Bilingual Education: Pros and Cons
“Bilingual Education was to be a form of atonement for the nation’s sins against
Hispanics, and a means of easing Americas “guilt”…The ethnic politician has a
high stake in bilingual education: By it, students are molded into an ethnically conscious constituency. Pride in their heritage and language, and an allegiance to their roots rather than their country, helps diminish a sense of Americanism…” R.E. “Rusty” Butler, aide to Former Senator Steve Symms, 1985 monograph, “On Creating a Hispanic America: A Nation Within a Nation?”
Bilingual education has been at the center of hot debates since the implementation of The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 and before. It was the first piece of legislation regarding second language learners. The bill was introduced in 1967 and its purpose was to provide school districts with funding to establish educational programs for students with limited English speaking ability. The bill was originally intended for Spanish-speaking students, but in 1968 became the all-encompassing Bilingual Education Act or Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
The act encouraged instruction in English and multicultural awareness in the wake of the Civil Rights movement although it did not require bilingual programs. Prior to this movement, language-minority students, particularly Latinos, were forbidden to speak Spanish in school and were punished for doing so. Language minority students were left to “sink or swim, to make progress, unassisted, in learning the common language of the school and community (porter, 2000, p. 52) or to fall behind. Though the initial BEA thought to be largely symbolic because of its low level of funding (Trujillo, 6) Title VII did, however, help define students’ educational civil rights as the right to learn content matter as well as the right to learn English (Baker & Hakuta, 1997, p. 2).
In order to understand the...