Bilingual Educators Urge Link With Foreign-Language Teachers
Washington--Like their counterparts in mathematics and science teaching, teachers and advocates of bilingual education--meeting here for their annual convention--are seeking to build support for their discipline by emphasizing its potential for strengthening America's place in the world.
"Bilingualism in the National Interest" was the convention's theme, and numerous speakers and workshop leaders stressed the nation's need to increase the number of bilingual students in order to promote America's trade, commerce, and international relations.
The speakers sought to encourage a broad national commitment to bilingualism through two means: educating limited-English-speaking students in both English and their native tongue, and increasing English-speaking students' knowledge of foreign languages.
"Those of us whose mother tongue is English should also become bilingual, and those who speak another tongue not only can enrich our culture, they can help teach us another language," said Representative Paul Simon, Democrat of Illinois and the Congress's principal advocate for expanding foreign-language abilities of American students.
One speaker, David Seeley, a consultant to the Edward W. Hazen Foundation, said support for bilingual education would increase "if we can get bilingual education to be seen in the broader context of language competency.
"The foreign-language [advocates] and the bilingual [advocates] must resolve their differences and tensions in the context of creating a language-competent America," he said.
Mr. Seeley told his audience of bilingual educators from colleges and schools--members of the National Association for Bilingual Education--that they must conquer the myth that bilingual education prevents children from achieving competence in the English language.
"I have never met a single parent who did not want his or her child to learn English and learn it well," he said.
He added that the educators "must overcome their self-interest in how many jobs and how many programs. It's a question of professional attitudes," he said.
The convention participants, an estimated 2,000, also heard words of encouragement from Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell.
Although relations between the bilingual-education community and the Administration have been cool since early 1981--when the Secretary withdrew the Carter Adminis-tration's Lau regulations governing the teaching of limited-English-proficient students--Mr. Bell spoke about the need for bilingual education in a "technological future."
"I encourage all of you to convey to your children and students that their native-language competence is a tremendous asset that can offer them many opportunities for future careers in a high-technology world," he said. "They will have a chance to be at the forefront in conducting the multilingual business of our vastly competitive and interdependent world."
Another Administration repre-sentative, Richard Smith Beal, a special assistant to the President, relayed his experience in learning the Greek language as a 5th grader, when his family spent a year in Greece.
"I have a special pride because someone had the wisdom to open my eyes to the Greek [language]," Mr. Beal said. "You and I know that language is the linkage to culture and history. We have got to make sure there is language competency in this nation," he added.
B. Roberto Cruz, the association's president, responded to Mr. Beal that "as you consider concerns for the future, consider those [federal bilingual-education] appropriations."