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Bilingual education heading down the wrong path

September 27, 2006

Bilingual education has arrived in Georgia at Clayton County's Unidos Dual Language School, which had a five-year charter approved by the state school board in April. According to its Web site, Unidos is "the first Dual Language Immersion Charter School in the state of Georgia" and "the first school to embrace the values of bilingualism, biliteracy, and multiculturalism."

There are 132 students at Unidos, two-thirds of whom speak English. They receive nearly 70 percent of classroom instruction in Spanish, with the rest in English. As Unidos founder Dell Perry told the Associated Press, the student body comprises immigrants' children who might forget their native language without study, and American students whose parents want them to learn Spanish because "it's sort of where things are going."

Beyond language indoctrination, the school purports to bring together children from different backgrounds who would somehow never come together on their own. English teacher Lynda Quinones said of the school, "Kids who've never seen Hispanics before - they want to eat beside each other, they fight to sit beside each other. If it wasn't this environment, they'd probably be attacking each other."

It's telling that people may believe, as Quinones appears to, that Americans are such Neanderthals that accepting bilingual education, and teaching our children Spanish from an early age, is one of the only safeguards against an outbreak of race-based violence. Perhaps she and others of similar mind would benefit from looking a bit more closely at American history, and at other nations which are, by definition, characterized by unifying phenomena such as language. They should seek out the lesson repeatedly, and ruthlessly, taught since time immemorial: Any stability achieved by selling out the distinctive language, customs, and culture of a nation has always been short-term at best, and this easy, brief peace has been all too often followed by a tidal wave of incoming cultural influences which, ultimately, serve to wash away what little may have been left of the nation that once was.

The pros and cons of bilingual education have been debated for some time. Since the opening of the first dual-language school, in Florida in 1962, more than 300 bilingual education centers have opened across the United States.

Multilingualism has undeniable value. Knowledge of multiple languages can make a person more attractive in the job market, and can be beneficial in personal life, as well.

But it becomes less rosy when considered as part of the ongoing attempt to strip Americans of their national pride and common language, in the name of entrenching and enforcing postmodern one world multiculturalism, which teaches all other cultures are as good as or better than one's own, in the face of facts to the contrary.

It's also problematic when used as a preventive against immigrant assimilation.

Despite what the anti-immigrant fringe may want to believe, this has always been a nation of immigrants; our history as a melting pot is a large part of what has made us the great nation we are today. However, that melting pot is only successful because a large part of the "melting" is assimilation: learning and respecting the language, customs, traditions and culture of an adopted homeland.

If a bilingual education can assist in assimilation by helping students increase English proficiency while allowing them to use their native tongue to prevent falling behind academically, or if it can provide native students with expert second-language instruction, while not forcing anti-patriotic multiculturalism on them, it's reasonable to believe the practice may have positive results.

The Pew Hispanic Center accurately reflects the truth of this matter in its finding that a "vast majority of Hispanics at all educational levels believe that immigrants' children need to be taught English."

But with the one world climate being brought on by the academic left and others, there appears to be less and less hope that guidelines for effective, acceptable multilingual education even will be paid lip service.

The AP story on the Unidos school spoke volumes about the direction multilingual education is intentionally taking, when it spoke of a mother enrolling her 5-year-old son with the hope he's young enough to learn Spanish effortlessly. She said it will help him thrive in an increasingly diverse country. "We'd be really arrogant to expect everybody to speak English," she said.

Arrogant? To expect immigrants to this nation to learn our national unifying language?

Only in America.

Jeff Emanuel, a Special Operations military veteran who served in Iraq, is a senior at the University of Georgia.

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 092806

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