Bilingual Education

Some years back some moron in some School of Education in some university in this county came up with a whacky idea that no doubt got her several promotions and access to a lot of federal grants.  This was the brilliant idea that kids who did not speak English well (or just spoke a second language) should be cheated of full participation in this English-speaking society by being placed into a class where the instruction was not  in English but in Spanish.

Fortunately the bankruptcy of this fraudulence has come home to roost — unhappily — in California, and bilingualism is on its way out nationally.

But think about it.  Why in heaven’s name Spanish?

The argument goes something as follows.  Spanish is a minority language in a majority culture that is English, and the linguistic and cultural integrity of a minority should be vouchsafed at government expense.  Aside from the dubious legalisms invoked in support of this dim-witted notion, the real trouble is that Spanish seems to have become a code-word for minority – when we are talking about language, of course.  What about Chinese minorities?  What about Sioux, Swahili, and Swedish minorities?  and scores, or even hundreds, of others?  That Spanish is the majority minority language is surely no argument in favor of Spanish education.  We should then be saying that while a minority language (Spanish) must be honored by the larger majority, a language such as Sioux, Swahili, or Swedish that is in the minority relative to the majority minority language (Spanish) relative to the majority language (English) merits no such federal protection.

To this I object.

If instruction is to be offered in Spanish, then instruction in dozens, probably hundreds, of other languages must also be offered in every public school.  If the preciousness of linguistic minority rights is to be truly addressed, as well it might [but, again, I would object!] in an ideal world, every single linguistic entity must be given its due recognition, and that is patently as much a practical as a theoretical absurdity.

Why did this madness come about?  At my most charitable, I venture to suggest that the nation’s educationalists, beating a disgraceful retreat from the disasters that their theories about new math and non-English created for an entire generation in the late fifties and early sixties, were next ready to experiment with yet another theory abomination.  It would require much electronic gimmickry, much HEW money for conferences in Hawaii, much bad writing in self-styled learned journals.

As I said, this astonishing foolishness has been, or is currently being nipped, in the wilting bud before it has time to grow forth its poisonous blooms onto yet another hapless generation that would be capable of speaking, reading, and writing neither Spanish nor English.

Given the caliber of education in one language, English, in elementary and secondary curricula, all developed and sanctioned by the academic ‘experts’, are we seriously to believe that they (and who would that be – experts in Madrid Spanish, in Buenos Aires Spanish, in Malabo Spanish [Equatorial Guinea], in … ?) can do an effective job of devising instructions in two or, as I would be compelled to insist on arguing, hundreds of languages?

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