October 11, 2005

By Domingo Ivan Casañas  http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=2869

Last year I wrote an article about ESL (English as a second language) for the high school students. As I do more research and remembering my own experience of arriving in this country without any English proficiency I must try to understand in what way has bilingual education help our Spanish-speaking children. It was back in 1974 when the Supreme Court in Lau v. Nichols ignored two hundred years of English-only instruction in America’s schools and said that students who did not speak English must receive special treatment from local schools. This ruling allowed an enormous expansion of bilingual education. Within a short time bilingual education had turned into a massive political pork barrel.

I strongly feel that a newcomer to our country who does not know any English does need help in learning the basics via an English immersion program before being placed in an English-only classroom like the ESL program does. It is my opinion that Bilingual education might have gained wider acceptance and lower dropout rates for Latinos if its advocates had been content to describe bilingual education as no more than a transitional bridge to assimilation. However the advocated were looking to get larger grants from federal and state programs as well as higher salaries for the bilingual teachers. And they did not stop there; one of their missions was to make it their task to maintain the immigrant’s cultural heritage. An endeavor that should be left to parents, churches and the extended family.

We must remember and believe in our hearts as parents that our Hispanic children have some very positive values. They appreciated their grandparents, they respect their fathers as the supreme court of discipline, and they love their mothers. They have goals for their future, they aspire to better jobs than their parents held, and they are optimistic. So why then should they be taught in Spanish 40to 80 percent of the time? It is us the parents who need to have our children learn the Spanish language and practice it at home and with friends. As parents what the majority of us want is to see our children learn the English language as soon as possible and start on their educational challenge to apply themselves and get good grades so that they can possibly attend college. Above all, learning begins at home; the parents’ values are more important than the pedagogues’.

As parents of Latino children born in the United States of America it is our duties not to teach our children that it is all about your color of skin or your native tongue, and we must not turn “Anglo” color and racial prejudice into a single-cause explanation of social ills. Racial prejudice assuredly exists in the United States, as it exists everywhere else including our own homelands. Racial prejudice, however, is crisscrossed by class prejudice and above all, by prejudice linked to the facts of ethnic succession. The most unpopular people in America are usually those who have arrived in some numbers and last in this country—not necessarily the most dark-complexioned. Our Latino children need their own parents to be educated, to know the English language so that they may play a role in their own children’s education. We must help with homework, buy books, and lavishly praise good grades, and castigate a child that is sent home from school after a fight. Such children will have a better chance than youngsters from a home where the television and stereo blare, where books are scarce, where their own parents are hoping that they won’t go to college so that they can help out the family& where there is no supervision in their Internet activities Our children need parents that encourage them, parents that instill moral values on them, and parents that Pray with them. The teachers can help reinforce the values of the home, but they cannot be expected to do the parents’ work. Schools should be responsible for creating an environment that supports high expectations and has a clear focus and a strong instructional leadership that offers incentives to learning and promote academic excellence will all children no matter how poor or how rich or what accent they speak with.

Knowledge of English is an acquired, not an inherent, skill—anyone, white, black or brown, can learn English. Immigrants that are not ignorant line up to learn English because they believe that learning English will improve their prospects and it does, significantly. English is the most widely used language in history. English is the language of science, technology, diplomacy, international trade and commerce. One half of Europe’s business is carried out in English, and more than 67% percent of the world’s scientists read English. Most of the Internet users mostly communicate in English. English literacy is the key to success in the United States. By not having Bilingual education does not mean our children won’t be bilingual. Bilingual education also defeats efforts to assimilate children into the U.S. society. It is my opinion that one to two years of sheltered English immersion, followed with regular classrooms is the real key, this is how I was taught when I arrived from Cuba when I was eight years old and it only took one year in my case. My Spanish was reinforced at home and I am Fluent in both languages, writing, reading and speaking.

I think most people including Hispanics would agree with me that (except bilingual teachers, administrators, and multiculturists who want not only language training but also cultural maintenance) bilingualism in school does not work. Our goal as Latino’s is not to create the problem that Canada has and form little Quebec’s in states like California, New York, Texas and Florida. We cannot allow children with Spanish surnames to be forced into bilingual classes just to meet school goals, and we must remember that Bilingual teachers are in short supply, so at times teachers are hired who have no teacher training but speak Spanish or some language other than English. Which results in poor teaching and little or no English-language teaching.

I conclude by pointing out that the evidence is overwhelming: bilingualism in school does not work, is expensive, is divisive, and ill serves Spanish speakers to advance and compete in American Society.

Domingo Ivan Casañas

Domingo Ivan Casañas was born in Cuba and is now a Proud US Citizen. Domingo resides in Northern California and is a single proud father of three great teenagers. Domingo is the author of: Cuba The Tarnished Pearl. You may read excerpts of his book at CUBANBOOK.COM. Domingo writes for several hometown newspapers and internet periodicals. Domingo also writes Faith page articles since he is a proud Christian.