Bilingual education Gingrich condemnation wrong
The Lantern (Ohio State University)
April 2, 2007


All English speakers are prosperous, and all non-English speakers live in ghettos.

Although not by any means the truth, the above sentence was implied by former speaker of the house and possible Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich during a speech before the National Federation of Republican Women.

In his speech, Gingrich said, "We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not thelanguage of living in a ghetto."

He went on to explain that English exams required for citizenship eliminate the need for ballots printed in languages other than English.

At The Lantern we strongly disagree with Gingrich's statements and believe in the effectiveness of bilingual education, especially at younger ages. Children learning English as a second language should have the opportunity to learn other subjects, such as math and science, in their native languages to keep their progress at the same level as their native-English speaking peers. The goal in the long run would be for the students to be able to assimilate as easily as possible when they begin taking those other subjects in English. The need to learn English does not preclude the need to learn other subjects.

As for ballots, even those who learn English might not be able to understand some of the specific language on referendums and other initiatives. Even native English speakers have trouble with some of the legal language that comes with the bills on which they are required to vote.

It is difficult to see Gingrich's statements as anything other than pandering to a specific group in order to create a base for a possible run at the presidency. He claimed bilingual education does not work, but according to Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus at University of Southern California, and Grace McField, education professor at California State University-San Marcos, students from bilingual programs do better on English tests than comparable students in all-English classes. According to an article the two published in Language Learner, meta-analyses of bilingual education research has shown use of the first language can facilitate English learning.

The Lantern fails to see how bilingual education poses "long-term dangers to the fabric of our nation," as Gingrich said in 1995. The idea that printing signs in different languages and making it easier for foreign language speakers to adapt will take away our country's identity is, frankly, absurd. Those who want to succeed and build a life for themselves in this country will have to learn English at a competent level at some point. Why force English, and only English, upon children and force them to miss out on basic mathematics and science? If Gingrich gets his way, no learning will take place until students have mastered English.

Bilingual education needs to be kept in areas with large immigrant and non-English speaking populations, and attacks on its effectiveness are backed not by facts and research but by alarmism and xenophobia.

Copyright 2007 The Lantern