The notion of children studying in two languages sounds wonderful.

“La nocion de que los ninos estudien en dos idiomas suena maravillosa.”

What better education could there be than one that is truly bilingual, giving every child perfect fluency in two tongues.

“Cual educacion puede ser mejor que una que sea verdaderamente bilingue , dando a cada nino una perfecta facilidad en dos lenguas.”

Admittedly, as you can see, the bilingual imparting of information can be time-consuming, cumbersome and a real pain in the backside. But the net benefit for the pupils who receive it surely outweighs the effort.

Even so, the people of California have just chosen to deny their children this great opportunity – voting by a large majority to dismantle the system of bilingual education that has operated in that state’s schools for 30 years.

It sounds nuts: if children were being taught in Spanish or French, as well as English, we’d all hail a great achievement.

Why on earth would Californians now sweep it away?

The answer is that bilingual education in the United States is not quite what the name suggests. Far from offering dual-language tuition – with teachers providing consecutive translation of every sentence – it’s actually a politically correct euphemism for teaching children in a language other than English.

In California, with its enormous Hispanic community, that has tended to be Spanish. Today’s Hispanic leaders have decided that this policy, however well-intentioned, has consigned their children to a linguistic ghetto – preventing them from entering the mainstream of English-speaking American society. Most of them backed Proposition 227, which passed June 2.

The move is probably correct: past generations of U.S. immigrants were forced to study in English and they mastered it in the end. That’s what kept the legendary melting pot in operation.

But Americans should not abandon the true bilingual ideal. If they were to raise a nation of children fluent in two or more languages their global edge could only get sharper. Ole!

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