For a hundred years or more, immigrant families in America eager to ensure that their children retain knowledge of their ancestral language and culture have maintained systems of private weekend and after-school classes for that purpose. Fond or embarrassed memories of years spent in Chinese School, Hebrew School, or Japanese School have long become a traditional and nostalgic element of immigrant autobiographies over the decades.
That was then. Today, some 170,000 Hispanic students attend New York City public schools under a 28-year-old federal consent decree requiring that they be taught their subjects in Spanish rather than in English. Since NYC Schools Chancellor Harold Levy and the other political leaders of that city have so far proven unwilling to challenge that ruling in federal court, they have been led to take the remarkable alternate course of allocating tens of millions of government dollars to establish a parallel system of Saturday or afternoon classes— to be taught in English. The common language of America may have been legally banned from the daily classrooms of many of New York’s immigrant students, but at least English may still be taught outside of regular school hours. This new program is described in the New York Times article below.
It should come as no surprise that students taught for years—sometimes many years—in Spanish have difficulty taking graduation exams given in English. Consequently, as the New York Post story below indicates, the 1999 decision to require that all New York high school students pass the Regents English exam to graduate has immediately led to a near doubling of the drop-out rate among students previously enrolled in Spanish-only so-called “bilingual” classes.
Finally, a friendly column in today’s New York Post describes my own current efforts to mount a legal challenge to this monstrous “bilingual dragon” in its greatest remaining American lair. Perhaps within another year or two, courts will grant New York’s immigrant students the remarkable privilege of being taught English at their local schools and during regular school hours.
- Thousands of Pupils Start Saturday Classes in English, Math and Science
New York Times, Tuesday, March 27, 2001
- Bilingual-Ed Students are Quitting at a Growing Rate
New York Post, Saturday, March 24, 2001
- Education Hero Takes on State’s Bilingual Dragon by Andrea Peyser
New York Post, Wednesday, April 4, 2001