The results of a recent poll on bilingual education among Los Angeles teachers were predictable and distorted. They can safely be ignored in shaping the program’s future.
The poll showed that substantial numbers of teachers favor plunging students from foreign countries directly into substantive courses taught in English rather than letting them learn substance in their native language until they are up to speed in English.
But the answers represent the views of one teacher in five. The sampling met none of the criteria demanded by opinion polling, and, it is safe to say, it represented teachers whose alternative to teaching in English is learning a second language themselves. The answers also were as predictable as what one would expect if one asked police officers whether they would rather chase robbers who were armed or robbers who were not.
The bilingual approach has proved itself over the past 10 years. Half a million youngsters go through the program each year, keeping up in their native language in arithmetic and other courses, taking an average of only three years to understand English well enough to merge with other students in the classroom. It is a program that serves both students and the people of California well. It must be allowed to continue to make its contributions, regardless of the personal preferences of a small minority of teachers.
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