No Matter How You Say it, Bilingual Education Is for Everyone
What does it mean to be one in vision? It means that we share a vision for excellence. In 1975, when the National Association for Bilingual Educators was founded, we just had some notions of how to teach our children.
We insisted on equity. We insisted on access. We advocated for laws, guidelines and funding that would promote and ensure equity.
Today, we have results. And in addition to equity, we insist on excellence. And we insist on promoting bilingualism for all children. We insist on preparing every single child in America to meet world standards.
We know that as advances in communication and technology further shrink our globe, so grows the need for individuals who are competent in all academic areas and who are proficient in more than just English.
We know that we must prepare our students to function in a culturally diverse nation — in an economically interdependent and interconnected United States. A United States that is inevitably, and even eagerly, being drawn more and more into the global framework.
Thus, our vision of excellence means educating all children globally — widening their access to the world so they can function knowledgeably and comfortably in a world that is interdependent, interconnected and international.
A world of this sort demands linguistic, cultural, technological and socio-psychological preparation. Our schools must teach the languages of the world and the power of those languages along with world geography, world history and economics.
Our vision of excellence means that our children must be bilingual — or trilingual, or maybe even multilingual in spoken languages and conversant in one or more cyber languages.
According to a recent report in USA Today, the profile of a model employee includes the knowledge of a language other than English. The executives of the country’s 1,000 largest companies identified the most valuable second languages in business as follows: Spanish, 63 percent; Japanese, 16 percent; Chinese, 11 percent; German, 4 percent and French, 2 percent. This shows what our schools must help our children achieve.
I say, all languages are important. I say, all children are important. I say we challenge our schools to stop thinking in terms of remediation and start thinking about excellence for all children.
Being bilingual or multilingual is an enormous asset, an intellectual accomplishment. And it should be fostered as a national treasure.
Let us stop making apologies for what we know works, and focus on making it more accessible to all kids.
We must work to educate the public on what bilingual education is and what it is not. We also must begin dispelling the twisted myths regarding our children and our programs.
It is time America understood that bilingual education is about academic excellence, and that children whose first language is one other than English are not language-deficient. They are language-endowed! They are language-rich!
Simply saying it is up to parents to teach children the native language and up to schools to teach English is to make mockeries of both of a humanistic education and the education of a citizen who is expected to work, by national design, in a global environment.
Bilingual education is not for children with a deficiency. Bilingual education is not for children with learning problems. It is not a program for those poor little kids who can’t speak English.
And, let it be clear: Bilingual education programs must be designed and implemented not just for children whose first language is Spanish, but for children whose mother tongue is Russian or Armenian — or Tagalog, Hmong, Navajo, Creole, Arabic or Chinese.
These are all our children. Each one of them is precious and we must ensure that each one receives the best education possible.
We have crossed the bridge we built to the 21st century. Now, we must shape a 21st-century agenda — of excellence, responsibility and activism.
And most importantly, we must do it with one voice.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com