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Education of language minority children in US

Bilingual education is necessary in classrooms for the benefit of language minority children, especially in states such as NY, Florida, and California where the diversity of students in public schools varies in large numbers; and where there are many students of different backgrounds. The transition of learning a new language is extremely difficult for these students; especially without been able to use their own first language to make the transition to English easier.

If American classrooms become solely English then minority language speakers are going to be left behind. For example in the “Anatomy of the English Only Movement”, by James Crawford, research on second-language acquisition has shown that: “When language minority students fail, it is more likely from too little instruction in their native language than too little English. Along term national study has documented higher student achievement in developmental bilingual classrooms than transitional bilingual or structured English immersion classrooms”.

However, advocates for the English Only Movement believe that English only education in schools can bring unity between the language barriers and provide an equal education to all children. Equal education refers to equal educational opportunities for all children regardless of their backgrounds. One of the major arguments that advocates of English only debates, in Proposition 227 in California is equality in education, which would make English the sole instructional language for every child.

However, this argument may work best for native English speakers, but it is unfair for language minority children; and fear that if English only should be implemented in our schools they would be at a disadvantage. The equality in education by implementing solely English, that Proposition 227 proposes makes it extremely difficult for language minority children to receive a meaningful education; and many believe that solely English may also be “detrimental to their familial and social integration”. (pg3) In 1974, in the case of Lau V.

Nichols, the Supreme Court ruled that: “there is no equality of treatment merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and curriculum; for students who do not understand English are efficiently foreclosed from any meaningful education”. The impact of the English only has many disadvantages for language minority children on academic and social learning. The transition from ones native language to a new language is a difficult road for anyone to travel; especially when the use of your native language is prohibited from making the transition to the new language easier.

Supporters of bilingual education believes that, like native English speakers, language minority children go to school with many well developed skills in their first language. Many believe that these children use their background of knowledge in their first language to try and understand and make sense of the unfamiliar, such as English and to create their own “English written text, and to read English materials written by others”. (pg2) However, these essential resources are not available to language minority children to help make the transition for them easier.

This is a down fall for these children, and a disadvantage for them to be thrown in an environment where they are expected to learn unfamiliar content in unfamiliar language. Many believe this may be detrimental to these children and without the “bridge provided by their first language, their chances of achieving academic success may be severely reduced”. (pg 2 and remember the source) Not only does the English only have its disadvantages towards language minority children academically, but research has shown that this also deprives these children of many social impact advantages resulting from using their first language.

For example, researchers Wong-Fillmore, and Gibson of the impact and English only on academic and social learning, have found that the consequences of losing a mother tongue are often “extensive and serve” for language minority children. Wong-Fillmore explains that in homes where parents do not communicate with children in the mother tongue, family communication may deteriorate. This is where the issue of a form of social disadvantage plays in for language minority children; because family is important for the growth as well as the well been of a child.

With language barriers between a child and a parent, communication skills would be affected and the knowledge that a parent should impart unto a child would not be possible; because language barriers would separate parents from communicating with their children. Wong-Fillmore believes, “where parents and children do not share a common language, communication is often limited to the basic necessities, preventing parents from transmitting to their children the complex set of values, beliefs, wisdom, and understanding which provide the foundation for their children’s learning and development”. (pg2)

Today Education Reform is mostly talked about in city areas, where schools funds are low, and class rooms are over populated with students. Also, properly trained and experience teachers are needed, text books are old, and the world of new technology such as, computers in these schools are insufficient. And most importantly standardized tests that were designed to test students and see the level at which children are, are been tremendously failed by city school students; and these schools show results beyond the national level. This is extremely important because of the fact that education is the key to success.

As we might have all heard over and over again, without education the road to success is a narrow one. And for many of these students, getting a proper education is their only hope in climbing out of the ghettos and poverty. Many speculate that this is the result of low property tax in these areas, lack of parental input that may contribute with the education of the child, along with the theory that areas such as New York City, Yonkers, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Miami are populated with the combination of many different minority languages such as Spanish.

This creates an environment where the schools systems are populated with students speaking different languages. The English Only Movement which advocates that English be the official and only language used in the United States, believe that English is the unifying language in the US, and all the chaos and conflicts that goes in a nation of diverse groups would be solved.

“English has always been our common language, a means of resolving conflicts in a nation of diverse racial, ethnic, and religious groups; reaffirming the preeminence of English means reaffirming a unifying force in American life”. However, supporters of bilingual education debates that, the English only is a “mean spirited attempt to coerce Anglo-conformity by terminating essential services in other languages. The amendment poses a treat to civil rights, educational opportunities and free speech, even in the private sector”.

They believe that English only is an insult to the heritage of cultural minorities. “Worst of all, the English Only Movement serves to justify racists and activists biases under the cover of American patriotism”. (pg2)

References

Blanton, C. K. (2004) The strange career of bilingual education in Texas, 1836-1981. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. Chapter 1: Legal and policy aspects of the bilingual tradition, 1821-82(p. 11-23), Chapter 2: Tejans, Germans, and Czechs in the Marking of the Bilingual tradition, 1850-1900 (p.24-41) Crawford, James (2004) Educating English Learners: Language Diversity in the Classroom, 5th Ed. Chapter 3: Options for English Learners (p. 28-54), Chapter 4: Language Policies in the U. S. A. (p. 55-77) Flores, B. (2005) The intellectual presence of the deficit view of Spanish-speaking children in the educational literature during 20th century. In: Pedraza, P. &Rivera, M. Latino Education: An agenda for community action research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. P. 75-98

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