Monday, October 16, 2006
Should kids be taught in Spanish?
As America's population nears 300 million, the number of people living here who speak little or no English increases nearly every day. Right now, for example, English is a second language for nearly 5.5 million schoolchildren, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

So what are public schools to do when students come in and only speak one language and that language is not English?

Well, most schools give those children intensive instruction in English with the hopes they learn the language quickly. But we visited a school district in Texas that, along with some other districts in the Lone Star State, has a different idea.

Officials in Bryan, Texas, offer a program in some classrooms in which Spanish is used for up to 90 percent of the day. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are taught for the most part in Spanish.

The theory is that too many non-English speaking kids get lost when they start learning all their subjects in a language they don't know. They quickly fall behind other students; some of them never catch up.

Officials in Bryan took us into classrooms to see how their program works. We saw one crowded classroom with enthusiastic children playing computer games in Spanish. We also saw a class doing the Pledge of Allegiance in English and Spanish. The officials tell us the program is so popular that there are waiting lists to get in; and the waiting lists include native English speakers.

As it turns out, roughly half the kids in the classes were born and raised in the United States and have parents who want them to be fluent in Spanish.

So the question we pose in our story that airs on "360" is this: Is there an issue with American taxpayers footing the bill for public school education taught primarily in Spanish?

We interview the head of the English First organization who says bilingual education "has never worked." He adds that children who can't speak English should get more intensive English instruction to get them caught up. Meanwhile, officials in Bryan are considering expanding their offerings in Spanish.
Posted By Gary Tuchman, CNN Correspondent: 6:16 PM ET
  55 Comments
The key phrase in your post is "kids get lost learning subjects in a language they don't know". Excuse me, but did my forbearers come to America and receive lessons in Croatian, their native language? I don't think so.
Posted By Anonymous xtina - chicago IL : 6:39 PM ET
Boy, Gary, you CNN AC 360 staffers really love to "stir the hornets' nest", don't you! hahah!! I am strongly anti-illegal immigrant, and anti-Spanish speaking; however, I can see the point that the little Spanish-speaking children may fall behind, never to catch up. Perhaps a compromise solution of "phased-in English instruction" would be more palatable to us "Speak English" advocates. Allowing these kids to never speak English is not likeable, especially if we English/Anglos are paying the $$ for their education. Sheesh! What are we gonna do?!?
Posted By Anonymous Angelica, Los Angeles, CA : 7:41 PM ET
Come on Gary, give us a break!. If parents of children born in the USA, want their children to speak Spanish, then I suggest private lessons. Those children who cannot keep up with other classes because they are taught in English and the children can't speak English? Perhaps they need a year of education in the language of their adopted country. Sounds simple enough to me.
Hispanics seem to think our only problem is with them. Not true. But maybe someone can explain why the only complaints come from Spanish speaking people?

It's true, English isn't our official language, but it certainly isn't for lack of trying. Just another example of our wonderful caring, competent government! I'm not the only one who is ready to TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK!

Maggie
Posted By Anonymous Maggie, Grain Valley, MO : 7:41 PM ET
As an ESL/EFL instructor of many years experience I can say that time not spent in the target language (English)is time forever lost. Time spent continuing in Spanish limits the child's knowledge and practice of English. Spanish speakers can teach their kids at home if they want them to learn Spanish instead of cutting off their expansion of English language skills. The biggest problem with many low income Spanish (and other) speakers here in Texas and other US places is the parents do not help their kids to learn at home. Middle class kids tend to do better in school because their parents teach them, encourage them, and work with them to practice school-related skills at home - reading, writing, conversation, reasoning, right from wrong, fair-play, sharing, turn-taking, etc.
Posted By Anonymous Fred Furek, Houston, TX : 7:44 PM ET
English is the language spoken in the USA. You want to live here and raise your kids here, then speak the language that is spoken here!
I'm from Germany and I don't expect to get my phone bill in German. It is very possible to raise your kids bilingually .But to do that, the parents need to speak the language spoken in the country they live in.
If you want a better future for your children, let them grow up like all the American kids. Don't make them outsiders .
Posted By Anonymous sabine, ny,ny : 7:46 PM ET
In today's times of global economy, and a growing number of jobs being offered at higher pay to bilingual or multi-lingual individuals, I think it is about time that schools embraced multiple languages on a higher level than a few classes in high school. I am an English speaking American born stay at home mom of two, and I can tell you that if a school offered my kids a chance to immerse themselves in more than one language, I would enroll them immediately. As far as I am concerned, the more languages my kids know, the more chances for success in this world they will have. We should embrace this as part of the future- for our kids, our country, and our world.
Posted By Anonymous Kate, Tampa, FL : 7:47 PM ET
Language immersion schools in Minnesota are geared for American students wanting to learn another language. My public school district has a French immersion school as an option to the neighborhood traditional school. In a neighboring district, their immersion school is in Spanish. These schools are not geared to the immigrant population.

The immigrants in Minnesota attend their regular neighborhood schools which are taught in English. They are integrated into the regular classrooms and go to a supplimental English as a Second Language class at times throughout the day. I am a tutor in a 6th grade ESL class. It is a very challenging task to teach the students English and try to help them to not fail their regular classes taught in English. The regular classrooms are concentrating on teaching a curriculum that meets the "No child left behind" criteria, so the immigrant students fall behind easily. I'm not sure the best way to teach the immigrant students. (by the way, the immigrants in my classroom are from South Korea, Kenya, Iraq and Somali; not from Mexico).
Posted By Anonymous Cathy, Minneapolis, Minnesota : 7:57 PM ET
Aren't Spanish speaking americans also taxpayers? They should have the same rights, one of them is to have their children taught in the language of their choise.
Posted By Anonymous Alex, San Francisco, CA : 8:03 PM ET
I am a Swiss born, now US Citizen; in my Country of birth I had to learn 3 languages (Italian, German, French) plus latin (this was optional) and English; later I learned Spanish and Portuguese.
My wife is Latin American, we live in Florida, at home we speak spanish, english and a little italian.
When we moved to the US my children did not talk a word in english, but we would never accepted them not to learn the mother tongue of this Country.
I belive that is importat the children keep talking the language of their parents, but they need to perfectly manage first the language of the Country they live in.
Spanish is a very important language and I agree, support and encourage theaching it in every school but this as a second language.
In my personal experience learning a new language or improving one you already manage, not only helps you communicate with others, but opens your cultural horizons and help understanding and tolerance among populations.
Posted By Anonymous Lauro, West Palm Beach, FL : 8:07 PM ET
in america, english is the language, teach in english period. no different if you went to a foreign country to live. you are expected to learn their language. and from experience (retired navy) been there done that
Posted By Anonymous todd zeigler normal illinois : 8:09 PM ET
Even with a literacy issue where I volunteer for adult ESL, they pick up the language pretty quick. The school put my kid in the Spanish only classes years ago - for the money. At home, my wife and I speak Ilocano. Go figure.
Posted By Anonymous Arthur Soller, Chatsworth, CA : 8:14 PM ET
When any group of people come to the United States to live permanently, it is their responsibility to learn the language of the country which is English.

In the United States, we are all immigrants from some other nation except for Native Americans. When every other wave of immigrants came to America, they all learned English. It is our common language and quest for freedom which binds us all together.

It would be a grave mistake to encourage bilingual education of children.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 8:14 PM ET
England has the English, Spain has the Spanish, Mexico has the Mexicans. Why is it that America has to have Irish-Americans, French-American, Russian-Americans, et al?? I've never heard of American-Spaniards, or American-French. Other countries insist on retaining the national identity. Why is America any different? Multi-cultural enclaves exist in every country, but the Country where you hold your citizenship should be where your national loyalty lies. Not with your ancestral homeland.... If the homeland was so great, why did you leave? Why don't you return?
Posted By Anonymous Deb, Richmond VA : 8:17 PM ET
It's not at all clear to me that a lack of opportunity provided to one's forebearers is a reason for not providing that opporunity to kids today. One could argue that we shouldn't have refrigeration, or TV, or whatever else our great-grandparents had to do without. I think the more relevent question is, what is best for American children and our society as a whole? I don't think the intent here is to not teach the children English. It is to prevent an English-only policy for very young students from putting them permanently behind in every other subject. Once they are behind, they are unlikely to catch up, and that helps no one.
Posted By Anonymous Steve Strange, Mountain View, CA : 8:18 PM ET
Hi Gary,
As a teacher who student taught in a school which offered a bilingual program 12 years ago, I think it is a fantastic idea to teach students skills in their native language. We still need to provide instruction in English, but in the meantime, skills can continue to be developed in order to "level the playing field" for students that are not native English speakers. Most other countries in the world require their students to be fluent in other languages besides their native tongue. I know our district will be phasing in a program to teach 2nd languages to all our elementary students. I think it will help our students with cultural literacy not only in America, but in other countries in the world.
Posted By Anonymous Pamina, Pittsford, New York : 8:31 PM ET
Kids shouldn't be getting lessons in Spanish. There should be more of an effort by Spanish speakers to assimilate because the majority of Americans speak English. I know English can be a difficult language at times--not all native speakers seem to have the hang of it either--but it is not fair to expect English speaking children and teachers to learn Spanish to accomodate a minority. And don't get me started on the burden this places on the educational system or taxpayers.
Posted By Anonymous Courtney, St. Charles, MO : 8:32 PM ET
American taxpayers should only be concerned about the content that students learn and the character that they develop. Hopefully, if this, or any, school does a successful job, then a future CNN reporter will realize that cognition happens in all languages, not only English. English only is ethnocentric, xenophobic and regressive. Please make an effort to read Additionally, current well known pedagogical research shows us that multi lingual children achieve higher scores on starndardized tests. We are talking about children here, they naturally speak the language of their mother and father, as we all do/did. My role as a taxpayer is to send the check on time, and vote. I accept it. I also accept that if a school wants to initiate a bilingual program (which has a waiting list!) then maybe it's not so bad to learn Spanish First!
The fact that one's forbearers weren't taught in their native language is too bad, because today we have the knowledge and resources to understand that maybe they should have been.
Progress and innovation, not "old-school" mentality, will lead to a positive future.
Posted By Anonymous Chris, North Tonawanda, NY : 8:36 PM ET
this is the most absurd thing i have ever heard. I thought we were in America? If i move to mexico are they going to teach english for me in school. LEARN ENGLISH OR GET OUT...It's not rocket science. Ofcourse we SHOULD NOT teach spanish in classrooms! If they want the benefits of americans then they need to learn our language....Period....
Posted By Anonymous Martin Weekley. Huntinton Beach California : 8:37 PM ET
Dear Gary,

No, I don't believe children should be taught in Spanish just because they cannot, or will not learn English.

All children should be encouraged to learn a foreign language of their choice, but they should be taught basic subjects in the predominant language of the country they live in. I agree with Xtina, in the United States that language should be English. Aren't there enough obstacles already separating people in this country; why must we add another?

Can these children function adequatelly outside of Bryan, Texas? Even if every school in the country followed their lead, there will still be communication problems in their everyday lives, possibly in areas that could prove to be harmful to them. I think the officials of Bryan, Texas are doing these children and this country a disservice.

You didn't mention it, but are Spanish speaking people the only ones so reluctant to learn English?

My grandparents encouraged my mother and her siblings to speak English at home. In fact my grandparents improved their English by listening to their children.

Instead of bringing us together, this issue will tear us apart.

Jo Ann
Posted By Anonymous Jo Ann Matese, North Royalton, Ohio : 8:37 PM ET
US citizens should know that in many countries children are taught to be fluent in more than one language. It's is considered to be a part of a GOOD education.

My issue with US education is not that children are being taught in Spanish and English. It is that children are not being taught well in either.

Hysteria regarding immigrants has gone on in this country ever since the Irish came in the mid-Nineteenth century.

It's an old song used to mask intolerance.

I wish we'd get a new tune.
Posted By Anonymous Bob Hartley, Pittsburgh, PA : 8:38 PM ET
America is one of the few countries that looks down on bilingual skills. A bilingual child will have more opportunities available to them throughout their life. We should support education not limit children to one language.
Posted By Anonymous Maria, Oakland, CA : 8:41 PM ET
A child can learn another language a lot faster and easier than an adult can. Eventually, the Spanish speaking children will have to learn English if they are to survive/thrive in the world--not just the U.S. English is an official language in about 52 countries.
Parents that do not speak English should be setting an example for their children by enrolling in ESL classes. This way, they can learn together.
Posted By Anonymous Sheri S. Toronto, Ont. Canada : 8:46 PM ET
Why are we paying for children to be taught in spanish? Enough!!!!! Let all the citizens that think they should be here foot the bill. Put my tax dollars to use feeding the homeless American citizens
Posted By Anonymous Arlene, Lafayette, La : 10:45 AM ET
By refusing to learn English these children are automatically guaranteed a second class place in our society.
This is not about bilingual skills, this is a plain refusal of learning our nation language, English.
Truth is Latinos do not come to America to embrace our life stile and culture but to impose their primitive values,
and take full advantage of social programs paid with our hard earned tax money.
Posted By Anonymous Jay, New York, NY : 10:45 AM ET
I sat in an emergency room two weekends ago. The questions asked of every patient were the same: Do have insurance? Do you have the ability to pay? Do you have a social security number?

With absolutely NO exception, I was the only person in that emergency room who said YES to all of those questions. In addition, I was the only person there who did not require a translator.

All of the accomodations we provide to others slow down service for everyone. As a rather liberal and educated person, I was very surprised at just how irritated it made me to be the only person in the room who could actually pay for the services rendered--and to pay for them in English.

By the way, I am an American born citizen who speaks Spanish, French, and Russian--along with some Italian and German. I learned all of these languages at U.S. public schools and universities.

Not attempting to learn English when in the U.S. is, frankly, ridiculous. None of the myriad other countries I've visited would even dream of accomodating people as extensively and as long as America does. So we are a nation of immigrants--that's good, and our strength. However, the idea is that we melt in to the same pot, not simmer along in separate saucepans.
Posted By Anonymous Amy, Chicago, llinois : 10:51 AM ET
Oh lord, I just can't stand the Spanish language. It just hurts my ears to hear that fast-talking, high pitched voices. I have to leave stores sometimes as it just seems so loud. I'm a Southerner that enjoys the slow drawl and damn well mean to speak that way and only in English until I die!
Posted By Anonymous Keira, Duluth, GA : 10:53 AM ET
My husband and his family are Italian immigrants, now American citizens. The entire family made the effort to learn ENGLISH when they came here and did not expect the local school district to teach their children in Italian. They continued their Italian at home but speak English in the community.

What I do see lacking is an option to learn a second language any more. I desperately wanted to learn Italian when I met and married my husband but could barely find it in a college curriculum.

Why is it the second language electives are being dropped for all except Spanish. 30 years ago when I was in high school French, Spanish, German (some Japanese) and Latin were all offered. Now all we see is SPANISH. What happened to all the other languages that are spoken out there? The primary language in the world is English. Business is conducted in many other languages not just English and Spanish. More foreign language should be offered, as it is in Europe. All European education requires English, your native language, Latin (in some countries) AND another language of your choice.

Why in America are we foregoing Englign for SPANISH only? Give us more choices to help us become bilingual or trilingual like the rest of the world. This will also help the spanish speaking children in the long run.
Posted By Anonymous Kaye. Woodstock Georgia : 10:56 AM ET
I think the advantage of speaking more than one language are far beyond that one migth think. Bilingual education English/Spanish, English/French, English/Chinese, or any of you preference should be a requirement in the Amercan Education System. A second language opens up a new world. Just imagine that your childs goes to business school and a new position for international sells opens up and he is turns down because he doesn't speak Spanish or French or whatever, wouldnt be better that he knew a second language and got the job? The global world of today requires people to know multiple languages so open up you minds and start linving in a global comunity
Posted By Anonymous Mary, South Bend Indiana : 10:58 AM ET
This is America... speak English. Illegals should not even be allowed to attend our schools. Maybe the taxpayers children would get an better education. I am sick to deal of Spanish anything. If they like the way we do it so well we should just take over Mexico, run it our way and they can all stay home and not pollute our way of life.
Posted By Anonymous Donna, new Smyrna, Florida : 10:58 AM ET
As I read your article, I wondered if there may be some valuable lessons in education that could be learnt from India. You see, in India, none of us speak English as a native language, yet it is a medium of instruction in most schools. We learn our science and math and social studies in English, learn English as a language and learn a couple of Indian languages too. Most of us did well academically, many of us from that system of education excel in the Test of English as a Foreign Language(TOEFL) that is mandatory for anyone interested in entering the US for further studies. Those who do fall behind academically, don't do any better simply by switching to schools where the medium of instruction is in their native language. If india can do it, can't the US?
Posted By Anonymous Purnima Kumar, Columbus Ohio : 10:58 AM ET
Both my children speak four languages since they were able to pronounce their fisrt words. That will give them a net advantage over their peers later in life, as it will also allow them to read information and news in those languages. This will keep their minds open to ideas coming from different parts of the world and prevent brainwashing or misleading from a single source. I am all for it. As an expat, we have had the opportunity to live in several countries where more than one language is spoken (e.g., Blegium, Switzerland, Spain, Canada). Contrarily to a misled and widespread belief among some of my fellow Americans that such coutries are always in the brink of being torn apart by rivalries between their different cultural groups, we found that such diversity is enriching and that there is a healthy rivalry between them. Besides, all of Europ has torn down their borders and those diverse cultural groups now live next to eaach other in peace and prosperity. We truly are a weak society if we believe that the only things that keeps us together as a people are waving flags and sticking Support Our Troops stickers to the rear of our cars. Having two (or more) languages will makes us more diverse and be a true reflection of what we really are, a multicultural. open-minded, progressive nation, willing to take on new ideas for the benefit of all of its citizens. Iw we try to force all Americans of Latin origin to give up their language, we will only alienate them and we eill meet strong resistance. There is beauty, intelligence and a sense of freedom in variety. Let's not be biggots. And let's not fool ourselves by trying to prove to the world that we are a melting pot of people. The melting only occurs among whites, the races are still separated in ther own neighborhoods and districts according to wealth and socioeconomic status.
Posted By Anonymous Ivan Cicic, Scarsdale, New York : 10:59 AM ET
I am currently a permanent resident in the USA since 5 years ago, but previously I lived in other countries . I have a lot of experience with languages and learning diferent languages. In Sweden for example every single inmigrant gets intensive Swedish lenguage but also they have 2 times a week mother tongue classes whatever it is: Swahili, French, Spanish, Russian, Croatian, Arabic etc. Beside that, from third grade all the kids in School learn a third language, usually Spanish, German, French, Russian or Italian. Swedish is the first language, English second and most kids: foreigners and natives are multilingual. I think is good to be expose to the language in order to learn it, and as younger as you are as better. Regarding the issue of falling behind I think it is important that those kids get complementary classes in the respective subjects.

Finally, aren't the the Spanish speakears also tax payers?.
Posted By Anonymous Sara Schesser, Miami, Fl : 11:00 AM ET
Teaching students in a completely foreign language sounds like a great idea, but only if they are fluent in English first. By providing this means to immigrants to not learn English we are causing untold problems for them in the long run. In addition, it is var more likely that someone who is highly educated will need Chinese or Hindi than they will need Spanish, so let's teach kids a language that they can use to gain a competitive advantage, not one that will mainly help immigrants not learn English.
Posted By Anonymous Mike, Cleveland OH : 11:02 AM ET
No one is suggesting that any of these children be forced to "forget" Spanish. The issue is how do they assimilate into the US, a huge aspect of which is learning English. It must be learned at some point, and I fail to see how not teaching them when they are 6 out of some fear that they'll lag in learning long division is a smarter move than having to teach them English when they're 16 and about to go into the job market or off to college. Then you'll start hearing people saying that public universities have to hold their classes in Spanish because otherwise the students will miss out on something their important freshman year. It'll never end.

English should be mandatory at all levels. Teach your kids all the extra languages you want, but the bare minimum has to be English. That this is even apparently open to debate is a disturbing sign of how wrongheaded the policy is in this country.
Posted By Anonymous Brendan, D.C. : 11:06 AM ET
Illegal immigration is just out of control and my concerns that the huge influx will have dire results on our country seems to validated every day.

With such a huge influx, it makes it difficult to assimilate, to learn english. There's more competition for low paying jobs, pushing and keeping salaries low. There's no need to learn English - everything's in Spanish. So there's a huge higher paying job market unavailable to those who don't speak/write English well.

I can't think of a better way for us to create and sustain poverty in our country. It's just ridiculous. We are all going to pay.
Posted By Anonymous Erin Gasta, Falls Church Va. : 11:11 AM ET
Hi,

I came to this country when I was ten years old and I didn't speak any English. I was put in a school in North Plainfield, New Jersey, where I took classes where the entire curriculum was taught in English but, I was also put in esol classes. The point I'm trying to make is that I never fell behind in my courses, in fact, I was going to get skipped a grade, and the exposure to English all around me helped me to learn it quickly. Therefore, I don't agree in teaching all classes in Spanish because that can only delay kids in learning the language that spoken here. If I could do it, then anybody can do it and I'll end this statement with a phrase my parents taught me "you don't go into somebody else's house and change the menu".

Hernando

Davie, FL.
Posted By Anonymous Hernando, Davie, FL. : 11:22 AM ET
I have no problem at all with this type of education experiment going on in my state, especially if the alternative is indeed having these children fall behind. We need confident, well-educated Hispanic children here. Learning English can (and almost certainly will) come later.
Posted By Anonymous Charles, Austin, TX : 11:22 AM ET
This is getting ridiculous. We live in AMERICA. The national language is ENGLISH. Period! I'm so sick of seeing my electoral ballots and credit applications and bills and medical paperwork in Spanish/etc. Learn the language and speak it... or leave. Byebye, you won't be missed!
Posted By Anonymous Christine S., Sacramento, CA : 11:23 AM ET
As a first generation 39 year-old Cuban-American living in today's modern world, I can tell you that my bilingual skills have been extremely important to my career. It opened many opportunities for me. I also speak French.

Say what you want, bi or even tri-lingual is much better than just knowing one language. Obviously, English should be one of them in America. As far as teaching goes, how about we teach in whatever language will improve our children's knowledge in an area other than "how to be a celebrity" or " how to talk on a cell phone all day, watch TV all night and eat Pizza while drinking beer and watching football all weekend"...
America's priorities fall somewhere between "football" and "pretty hair".
The public school system today is in shambles...I wish those of you who can not "believe" that teaching in Spanish is good would focus the same outrage and energy toward fixing the system in general...We have bigger issues than spending a few measly tax dollars for schools teaching in Spanish. Who cares? People of the world must realize that thanks to all of our modernization, we are all going to be a mixed society from now on...It's a good thing and, franky, inevitable - so deal with it...
Posted By Anonymous Jose de Quesada, New York City, New York : 11:26 AM ET
What are you guys very surprised? Study the history of America. Spanish is the first language that people in America spoke. Of course, after the native's. Let's see how we are going to manage this reality. Are we going to punish latin people as we did to African slaves? To cut their tongues? To kill them? Hey guys, are you scared of that bunch of people speaking a language that we don't understand? We got their territory but couldn't eliminate their culture (language includes). This is what we call " the revenge of the history" where the last owners of this country are coming back for their land and there is nothing we can do but to learn Spanish and keep eating tacos.
Posted By Anonymous John, Chicago, Illinois : 11:27 AM ET
Are you kidding me? My great-gradparents came here from Europe and had difficulty with English. They learned and taught their children to speak only English. They knowingly left their country for this one. We still have some traditions but I do not speak my ancestral language. As Teddy Roosevelt once said,"We speak English here!". I don't want this backward third world mentality of many immigrants, legal and illegal. I don't want my country to look like Tijuana in a few years. Teach in English, our Founding Fathers would have wanted it that way.....
Posted By Anonymous Alex, Cypress, TX : 11:30 AM ET
This is America. If people want to come here, they need to learn the language. If I immigrated to Mexico, I would learn the langage, not to try "Americise" the country like some Latins, mostly Mexican, are trying to do in California and Texas. If we continue not controlling our border, we can expect to fall like Rome and cease to be a power in the world.
Posted By Anonymous John Patterson, Georgia : 11:31 AM ET
There are so many other countries in this world that have their children learn AT LEAST one other language while in school because they understand the importance of knowing more than one language in today's world! I think the US education system really needs to consider this when making reforms for the future.
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer, Milwaukee, Wisconsin : 11:31 AM ET
Personally, I feel uneducated and foolish that I only speak English. I had the opportunities in school to learn either French or Spanish and declined to do so. Now, at a much older age, I wish I had.
However, this is the USA. We speak English and that is the way we should teach. You can teach a foreign language from an English base. It is not our responsibility to teach school in Spanish or any other foreign language.
Posted By Anonymous Bill C., Decatur, IL : 1:23 PM ET
My best fried is a third generation mexican american and I asked him about this whole illegal immigration issue. He replied by telling me that as a taxpayer he is really disgusted that his children all of a sudden have less individual classroom attention due to the flood of illegal immigrants, and guess what we the taxpayers pay for their education while our own children quality of education decreases.
Posted By Anonymous ray, san diego, ca : 1:36 PM ET
By all means teach them Spanish until they can learn English. With No Child Left Behind, schools don't have a choice if they want to continue to produce testers who can pass the test and receive government dollars. My frustrations with federal interference in schools coming out...I really do believe all children in America need to learn a second and third language to function in an ever-global world. If teaching Spanish helps these kids to succeed, then teach them in Spanish until they can grasp English. I am a permanently certified English and social studies teacher and school counselor. English is one of the most complex languages in the world. A person cannot just learn English. It takes time and practice. We can't expect children to immerse themselves and be fluent automatically. My grandparents were punished physically in Louisiana two generations ago if they spoke French in schools. Immersion at its finest. My grandparents feared teaching their sons French because they were to be fully American. My Mom's granparents are from Sicily, and none of their children learned Sicilian because they wanted their children to be American. I wish every time I go back to Italy that I had learned their language and that my Dad's parents had taught me French rather than me taking it in high school learning a dialect that has nothing to do with my culture. My grandmother can't understand my French nor I hers. Mostly I wish I understood the French songs my grandfather sang to me as a child. These kids are so lucky to be learning a second language. They will have advantages as a result of that when they go to college and work. They will understand their culture more fully. They will still be American. But they will be able to function in a world where boundaries fade more and more each day. If I ever have children I plan to home school. You'd better believe that when they learn to talk they're going to be trilingual. It would be irresponsible on my part as a parent not to give them every advantage possible.
Posted By Anonymous TA Cheramie, Berwick, LA : 2:10 PM ET
I am an educated Mexican and I speak English and Spanish; English is beneficial if one wants to get ahead. Speaking Spanish for me is not beneficial because I have to deal with uneducated people that refuse to better themselves and summons all their problems by blaming everybody but themselves. Learn English if you live in the United States especially California. I don't know why it is hard to want to learn a language that gives so much. Hispanics that don't speak English or little are embarrassed to try and speak get the practice to speak, but they are not embarrassed to constantly need "speka ESpanish" translators or the fact that they have been in this country more than 20 years and cannot communicate.
Posted By Anonymous Nieto, Fullerton, CAlifornia : 2:30 PM ET
Over the years Americans have had issues with color (black, brown, etc), ethnicity (Asians, Jews, etc), religion (Muslims, Catholics, etc). and now language?

We are so afraid of change.
Posted By Anonymous Kip Wellington - Chicago, IL : 3:07 PM ET
Sure, let's all roll over & speak Spanish. Where is our backbone? This is America & as such we are an English speaking country. All immigrants need to learn to speak English. You don't hear my nail technician whining about me learning Vietnamese, or my Russian hairdresser in a tizzy about my lack of Russian. They stumble through with English & do a great job at it. But these illegal Mexicans have no desire to learn our language & why should they when they know we will fold and cater to their demands. I say, place them all in a school for Mexicans & leave our children alone.
Posted By Anonymous carla Mollica, Albuquerque, NM : 4:22 PM ET
This issue has been around for as long as there have been immigrants to this country....in other words, for as long as we've BEEN a country!! The present difference seems to be this: in times past, "minority" groups kept their languages alive, and passed their languages and culture on to the next generation, in the home and in private schools - Hebrew school, Chinese school, Japanese school, etc. This happened with varying success depending on individual families and children: some embraced "assimilation and Americanization" more than others. The difference now? The proliferation of bilingual and Spanish-only programs in PUBLIC, tax-supported schools. This is a thorny issue; I don't pretend to know all the answers. The disturbing aspect I see is the strong tone of anger and racial discrimination that seems to color the discussion of the issue.
Posted By Anonymous Annie, Fort Bragg, California : 4:26 PM ET
It's interesting to see so many people from places like California and New Mexico (or anywhere else in the Southwest) complaining about people speaking Spanish. You see, Spanish has been spoken continuously there much longer than English (hence the Spanish place names like El Paso, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Antonio, Santa Fe, etc.), as the area was originally a part of Mexico. Many Spanish speaking people have never left (a good friend of mine can trace his ancestors in the San Antonio area back to when it was a part of Mexico), and Mexicans crossing the current border to live in that area are simply returning to a land that was once theirs to inhabit (before the illegal invasion of Anglo immigrants back in the 19th century). The fact is, this land was stolen and Anglicized in a brutal war started by the United States. Those in favor of English only laws in the American Southwest can only make that argument from the cynical standpoint that "might makes right." There is no room for nonsense about "freedom" here.
Posted By Anonymous Gary, Northampton, MA : 10:53 AM ET
English is a second language in my family. No English is allowed at home. I did not teach any of my children an English word when they started kindergarden. After 6 months in class, they speak English as well as me. I started school not knowing a word either when we migrated to the US. Kids should be able to learn from television and thier peers in a heartbeat. Trying to keep our native language in our home is a major issue these days. I put my children in church activities and we have volunteers to teach the children our native language. English is picked up by children in a heartbeat in my culture. I believe Spanish students should be able learn to read and write English at school like the rest. It's crazy to dial a company and have to choose a language you prefer. I feel there shouldnt be bilingual classes in school either. A child can learn English just watching cartoons. That's how mine did. If you live in America, know the language, it's never too late to learn and there are plenty of ways to teach the child before they start school and dont have to struggle. Nothing against Spanish but I hate seeing classes taught all in Spanish. Shouldnt be.
Posted By Anonymous Nguoi Dep, Port Arthur, Tx : 2:54 PM ET
The true question should be "is there a price to our childrens' education?" America is changing! It is growing and every child that walks in a school should have the same oppurtunity as the next one. It shouldn't matter if the speak english or not, sooner or later they will learn the language and most likely become the primary translator for their family. They deserve to learn in their language as well as in english. My daughter is a beautiful blonde, hazel eyed girl, but speaking to her you would think she is Hispanic!(I am mexican and her father is american). My daughter speaks spanish fluently and probably better than she does english, but i don't worry because i know once she enters school, english will be her primary language. I am opening doors for my daughter by teaching her two languages. In a world like ours, where it changes so quickly, being bilingual will only help you become a successful person!
Posted By Anonymous Jazmin,Idaho falls,Idaho : 4:14 PM ET
I'm from Bryan. I grew up there and attended schools there--and took five years of Spanish there.

Most of the Spanish-speakers are illiterate in their first language. Bilingualism is a great assest these days, and therefore, I support a pull-out program for up to an hour a day in the elementary schools and an elective program in the middle and high schools aimed at teaching Spanish-speakers Spanish in the same way that English-speakers take English as a course.

HOWEVER, I have always hated the "ESL" program. Children move through, year after year, never learning enough English to survive. Even in high school, many aren't fluent in English--my Spanish made me better in their language than many ever became in mine.

What this does is create an UNDERCLASS of Spanish-speakers, fit only for working in the most menial jobs. They can work in the backs of kitchens at restaurants, as roofers, as landscape laborers, as custodians, as meat-packers, as construction workers...and that's pretty much IT. This ties them to low-paying, menial work so that there is always a surplus of it, and they have no influence with their employers because there are plenty of others wanting their jobs and they have no other options.

The program was not instituted by a Caucasian/non-Hispanic majority (there really isn't a Caucasian/non-Hispanic majority in the schools, anyhow) but by latino activists and parent who don't see why what is good enough for them can't be good enough for their kids, too. But the results are of the most racist and segregationist type.

Education in a non-English language for non-English speakers does not threaten the fabric of America. It threatens the position of the non-English-speaking minority in America, restricting them to condition of an underclass. And this is a problem.
Posted By Anonymous Rey, Bryan, TX : 3:27 PM ET
I am Native American. My dad and his brothers were beaten severely for speaking their native language in public. We were minorities in our own country. Although we do not dwell in the past, we must respect it as history and try to learn the lessons offered there.
As a result, we never learned to speak our native language fluently. Some of us who were determined to learn it did so on their own, in private.
My family were farm laborers and among other insults we suffered from
illegals working in the fields, we were sometimes forced to go to schools in the boonies that taught only in Spanish. While the teachers themselves spoke English, we were told we had to learn Spanish or we could not come to THEIR school. The truant officers had other ideas, so we were SORT OF confused.
These were schools paid for by American taxes. Yes, this happened in the good old U.S. of A., after 1936, when the Indians were graciously GIVEN citizenship.
In my humble opinion, we should not be slapped down again for speaking the native language of this country.
If people want their kids to learn Spanish, they need to pay for it themselves.
Our schools are already overburdened with illegals who don't speak English. Put some responsibility on those who have created this mess.
This is just another attempt to force La Raza on us.
The immigrants from other countries are not making demands to be taught in their own language. Imagine trying to live in a country where nobody can understand each other. I wonder if they will try to rebuild the tower of Babel?
The biggest problem I see is that the laws of this country are being broken
or bent for those who have no legal right to be here in the first place. This is not a race issue, but a legal issue. Illegal means illegal no matter who it refers to. If someone is here illegally, they are not entitled to have the laws changed for their convenience.
If someone wants to live here, they should learn the language, period. I am an American and proud to be, but
Where is the justice or the fairness in this country?
Posted By Anonymous Jinny Snow, Stockton, Ca. : 4:07 PM ET
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