Bilingual Education Drama

I recently came across an article on a potentially controversial topic in the US; my instinct is that it feeds into the fears fueling what I consider the ridiculous and xenophobic “English only” trend in the US. For that reason, I’ve been hesitant to post about it – am I contributing to that silliness?

My main decisions is: I’m not that important (although I definitely think I should be)!

Spanish needs worry some teachers. Is it because they are concerned about the progress of their students? Or that they cannot offer what their students need? Not exactly.

The article touches on one particular consequence of different approaches to teaching public school learners of different language backgrounds. One road (of many) is to employ bilingual teachers; another is to have ESL classes – however they are done – for English language learners who also take part in mainstream classes where the language of instruction is English. The focus of the article is on the topic of a handful of monolingual English-speaking teachers being transferred, which the teachers attribute to the rise of “immigrant” students – by which they apparently mean native Spanish-speaking students who do not speak English. I suppose I’d point out that not speaking English does not mean someone is necessarily an immigrant.

I don’t know enough about bilingual education to comment meaningfully on which, if either, of these paths is ideal, and there is not much more than brief explanations of the value of each provided in the article. Here are a few observations instead:

It’s interesting to me that the debate seems to be reduced to English (only) speaking teachers vs. the needs of non-English speaking students, rather than “maybe it is bad that there is not enough money for schools, and teachers are treated poorly by the states”. The easiest “bad guy” nowadays is the group of people commonly referred to as “immigrants”; education policy or lack of funding for schools is more complicated and less dramatic. As is, it seems that only one “side” – non-native English speaking kids OR monolingual teachers – can “win”, rather than both. Both “sides” winning, though, might just involve questioning much larger issues instead of using the same trendy scapegoat.