Bilingual education has arrived in Georgia, as the Associated Press noted yesterday in an article (“Mom, I’m a niño!“) on Georgia’s first bilingual public (charter) school.
Clayton County’s Unidos Dual Language Charter School, which had a five-year charter approved by the state Board of Education back in April, opened its doors on August 8. The school’s website says that Unidos is “the first Dual Language Immersion Charter School in the state of Georgia,” as well as “the first school to embrace the values of bilingualism, biliteracy, and multiculturalism.”
The 132 students at Unidos get about 70 percent of their reading, writing, social sciences and math in Spanish, and 30 percent in English, according to the AP article, which continues:
Contrary to the perception that bilingual education is for immigrants who don’t want to assimilate, two-thirds of Unidos students are English-speakers. They include some immigrants’ children who are likely to forget their heritage tongue unless they keep studying it and others whose parents want them to learn Spanish because “it’s sort of where things are going,” Perry said.The seven teachers, all of whom have at least a basic knowledge of both languages, use only one language in the classroom and rely on hand gestures, miming and lots of repetition to keep the children’s attention.
During the first two weeks of school, they’ve been learning about colors, numbers, the month of August and the letters A and E — as well as about making friends with children from vastly different backgrounds.
“Kids who’ve never seen Hispanics before — they want to eat beside each other, they fight to sit beside each other,” said Lynda Quinones, who teaches English at Unidos. “If it wasn’t this environment, they’d probably be attacking each other.”
The pros and cons of bilingual education have been debated for quite some time; as this AP article points out, there are many dual-language schools in the US, the oldest of which have been around for nearly 50 years. As someone who has worked internationally, I personally have learned firsthand the value of individual multilingualism, and understand that knowledge of multiple languages not only makes a person more marketable when seeking a vocation, but can be extremely beneficial in one’s personal life, as well.
However, in my view, the idea of a multilingual education becomes less productive (a) when it is utilized for the purpose of perpetuating the attempt to force on America’s youth the postmodern form of “one world” multiculturalism which teaches that all other cultures are as good as or better than our own, or (b) when it is used as a preventive measure against immigrant assimilation.
What do you think?