Sunday, April 01, 2007

Bilingual education

Newt Gingrich gave a speech on Saturday in which he equated American English with prosperity and other languages with the ghetto. This bias against bilingual education is not a new development in Newt-land, but there are so many layers of insult in this speech that I scarcely know where to begin. A few points to consider:
  • Since when is English-language literacy the golden ticket? I know plenty of native English speakers, and speakers of English as a second language, who have found it anything but easy to maintain a decent standard of living.
  • In most of the world, knowledge of multiple languages is an asset. This nation needs to do more to foster multilingualism, not less!
  • non-native English speakers now outnumber native English speakers, 3 to 1.
  • Check out your local literacy council, where long waiting lists often frustrate the desire of immigrants to learn English. Want immigrants to learn English? Sign up to be a tutor.
  • And, by the way, be patient. Give it a generation or two...
  • And take the time to educate yourself. It is arrogant to assume that bilingual education is a one-way transaction. Or that your own native culture is the only one that has something to offer.
"The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you: they are unique manifestations of the human spirit."
- Wally Lamb

1 comment:

Christy Tucker said...

Yeah! You're posting again! :)

Newt reminds me of an old joke.

Q: What do you call a person who speaks two languages?
A: Bilingual

Q: What do you call a person who speaks three languages?
A: Trilingual

Q: But what do you call a person who only speaks one language?
A: American

I think the NCLB and the expectations for ELL (English Language Learners) to be English proficient in their first year is a related issue. I've seen it suggested that we allow ELL students to not be included in the schools tests until they have been studying English for 3 years. That seems like a reasonable expectation to me.