WESTLAND, Mass. It is a persistent problem that has resisted bipartisan efforts at reform: lagging K-12 academic achievement that leaves American students far behind their peers in Burkina Faso, Upper Volta and even Freedonia, a fictional nation that nonetheless has a long history of rigorous instruction in math, science and connect-the-dots puzzles.
“Your mother sends you to Starbucks for two cups of coffee with $20. How much do you need to run home and get to pay for them?”
But educators are cautiously optimistic that a new approach may reverse the outgoing tide: so-called “full-immersion Starbucks” schools, where students are required to speak only in Starbucks Esperanto, the fastest-growing language in the world, from their first day in school until graduation, thereby preparing them for the demands they will face in the face of global competition.
“That’s right! Tall + grande = venti!”
“There is really nothing worse than getting in line behind a mother whose child doesn’t know the difference between a frapuccino and a machiatto,” says Evan Winslow, a partner in a private equity firm who stops at his local Starbucks on the way into work each morning. “Some of these kids–it’s sad,” he says, shaking his head. “They can’t even conjugate tall, grande, venti.”
“Very good. You all get your Junior Barista merit badges!”
“Full-immersion” schools originated in the American South, where the Christian sacrament of baptism is sometimes practiced by dunking innocent children under water until they agree to contribute ten percent of their allowance to a minister who will use the funds to buy a private jet. They have since spread to upscale suburbs, where all-day instruction in languages such as Mandarin Chinese enhances students’ college applications and teaches them how to order take-out while at the same time allowing schools to hide their pedagogical deficiencies.
“Me . . . me . . . me, call on me, I know, it’s mocha Valencia!”
The costs of conversion to full immersion can be significant, but anxious parents say it’s worth the higher real estate taxes they pay on modest $1.3 million starter homes. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the results,” says Marci Winslow, Evan’s second wife, of their daughter, Palmer. “I was so proud of her when she walked up to the barista last Sunday and said–calmly but forcefully–‘What part of dry venti soy espresso con panna did you not understand?'”