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New York City Scrambled to Provide Mandarin and Cantonese Translators at School Board Meeting on new Culturally Responsive Curriculum

On Wednesday, New York City voted to adopt a policy of “culturally responsive-sustaining education,” at a school board meeting in Chinatown, The Wall Street Journal reports. Around 100 parents showed up to the meeting to both support and protests the initiative, many of them Chinese. The department provided Spanish translators but, at the start of the meeting, Mandarin and Cantonese translators were nowhere to be found.

The meeting was held to formally adopt Chancellor Richard Carranza’s formal definition of “culturally responsive” education. The definition is about one page long. It argues that the diverse perspective of students should be seen as essential assets.

Asian Americans members of the community also want to see their heritage and history reflected in the new curriculum. However, many members of the community, don’t think Carranza is the man for the job. They see Carranza, who has proposed policies that would potentially limit the number of Asian students at elite schools, as racist and anti-Asian. Many Asian American activists and parents who attended the meeting wore shirts calling for Carranza to be fired, according to Spectrum News NY 1.

Naturally, parents and activists were infuriated when they discovered that the board had not provided Mandarin and Cantonese at the meeting.

“They do not have an interpreter. And the chancellor happened to welcome people in Spanish in the heart of Chinatown where the majority of the attendees are Chinese. How ironic. How diversified that his view point is,” Linda Lam, a parent told Spectrum News NY 1.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the meeting was delayed two hours while the department scrambled to find a translator. A spokeswoman for the department says they are looking into the incident and will make sure it never happens again.

Carranza also apologized for the lack of translators and the delay.

“I want to ensure the public that we always want to have the right interpreters at our meeting. Let me be really clear — this is a school, there are students present, we will behave ourselves in an orderly manner,” Carranza said, according to Spectrum News NY 1.

Ultimately, the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, a group of mostly mayoral appointees, voted unanimously to embrace Carranza’s definition. Many Asian Americans are still skeptical of the “Culturally Responsive Sustaining Education” initiative.

“I think it’s just wrong. I think it’s misguided,” parent Yiatin Chu told CBS New York.

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  1. RE: NY City Scrambled to provide Mandarin and Cantonese translators at school board meeting on new culturally responsive curriculum: Thank you for reporting on this story. You really captured the feelings of the concerned parents, Asian or non-Asian, demonstrating at the meeting. We are not against the idea of curriculum that finally represents Asians as well as other underrepresented groups. However the Chancellor has attacked anyone as racist if he/she asks legitimate questions of his failed and/or questionable policies, discriminated against Asians and has used or allowed hateful rhetoric against Jews.

    It is also disgraceful that the Chair of the PEP, Vanessa Leung, provided Spanish translators but neglected to arranged Chinese translators for the long planned meeting in a Chinatown school. Leung is also the leader of Coalition for Asian-American Children & Families and prides herself in representing Asians. Actions speak louder than words.

    As a Mayoral appointee to PEP, Leung is also full of conflicts as her organization, CACF, relies on city funding. So being a pliant PEP member means more money for CACF. CACF is a middleman for city funding of real charity organizations. In essence, for every dollar a real charity gets, CACF takes a cut to pay their executives like Leung and other staff.

    With the Chancellor failing in his current responsibilities, how can he be trusted to make CSRE successful despite all the talk of how great it would be? And that really is at the heart of the concerns of parents.

    Yes, it would also be great if: 75% of black and Hispanic students weren’t failing state tests, schools weren’t overcrowded and falling apart, thousands of special education students were not being neglected, every school had elevators for wheelchair-bound students, there wasn’t grade fraud, there was no cronyism and corruption in the administration.

    But that’s not the current reality. And not one of the concerned parents believes Chancellor Carranza will deliver on CSRE either.


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