Tuesday, April 10, 2007

BiLingual Education Gets A Failing Grade

According to the NewsMax report, Former New York Congressman Herman Badillo, says bi-lingual education is failing immigrant students – and actually preventing their integration into American society. In 1974, when bilingual education became federal law it was expected that students would only be in bilingual classes for a year or so. The premise was to teach newcomers math, history, and other subjects in their native language, so that these kids would not fall behind in those subjects while they learned English.

Herman Badillo, was a chief author of the 1974 legislation. He never suspected that a bilingual lobby would emerge that would keep students in bilingual classes for two, four, six, or even eight years! Badillo claims that the "bilingual lobby" includes the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE). One aim of NABE is to keep students speaking their native language instead of switching. Well.. there is something to be said for keeping one's traditions and language. many Jews and Italians and other immigrants have done just that - but they have also assimilated in many other ways so that they can be successful and included in American society.

What has happened to millions of youngsters, is that their bilingual education has been a bridge to nowhere, producing shockingly high dropout rates, social isolation, and the inability to achieve the "American Dream. Many frustrated parents, voters and other groups have begun to fight back against bilingual education.

Now Badillo, 77, has become a Republican. He is a senior fellow at the libertarian-conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. He has also penned a new book about his views; One Nation, One Standard: An Ex-Liberal on How Hispanics Can Succeed Just Like Other Immigrant Groups.

The Newsmax report cites this:
"Instead of helping students learn English, bilingual education became monolingual education in Spanish," Badillo says.

He also discovered that 30 New York City teachers were recruited in Spain to teach bilingual classes, but the city had to provide translators for them because these teachers spoke no English. Students were sidetracked for years into Spanish-only "bilingual" classes and were usually directed away from college preparatory classes and into vocational training, limiting their future opportunities.

And because school policies of "social promotion" advanced students without regard to their mastery of curriculum, "many graduated high school barely able to read or write in any language," Badillo says. "Bilingual education often produced bi-illiteracy."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich voiced sentiments similar to Badillo's in a recent speech. He told the National Federation of Republican Women: "We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and prosperity, not the language of living in the ghetto."
A recent study done by the Pacific Research Institute found that in California – where more than a third of the population is Hispanic – 47 percent of students classified as English Language Learners (ELs) scored high enough on the California English Language Development Test to be reclassified as fluent in English. Yet most CA local school districts adopt additional standards to prevent such reclassification.(Read overall results here)
Why is that? Well.... Follow The Money !!

Authors of the study said that "school districts simply want more money … [and] have a financial incentive for keeping students classified as EL because federal Title III funds are distributed on a per-EL basis, and the state Economic Impact Aid program ... is based in part on EL student counts." At its peak nationwide, bilingual and English as a Second Language education programs cost taxpayers more than $12 billion each year, according to one estimate.

I have relatives who came here from other countries and had no bilingual education. They struggled, but they all learned English quickly and entered American life. They were all successful and never gave up their heritage or their language or their roots. Many of their traditions and their stories live on in my home. Do I speak Czech or Hungarian.. no.. I could have learned it from granny or my mom.. but had no desire to - who would I speak it with other than them? They recognized that, and quite frankly they wanted to be American... not Hungarian or Czech .. they became US citizens.. that is why they moved here. They wanted to be part of this great thing called America. They recognized the importance of their heritage, but also the importance of some of the changes they needed to make in their life to make their life better. Learning a new language was one of them.


Dana said...

I like the premise of bilingual education and having taught in a predominantly (98%) Hispanic region, I think there are definite advantages to the program, as it is supposed to be run. Especially when you are working with immigrant children who essentially speak no language...their Spanish is apparently pretty bad (I wouldn't know not speaking it myself).

What I did not like at all was the constant fight the school is in to convince parents to send their children to bilingual classes. Qualified or not, most of the parents who had anything to say fought to keep their children in regular classes and the district went out of their way to try to convince them to sign the papers to go to bilingual classes.

The rest, I believe, were too intimidated by the system to do anything but what the administrators told them to do. But if Hispanic parents do not want their children in bilingual classes, why put them there?

Eric Holcombe said...

"In 1974, when bilingual education became federal law it was expected that students would only be in bilingual classes for a year or so."

Yeah, kinda like the federal income tax, welfare, socialist security, et al...

I always point to Texas and the performance of their hispanic students when confronted with the "bilingual environment enhances learning" argument used on English-speakers. It doesn't seem to work very well for the Spanish-speakers there as they continue to lag behind "whites" on test scores. Of course, it's all relative because the "whites" increasingly learn less English as they go.

I love Alvin C. York's relation of his experience in WWI with the various Americans he fought with that spoke broken (if any) English. What a contrast to the illegal aliens protesting on our streets today.