reply to post by havok
I feel I'm pretty qualified to chime in here since bilingual education was the major emphasis of my MA in linguistics.
First fact: On the planet Earth, there are more bilingual people (people who speak at least two languages) than there are monolingual people (speakers
of just one language).
Bilingual education is not a liberal agenda. Bilingual education has two basic purposes:
1. To educate native and non-native speakers in two (or more) languages that may or may not be their heritage languages, but are present in their
general vicinity due to minority, co-official, or otherwise recognized languages spoken there.
2. To educate immigrant children in the de facto or de juris official language of a region or nation so that those children can receive scaffolding in
subjects that are not language related (math, history, science) but are nonetheless dependent on the language as the medium of instruction.
Number 1 is the case in, for example, Canada, where dual immersion programs are used to make sure Anglos learn French and Quebecois learn English - at
the same time - in the same classrooms. In other words, the whole gaggle of students attend the same classes, Anglos and Quebecois learning all sorts
of subjects in
French and then others in
English. This type of method does not exist in the US except for some state-of-the-art private
institutions and a hand-full of public school districts in heavy immigrant areas with access, influence and foresight. You will also find such
education in countries with regional languages, such as Basque and Catalan in Spain. Also, in nations that are bilingual or multilingual by default,
such as Switzerland, Belgium or Singapore. Or in former European colonies where indigenous languages or Creoles are still the home language, even if
the European norm is officially recognized (Haiti, Philippines, Paraguay, South Africa). However, typically, due to lack of prestige - because of
linguistic elitism - there is a lack of funding in many of these nations for mother tongue initiatives.
Number 2 is the case with any country that has immigration, including Brazil, Sweden, Australia, the UK, France, Canada and of course, the US. In this
case, how bilingual education is approached depends on the country in question. For example, in Brazil, Japanese immigration throughout the 20th
century was met with no public support of bilingual education and the Japanese communities themselves set up Japanese schools for children to attend
in addition to the Portuguese education they received in public schools. For cultural reasons, the Japanese government still funds these schools in
Brazil, and Peru if I'm not mistaken, where the Japanese minorities are highest in Latin America.
In the US, bilingual education has been seen as a one-sided issue and typically only concerning Spanish. However, it should be pointed out that in
many parts of the Southwest and West, Spanish is a native language and has been for many centuries now. It is incidental that immigration from Latin
American countries has brought a larger Spanish-speaking demographic to places like Southern California, Colorado, Chicago, New York, North Carolina
and South Florida. In either case, the approach is still tipped in one direction.
The best way to approach bilingual education is to make it mandatory for all school districts, the language being based on the demographic. Thus, you
could expect the following:
Los Angeles --> Spanish/English, Korean/English, Farsi/English, etc.
San Francisco --> Spanish/English, Mandarin/English, etc.
Dearborn, MI, --> Arabic/English,
Flagstaff, AZ, --> Navajo/English or Hopi/English
Hawaii --> Hawaiian/English or Chinese/English
South Florida --> Spanish/English, Haitian Creole/English, Portuguese/English
Boston --> Portuguese/English
Upstate New York or New England --> French/English
Minneapolis --> Amharic/English
Chicago --> Polish/English, etc.
There is no reason for this not to be done. This would provide more jobs for more teachers. This would produce more well-rounded bilingual children in
the US. The US could become a nation of multilingual people.
And, what should really get you conservatives on board...this type of well-rounded, meaningful instruction in two languages will produce fluent
English speakers, so English can and will still be the main, de facto official language of the US.
At the moment, not doing this, we are still met with the obstacle of 33% high school graduation rates among hispanics and latinos, unable to navigate
professional English and not literate in Spanish, having been appropriately schooled in neither language, they are essentially low-skilled bilinguals
with no real literacy and they are a huge chunk of our population, in some places they couldn't really be considered a minority. And again, that is
just the Spanish-speakers.
Regarding the OP, I could go on and on about how Native Americans were poorly treated in the US, Canada and Latin America. They still tend to live in
poverty and their native languages are constantly under attack through poorly run education programs that do not address language effectively. In
Mexico alone, other than Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) and certain dialects of Maya, most indigenous languages are poised to go extinct in the
next generation (or they are effectively there).
The worst is that when you lose a language, you lose a way of categorizing and viewing the world. And in the case of most Native American languages,
which are not or have never been written, you simply cannot get them back.