Bilingual Education

Essay by devious_youth February 2006

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The pros and cons of bilingual education continue as an argued debate across the United States. Unfortunately, much of the information on which people base their opinion is not correct. Numerous studies conducted over the past three decades show that bilingual education has been an effective educational tool. This paper shows that educators and other bilingual specialists are now also looking into other methodology, such as two-way or dual immersion, that can enhance the basic bilingual curriculum.

Some English Only advocates go further, arguing that even if bilingual education is effective - which they doubt - it's still a bad idea for the country because bilingualism threatens to sap our sense of national identity and divide us along ethnic lines. They fear that any government recognition of minority languages "sends the wrong message" to immigrants, encouraging them to believe they can live in the U.S.A. without learning English or conforming to "American" ways.

Such complaints have made bilingual education a target of political attacks. One of the most serious to date is now under way in California, a ballot initiative that would mandate English-only instruction for all children until they become fully proficient in English.

Schools are finding that language development works both ways. Many Native American children, for example, have forgotten or have never known their original languages. So that the languages are not forgotten, kindergarten students learn everything from colors to numbers to animal names in Cherokee. Students are called by their native Indian names and speak in Cherokee for most of the day. These kindergartners are in the first Cherokee-immersion class in a U.S. public school. By teaching kids Cherokee and not just English, Lost City School in Oklahoma is working to help save a dying language.