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English Only vs. Bilingual Education

In: Social Issues

Submitted By ozzy3313
Words 780
Pages 4
I am going to be discussing multicultural education in general, but focusing more on the aspect of English only vs. bilingual education in today’s classrooms. This topic has become more and more evident in today’s education system. The topic is pretty self-explanatory, English only vs. bilingual education. Should students in America be taught only in English, regardless of the student’s first language or nationality, or should there be some influence of bilingual education? In the 1990’s, the U.S. English Only started campaigns to promote multiculturalism under one language, English (Arce, 1998) These campaigns also propose the notion that every single aspect of public education in America should be strictly in English. Under this theory, education would be given in English regardless of age, ethnicity, sex, and English competency. Those who support this theory also feel very strongly that English should be the nationally endorsed language of the United States of America (Crawford, 1998).
This movement stretches even outside the classroom. The English Only movement proposes to take all other language almost completely out of society. These same supporters, as you can imagine, also strongly associate with anti-immigration theories fearing the costs that may come with an increase in people on unemployment and welfare programs (p. 8). The movement has grabbed momentum, as evidenced in California’s passing of Proposition 227 which is an initiative to eliminate bilingual education from the state’s public schools (Arce, 1998). It prohibits, by law, teachers, staff, and school administration from giving instruction in any language but English (p. 10). This trend is growing as the majority of the states have some sort of English only laws with respect to public education. Again, this movement is self-explanatory; to eventually cut out bilingual education completely and promote strictly English language in our public education system.
The other side of the argument is obviously pro-bilingual education. Arce (1998, p. 12) noted the importance of bilingual education by saying, “ represents the acceptance of diversity of cultures and recognition of other languages as having a significant or even an equal status in American mainstream institutions.” Bilingual education, in fact, promotes the acquisition of languages other than English. It does not attempt to condemn English education. It couples the education that all students should receive in English with the language that is inherent to the individual student. According to Arce (1998, p. 14) extensive research has been conducted which actually shows “that language minority students who receive instruction in Spanish demonstrate higher transferability and sustain academic achievement in later years compared to students who are placed in total English immersion or even in early-exit bilingual programs.” Arce also notes (1998, p. 15) that parents of these students showed greater interest in their children’s education. Parents of these students feel shutout and disinterested when their children’s education shuns their native language and focuses only on English acquisition mainly because the majority of these people are first generation immigrants who have not learned English or feel inadequate of their ability to communicate.
To me, this argument is so ridiculous it shouldn’t even exist. There is so much evidence, which I feel is not even needed to make a common sense judgement on the issue, that scientifically proves that bilingual learners not only survive but excel in education. In my mind, it boils down to one simple question: Why would we hinder, in any way, a child’s learning? If in a science class of fully English-comprehending students, do teachers not adjust the language of their subject so that his/her students can understand? Or does the teacher only use the long, undulated, sometimes even hard to pronounce (yet alone understand) scientific words and hope that the students understand the material and stay engaged enough to care about the topic? How is bilingual education any different than this? I do agree that all students should strive to learn English and that the majority of the education should be done in English. I strongly disagree that educators should shun the fact that a student does not speak our language and give them a year, at most, to learn it. Worst of all, in the states where bills such as Proposition 227 have passed, educators are bound by law to give any instruction in any language other than English. How racist and self-promoting does that sound? Honestly it’s disgusting and embarrassing if you ask me. References:

Crawford, J. (1998). Anatomy of the English-Only Movement: Social and Ideological Sources of Language and Restrictionism is the United States. In: Kibbee, D.A. (Ed.) 1998.
Arce, J. (1998) Cultural hegemony: the politics of bilingual education, Multicultural Education, 6(2), 10-16.

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