English First is the Right Policy

Coping with the equivalent of 25 classrooms full of children with little or no English is a novel challenge for the local public schools. And our schools are meeting it well with their approach to English as a second language.

Federal law gives public school systems no choice but to provide schooling for non-English speaking children, but leeway as to method. The philosophy here continues to be to give such students intensive English instruction so they can join regular classrooms. That’s a challenge, but sound policy. Elsewhere, mostly in larger systems, efforts are made to teach subjects in foreign languages.

This is not only expensive and inefficient, it robs those children of the chance to master American English at an early age, when it is easiest. It creates a social handicap they may never fully overcome. Let’s hope Guilford County never succumbs to the false appeal of bilingual education.

Teaching English to 675 children from 20 different countries presents a major challenge for a school system such as ours. But it is absolutely the right thing to do for those children, whether they are destined to be Americans or to move on to other lands.

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