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English IV, Period 6
21 December 1998
For decades, immigrant children have been taught in their native languages in
schools across the country while slowly and simultaneously receiving English as a second
language. But like anything, bilingual education is not without its flaws. In fact, it's
plagued with them. After many years of bilingual education in the United States, one
thing is certain: it does not work, and it is failing America's immigrant youth.
The idea behind bilingual education is that students be taught "academic subjects"
such as math, geography, and science "in their native languages (most often Spanish),
while slowly and simultaneously adding English instruction" (Rothstein 627). Students
learn English as a second language and learn all other subjects in their native language
"so that, in theory, they can keep up with their English- speaking peers" (Schrag 14).
After "five to seven years," the time "it typically takes... for children to acquire the
second- language skills needed for cognitive and academic pursuits," the students are
transitioned into classes which are taught in English (Sjoerdsma 504K2721). This is, of
course, how bilingual education should work in theory. This is not, however, the case.
Critics of bilingual education say that "the objectives of the classes are confused,
the quality of instruction is poor," and the "transition" time, when students transition into
regular classes, is murky (Schrag 14). Critics believe that the goals of bilingual
education have been forgotten and replaced with the need to "preserve native culture and
traditions" (Rothstein 627). In fact, the major defense from advocates of bilingual
education is that there is nothing wrong with preserving children's ethnic and linguistic
It is important to have an understanding of English when living in the United
States, after all, "according to the 1990 census, 94 percent of U. S. residents speak it, to
some degree" (Sjoerdsma 504K2721). One cannot learn English, however if one does
not stay in school. Unfortunately, "one recent national study found that students enrolled
in bilingual programs dropped out earlier" (Murr 65). Also, the percentage of students
who make the transition from bilingual to regular classes is very low. Last year in
California, for example, only about "6.7 percent of the non- English- speakers moved
into regular classes" (Murr 65). This is evidence that bilingual education is not working.
The problem is not just in California. "Other states have similar low success rates" (Murr
65). Most of the focus is on California, however, since 1.4 million of the nation's 3.2
million LEP (limited English proficient) students live there.
In California, where "statewide, 140 languages are spoken by students," people
are fed up with the current bilingual education system and have taken steps to change it
with Proposition 227, which "will reduce instruction in any language but English"
(Schrag 14). Like everywhere else in the country, most California LEP students are
Hispanic. And even they want an end to bilingual education. In fact, the results of a
California newspaper poll showed that "among Hispanic voters alone, 84 percent favored
and end" to bilingual education (West 48). "Most Hispanics think that learning English is
more important than instruction in their native language" (Zuckermann 68). They also
feel that they can spread their native language on to their children themselves. All in all,
"Hispanic parents want what all parents want: quality educational programs that produce
results" (Amselle 53). The problem in California is that there just are not enough
bilingual teachers to "serve the states 1.4 million limited- English students adequately"
(Rodriguez 15). Too often, these "bilingual" teachers have only a limited command for
their students' language, a problem which is all too common across the country.
Even when teachers can be found, LEP students are not learning English from
them. There have been cases in which students who "had been in bilingual classes for six
years couldn't write a simple English sentence" (Schrag 14). This is because there is very
little contact with English- speaking students. LEP students are segregated in classes
taught solely in Spanish. English class is not enough. These students, in order to learn
English, must mainstream with their English- speaking counterparts. The few hours
during recess, lunch, P. E., and music spent "mixing" with English- speakers is far from
Students who don't learn English are not able to excel in school. For that reason,
many LEP students drop out. "The drop- out rate for all Hispanic LEP students in the
United States is 50 percent, much higher that for any other group" (Amselle 52). Those
who don't drop out of high school will
View Full Essay
Linguistic rights, Multilingualism, Bilingual education, English-language education, Bilingualism, California Proposition 227, English as a second or foreign language, Dual language, Title III
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