I registered for school,” Phanachone said. “But I refused. I will not deny who I am. And I will not disrespect my culture or my mother.”

An Iowa high school student who speaks and understands English perfectly has been declared ‘illiterate’ as she refuses to take the English proficiency test at her school. The Sioux City Journal reports:

Lori Phanachone is a member of the National Honor Society, has a 3.9 grade point average and ranks seventh in the senior class of about 119 at Storm Lake High School.

But school officials have told her she is considered to be illiterate based on her refusal to satisfactorily complete the English Language Development Assessment, a test she says is demeaning and racist.

Well, of course it is demeaning and racist. Phanachone was born and bred in the United States. She is being targeted to sit the ELDA because she indicated on a form that English was not the first language spoken in her household and her parents spoke very little English.

Obviously, English is not the first language spoken in most immigrant households but that does not correlate with an inability to speak English. There are white American kids who can barely spell, let alone speak English. Maybe the wrong person is being asked to sit an ELDA.


Phanachone is to be admired for her strong will and desire to stand up for what she believes in. Apparently, this is not the first time she has openly showed her opposition to the English testing.

Phanachone took the English Language Development Assessment test as a sophomore and admits she probably did poorly on the junior-year retake to check her progress because she marked the same answer for each of the multiple-choice questions in protest. “I filled in all C’s because I wanted them to look at something beyond the test.”

When she turned in the exam several hours ahead of the other students last year, she was forced to wait in solitary confinement for more than three hours before being excused.

The 155-question test takes four hours to complete.

“I waited all the next week to see if they were going to punish me, and they didn’t. I don’t think they knew what to do with me because they never had anyone refuse to take the test,” she said.

There is always a first time for everything and more power to Phanachone for taking a stand.

The Iowa School district does not get it and the Superintendent is likening Phanachone’s behavior to that of a child who refuses to remove an offensive T-shirt at school.

(Actually, Mr. Superintendent, a school may not censor student political speech unless it can prove that the speech would cause material or substantial disruption of the school environment or the rights of other students). Phanachone meets neither teleological components of the ‘offensive t-shirt’ issue.

“Any student who refuses a legitimate request, something that is legal and moral, is insubordinate,” Tedesco said.

Mr. Tedesco, maybe you used the wrong word (and should sit an ELDA) but doesn’t ‘insubordinate’ mean ‘not submissive to authority?’ Need we remind you that this country was also formed by insubordinate behavior and that minorities gained entrance to desegregated schools through this insubordinate behavior that you so detest? Your school has asked Ms. Panachone to sit an ELDA only due to the fact that she spelled out her heritage on a district form. And that is supposed to be unacceptable to you because she is questioning your pathetically racist and ignorant authority?

I was dragged out of my English 12 AP class as a high school senior to give a English proficiency exam where I was asked to identify the sounds of animals. The officials paid no attention to the fact that I came from a former British colony where English (and this doesn’t mean bastardized American English) is the national language or even to the fact that I spoke and wrote better English than my American peers. It was one of the most dehumanizing experiences of my life and one of the most ignorant, idiotic things to do (not to mention a waste of time and taxpayer’s money). I rolled with the motions back then as a model minority student. That wouldn’t happen today.

Lisa Panachone, you are my hero.

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