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10 Issues that Fuel the Bilingual Education Debate

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The debate on bilingual education roars on, with both sides posing valid arguments. Here are the top ten issues to consider.

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1. Cultural Unity

Those Against: Believe that bilingualism divides the nation—one language equals one united nation.

Those For: Argue that bilingualism is invaluable and the nation gains from the melting pot of languages--our differences unite us.

2. The First Amendment

Those Against: Take offense to immigrant’s native languages being taught at schools—it discriminates against European Americans and gives immigrants advantages over non-immigrants.

Those For: Assert that all immigrant parents want their child to learn English and that having more than one language is valuable to the individual and the country.

3. No Child Left Behind

Those Against: Applaud No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for it's focus on English language acquisition, AKA “English Only” efforts, and add that bilingual instructions is neither discouraged nor encouraged within Title III.

Those For: Argue that NCLB deemphasizes bilingual education, contesting that by moving Title III to Title VII, that the NCLB redirects funding and discourages efforts to learn in a native language.

4. Who Benefits From Bilingual Education

Those Against: Believe that bilingualism handicaps children.

Those For: Argue that by not providing children with the language learning resources necessary for success, non-native speaking students are at a greater disadvantage.

5. View of the Masses

Those Against: Claim that the public is against bilingual education.

Those For: Argue that those opposed to bilingual education are actually opposed to certain practices or regulations connected to bilingual education (e.g., inappropriate placement of children, forcing teachers to acquire another language to keep their jobs, etc.).

6. The Statistics

Those Against: Cite that 55% of newspapers and magazines oppose bilingual education—majority rules.

Those For: Contend that 87% of academic publications support bilingual education—teachers know best.

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7. Success Stories

Those Against: Assert that many people have succeeded without bilingual education.

Those For: Contend that people who claim success without a bilingual education were provided additional language resources: at home, neighborhood, and/or community where English was predominately spoken, access to books, and/or prior knowledge of the subject matter.

8. Transferability of Skills

Those Against: Argue that just because there are bilingual benefits for some languages doesn't mean it's true across the board. What about languages other than Spanish?

Those For: Evidence that reading ability transfers from Chinese to English and from Turkish to Dutch. It's about reading ability, in general, regardless of which language.

9. Literacy

Those Against: Believe that there is no research to support bilingual education, the studies don’t support that teaching students in a native language helps them to better learn English or other subjects.

Those For: Offer conclusive findings that literacy developed in the native language transfers to the second language—once you can read in one language, you can read in general.

10. Lesson Combinations

Those Against: Evidence that all English immersion programs are better than bilingual education.

Those For: Cite conclusive research that in order to achieve true English proficiency, a combination of teaching methods is required: first language subject matter + bilingual program = English proficiency.

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