Immigration: English Immersion

Essay by Anna248College, UndergraduateA-, February 2005

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Immigration: English Immersion

The issue of immigration has been a hot topic in the United States for much of its history. Recently the point of conflict has risen over the issue of bilingual education in public schools. Many people have become opposed to this form of learning and propose a speedy immersion program. Others cling steadfastly to the norm of bilingual education proclaiming that immigrant children would be lost if thrown into mainstream classrooms. Still, some have found middle ground through what have been termed dual immersion programs. Although it is somewhat difficult and complicated to sort through the different perspectives it is necessary; what is decided on this issue will effect the education of thousands of children for years to come. English immersion has gotten rave reviews since it was first implemented in California several years ago, and it looks like Arizona is following suit with its passage of Proposition 203 this past November.

But, what is English immersion, and why do its proponents claim it is superior to bilingual education or dual immersion programs? Unlike bilingual education programs that teach non-English speaking students mainly in their native tongue or dual immersion programs that teach in two languages for the benefit of all students (immigrant or native), English immersion programs focus on teaching English to immigrants for the majority of the day. The first year English immersion was implemented in California "teachers began teaching entirely in English, using Spanish only if a student had trouble understanding a concept or was emotionally distressed and needed comforting or counseling" (Chavez). Experts said this would not work and that "forcing immigrant children to learn English immediately would damage their self-esteem and make them fall behind their peers in other subject areas, maybe even push them to drop out of school" (Chavez). By...