The continuing flap over bilingual education

When English is a student’s second language, what should a school do? It’s a big issue here in Colorado, where we have a large Hispanic (or is it Latino?) population.

A local grade school landed in the headlines a few weeks ago when its principal, who favored a bilingual, transitional approach, was suspended. The parents, some 70% of whom are Hispanic, were outraged. Despite the fact that the school had been doing poorly, they felt a new principal would mean a loss of their bilingual program — to the detriment of their kids who until now have not really had to learn English.

The public information officer for the school district said:

The bilingual policy says that they will become fluent in Spanish first before we start to transition them into English and what we know is that we are not actually being successful in transitioning kids into English.

’Scuse me? An American public school was using its resources to teach Spanish to Hispanics before introducing any English? No wonder that principal was suspended. (I’m sure her Hispanic surname was just a coincidence.)

In their latest act of protest, many of the parents refused to let their children take the CSAP test. As I understand the system today, this will serve only to further lower the school’s rating and could threaten it with closure. How does that benefit the kids?

This is America. The prevailing language, the unofficially official language, is English. If you want to live here, get used to it; learn it. Parents who do not diligently encourage their kids to learn English are severely limiting their opportunities, educational and otherwise.

The nation cannot afford to maintain an expensive bilingual educational system to accommodate the many minority languages — not just Spanish — spoken in this country. Indeed, when it comes to learning a second language, bilingual education has been proven less effective than immersion.

The approach used at this Denver-area school has served only to postpone the English fluency of these students. The principal was suspended and the parents should be glad, not angry, that she’s gone. Yes, their kids might be at a disadvantage now, but immersion — in the classroom — is the fastest way to make up the lost ground, not protesting, pulling your kids out of class, and boycotting tests.

In an interview a few weeks ago, an obviously Hispanic spokesman for the parents was speaking very good English. So too were some of the demonstrators. Wait … English is good enough for them but not for the kids? What’s wrong with this picture?

Okay, okay. This is America. We protect freedom of speech. If you want to complain, complain. Complain in Spanish, if that floats your boat. But if you want to be understood, if you want to make a point as these people did, you speak English. Funny how that works.

4 thoughts on “The continuing flap over bilingual education

  1. A neighboring town has a high number of Hispanic citizens- they tried to make Spanish their towns primary language… that didn’t go over well. What, do they want to start their very own country within the US? C’mon man, give me a break! This post is absolutely outrageous. But, I love your calm approach to it- people need to focus on the kids, indeed- and get them up to speed.

    1. This whole issue makes me crazy. The tail doesn’t wag the dog, minorities don’t make the rules, and unless you’re a citizen you don’t have a say in the matter at all. Generations of immigrants have come to this country and were proud to assimilate and learn the language. Millions still do, every year. Immigrants can honor their heritage, be proud of their culture, and speak their native language all they want with one another. But coming to this country means learning to do things our way — starting with learning English. It is their job to adapt to us, not the other way around.

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