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Bilingual Education

Rodney Beard questions reports that bilingual education has failed:

"There are very successful programs in Palo Alto and elsewhere which aim to make public school children equally competent in both English and Spanish by the time they finish high school? It is reported that in PA the program is in great demand, with parents competing to get their kids admitted. Bilingual education has not failed, the failure has been inept teaching fostered by political propagandists.

I'm sure you know more than I about the many good consequences of early teaching of a second language. I have three grandsons who are bilingual, and somewhat beyond that, and they exhibit breadth of culture and comprehension that is greater than I see in their cousins in similar families but who have had lesser language experiences."

My comment: No one promotes foreign language teaching more vigorously than I, but an immense amount of research has been done on bilingual education, showing that its results are at best mixed. Certainly public school children are not equally competent in English and Spanish by the time they graduate, unless their English is poor. Rodney´s grandsons are a special case, because their father is the head of a foreign languages department and they went to school in Germany. I entirely agree that in this country there is at best apathy toward foreign languages, just as there is to geography, which is even more lamentable.

Ronald Hilton - 03/24/99