Is Bilingual Education Necessary?

On the issue: informed opinions on today's topics

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole called for an end to most bilingual education programs in an attack on those he referred to as the “embarrassed-to-be American” crowd.

But bilingual education advocates argue that classes in the students’ primary language help them learn English more efficiently.

What is your reaction to Bob Dole’s call to end bilingual education?

Yvonne Chan, principal of Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in Pacoima:

“My thinking on bilingual education is the goal is proficiency in English. . . . Some children may only need it as little as 5% of the time, and some need it the majority of the time.

The decision should be up to the educators who know the children better and therefore have a very realistic assessment . . . to assure they give the child what he needs, as fast as he needs it.”

Douglas Lasken, Woodland Hills, a second-grade teacher at Ramona Elementary in Hollywood, and a former school board candidate:

“I think that Bob Dole has hit on a nerve here. . . . There are court decisions . . . which are going to ensure that students who do not speak English get the help that they need. . . . I agree completely that they are still going to have to help kids learn English. But, it doesn’t have to be that you have to master the primary language first before you move on. . . . It is a failed program in my view.”

Ray Galvez, bilingual coordinator for O’Melveney Elementary in San Fernando:

“It’s an ignorant response. His agenda is to advance money and his agenda to me is anti-immigrant and in a certain respect his motives are racially motivated. . . . What people don’t understand is that the bilingual program itself is not a program to keep the children in Spanish. It’s a program that will help the students learn English better and faster.”

Jessie G. Franco, assistant superintendent in charge of language acquisition and bilingual development for the Los Angeles Unified School District:

“He (Dole) is unfamiliar with bilingual education and he obviously had not been in schools like we have in Los Angeles. . . . Secondly, I was very taken aback by his description of those being embarrassed to be an American. . . . We are a nation of immigrants. People who come here from other countries become the most patriotic of all. . . . The L.A. school district does have a master plan for limited-English-proficient students, approved in May, 1988, by a 7-0 vote. The reality of the times is it’s time to revise it.”

Daniel Cardenas, 20, Granada Hills, Mission College student body president:

“It’s ludicrous to close a program that’s been so beneficial. . . . I started myself at an ESL level and slowly progressed into all-English classes. It helped me make an easier transition.”

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