Isn’t this special? The new J. Marlan Walker ‘International’ School in Henderson is teaching Spanish to all its kindergartners. What’s more, the instructors are ‘immersing’ their young charges in the language.
‘Spanish isn’t being taught as a foreign language here,’ enthuses program coordinator Annette Smith.
‘If you’re going to introduce a child to foreign language study, this is the way to do it,’ adds southeast regional superintendent Edward Goldman.
Yet what’s good for the goose isn’t good enough for the gander. Valleywide, 51,837 Spanish speaking students still hobble along with bastardized bilingual instruction alternately known as English Language Learners (ELL) or English as a Second Language (ESL).
Labeling English as a ‘second language’ tells you all you need to know about these programs. Their objective, simply, is to continue cultivating Spanish while delaying the transition to English.
Walker Principal Alan Bowman says parents at his school are pleased with the Spanish immersion curriculum, which will expand by one grade each year. And why not? Modeled after proven and effective language programs worldwide, the youngsters are taught to speak, write, read and think in Spanish.
‘It’s the right way to teach them a foreign language. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to do it,’ Goldman gushes.
So why don’t Clark County schools apply this style of instruction to their ever-growing Spanish-speaking student body? District educrats offer a variety of excuses, including cost. But, when asked, Bowman could not give comparative expenses for immersion and ESL/ELL programs. Clearly, though, the current system is no bargain; administrators are now seeking $77 million more to prop it up next year.
Taxpayers are increasingly concerned about the ESL/ELL boondoggle. Californians junked their failing bilingual program in favor of English immersion instruction. Not coincidentally, reading scores have soared since then. Several other states are ramping up similar initiatives.
But Clark County’s dos amigos, Carlos Garcia and Augie Orci, have a far different agenda. In one sense, they remain stuck in the past, clinging to programs that simply don’t work (see our flagging scores). As they plead poverty, the superintendent and his chief deputy insist on throwing good money after bad while foisting an academic fraud on the students they presume to help.
Now comes their latest scheme: partnering with universities in Mexico to train bilingual speech pathologists and school psychologists. This, of course, is yet another step toward a full-blown Spanish-speaking bureaucracy which, in turn, will exacerbate the inevitable ‘shortages’ of Spanish-speaking personnel.
Carrying things a bit further, one might reasonably wonder how, or if, such imports will be tested for knowledge and higher-level fluency in English.
In this sense, the maneuvers of Garcia and Orci are more sinister. By ramrodding so-called bilingualism, our educrats promote costly division in society and dysfunction in the classroom. By corralling Spanish-speaking students in what are essentially Spanish classes, they retard and arrest academic development. By contrast, it’s interesting to note that Asian youngsters, who do not have the benefit of such enlightened bilingual programs (yet), somehow manage to acquire English and thrive academically.
Teri De La Torre, executive director of the Nevada Alliance of Latin Americans, inadvertently makes the case for English immersion when she notes, ‘People who come to us are illiterate in their own language. They cannot read or write Spanish.’
In light of such realities, Arizona voters followed California in curbing bilingual programs. Colorado and even liberal Massachusetts are expected to follow suit this year.
In Indiana, which is experiencing its own tidal wave of Hispanic immigration, the legislature has advised school districts that they are under no mandate to provide bilingual programs. Intensive English is enough.
Will Nevada be an island of retrograde bilingualism and semi-functional illiteracy? That would be just fine with the casinos and unions who exploit peasant passivity under the politically correct guise of ‘diversity.’ And, if you’re still able to read the writing on the wall, this is precisely what’s happening here.
Ken Ward (email@example.com) writes about education every Wednesday. He is author of the recently published history: ‘Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.’