A Escuela: Bilingual Education

OPINION by Mark Lacy

Teaching English to Spanish-speaking children is a good idea. And, teaching Spanish to English-speaking children is a good idea.

Those who are shaping the debate over bilingual education should be less self-absorbed and paranoid, and should insure that children have the opportunity to live in a world that does not force them to belittle an important part of their heritage, or punish them for maintaining their cultural identity through their language.

Spanish-speaking adults rely on their children using Spanish to effectively communicate and to maintain ties with their families and community. The only way to make the Spanish-speaking population in the United States more prepared to use English, without threatening their heritage, is to prepare more English users with Spanish as a second language.

Education policy-makers should find a more balanced approach to teaching languages by making it possible for all children to learn a second language. This would bring the same level of expectation to all children and the requirement for Spanish-speaking children would not be unlike the rest.

The effort to teach languages to children at an ealy age should not be limited to English and Spanish. Once they demonstrate proficiency in English, children could choose from many languages, such as Japanese, French or Portugese.

Multilingual children who speak Spanish and English, and possibly a third language, will be well-prepared to interact in a diverse world.

Lacy is the founder of the Houston Institute for Culture.