Bilingual Education

“This is an English-speaking country, like it or not… the thing we’ve got to focus on is understanding that children need to learn to read and speak good English. You will get the biggest applause for that among communities where children don’t speak English.

Parents want their children to learn to speak English,” says Mayor Bloomberg of New York City in a last debate before the 2002 elections (Avalon 1). For decades, the fight over the pros and cons of bilingual education has been an issue.For some, this method of assimilating foreign children into the American culture is beneficial to both native and non-native school goers. For others, it is a plight for stopping regular classroom production to educate those who should, in their opinion, already know English. It is up to the American government, public and education system to find a happy medium between these rationales. Immigration is and will continue to be an issue for this country in the future. To what lengths and programs are educators willing to provide to ensure the “American Dream” to its entire people?Bilingual education has been a political debate for years and as the United States continues to be bombarded with non-English speaking children, the fire continues to grow hotter. Thus, more attention is being paid to the conflicts of the educational experience of the increasingly diverse student population.

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“Much of the debate on bilingual education is politically motivated, more suitable for talk shows than for improving schools,” Timothy Reagan quotes in his article, “Linguistic Human Rights: A New Perspective on Bilingual Education.” Many politicians have offered only broad and superficial explanations to the public when approached with this subject. It seems that much of the debate is centered around ideology and issues of social class rather than the actual issue of education. Not much besides the gradual depletion of state funding for bilingual education programs has been accomplished at this time for either side. Because bilingual education is such a heated topic many contentions can be made for and against its implement into school programs. Opposing the idea of this form of education for instance, is a very common and popular argument.

Many people believe government funded programs that deal with teaching non-native English speaking children English, and general academics through the aide of their native language, are “perhaps well-intentioned” but “simply do not work” and are “failed experiments” (Reagan, Rojas 3). More often than not, better results are found when children are involved in complete English immersion. John P. Avalon notes in his article “The Scandal in Bilingual Ed. ,” while 130,000 students in New York City remain in segregated bilingual classrooms for at least one more year to date, “the data is in on the effectiveness of immersion programs” (Avalon 2).Bilingual education was put to an end in California in favor of English immersion four years ago. Today, “the number of Hispanic students scoring above the state median in reading increased to 35% from 21%, while the number in math increased to 46% from 27%” (Avalon 2).

Aside from the obvious lack of sufficient data in support of bilingual education, the issue is heightened by discussion of the wasted money given toward these programs and the “unacceptable cost of taking your eye off the ball in education reform” (Avalon 1). As a result, recently passed national legislation cut funding for bilingual education.