Battle in Massachusetts Over Bilingual Programs Rages On

The state of Massachusetts is considering doing away with dual-language programs that teach students both English and Spanish, but parents and educators aren’t willing to lose them without a fight.

“’I don’t think [the dual-language program] is salvageable at this point,’ Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts state commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said in an interview. ‘We saw no evidence that the dual language or traditional program were delivering results. Both were coming up short.’”

In Boston, the parents and teachers of Dever Elementary School are fighting to keep the bilingual program, writes James Vaznis of the Boston Globe. It aims to make students fluent in both English and Spanish by offering math, science, and other subjects in both languages. They are planning a formal protest of the plan to scrap the program.

Some parents are going so far as to threaten withdrawing their child from the school and placing them in another local dual language school. The dual language schools attract immigrants that want their children schooled at least partially in their native language. No- native Spanish speakers want their children to be fluent in a second language and have a multicultural education. It is thought to help them economically as a result of being fluent in a second language.

California is having its own problems when it comes to the bilingual class program debate, reports Kelli Korduki for npr.org. Many Latino families live in California and want their children to be able to speak, read, and write the family language. Many Latino parents are worried that they will not be able to communicate with their children in their native Spanish without the dual language classes; that their children will end up only speaking English.

 To Latino families, it is less about the language and more about preserving their ethnic culture and identity.However, not everyone agrees. Businessman Ron Unz proposed that the way to make Spanish-speaking children bilingual is to put them in English-only classes since they learn Spanish at home. They learn Spanish at home from their parents.

Some see the potential ban as an attack on bilingual speakers. They see it as sending a message to local communities that bilingualism is something negative and shames people into forgetting their native language ,writes Claudia Meléndez Salinas for the Monterey Herald.

Supporters of the bilingual classes say that in the global economy, employers look for people that can speak more than one language. They believe that it will put students ahead in life economically to know more than one language and give them a more diverse view of other cultures.