Jewish World Review August 7, 2002 / 29 Menachem-Av, 5762
The number of students with limited English proficiency, mostly Latinos, has grown to five million over ten years. States such as North Carolina have seen its student immigrant population quintuple. The result is our schools are wildly understaffed with teachers who can carry out bilingual or "English-as-a-second-language" (ESL) instruction. With Latino immigrants flocking to agricultural jobs in the South and Midwest, this problem has expanded far beyond the big cities on the East and West Coasts.
For years, liberals branded anyone who questioned our current immigration policy or bilingual education "anti-immigrant." That familiar left-wing rhetorical scare tactic has had the dangerous effect of shutting down debate on this crucial subject. The current crisis in our public schools, which have struggled to recruit quality teachers of non-immigrants, let alone immigrants, demonstrates that we need to rethink our entire approach to immigration and border enforcement.
If our schools are forced to cater to the non-English speaking minority, the quality of education for all suffers. It is crucial to our future that all our students be immersed in American culture and the English language lest we continue on the current destructive path that encourages a separatist mentality.
In the year 2000 alone, the US Department of Education spent almost $400 million to help local school districts pay for training in bilingual or English as a second language (ESL) education. This year the government will spend a whopping $665 million in such grants. These are staggering sums considering how little our of native born students know of, let's say, American history.
For the first quarter of the last century, our country managed to educate millions of non-English speaking immigrants who didn't demand special treatment. The word bilingual education didn't exist. They were eager to dive into the American public school curriculum. If we're not careful, the American dream will eventually be dashed by policies that discourage lawful conduct or make it easier for new Americans not to assimilate.
It's time to leave the era of the hyphenated
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