Hot Potato: Food for Thought
Why Johnny Can't...
The Language of Instruction
1997 October 03
There is a lot of fuzzy-headed liberal thinking in the US (I'm a card-carrying liberal, remember) on the subject of teaching kids in their own language, even if it's not English. This applies mostly to Spanish-speaking kids in the southern part of the country. Now, these kids are never going to have any problem speaking Spanish. It's what they will grow up with at home, and they'll be perfectly fluent without anybody doing anything.

The problem is that they're coming into the educational system of a country where English is the important language. Sure, you can get along pretty well in LA if you don't speak good English. But if you want to get a college education and a good job, then you're going to need to speak, read, and write really good English.

So it seems to me that kids who come into the educational system not speaking English as their native language need to get taught English as fast as possible (while teaching other skills, too, so they don't get too far behind). It's a disservice to these kids and their future chances to teach them in Spanish for any longer than is essential.

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