Books: Bilingual Program 'Impedes' Limited-English Children

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Bilingual education, "far from helping language-minority children, actually impedes their progress," charges Rosalie Pedalino Porter in Forked Tongue: The Politics of Bilingual Education.

In the following excerpts, Ms. Porter, director of bilingual and English-as-a-second-language programs in the Newton, Mass., public schools, advocates predominantlyEnglish instruction for students with limited English proficiency:

[L]imited-English children must be placed with specially trained teachers in a program in which these students will be immersed in the English language, in which they have as much contact as possible with English speakers, and in which school subjects, not just social conversations, are the focus of the English-lan4guage lessons from kindergarten through 12th grade. ...

I have found this approach to be the most effective for children of any language background and of any age when they first enter our schools. Delaying the early learning of English while teaching subject matter in the native language clearly will inhibit the students' later development of the English language.

Nothing seems to be more basic to the school performance of our students or to their self-confidence and sense of belonging than their firm control of the standard spoken and written language of their school community. ...

Bilingual-education advocates constantly remind us that we should not waste the natural resource of the native language already possessed by our bilingual students.

But if we do not give these students the indispensable tool of a high level of competency in the language of the country, we will lose an even greater resource--the ability of large groups of citizens to earn a living, to surmount class barriers, to become upwardly mobile, and to succeed at whatever they are determined to do.

The basic decision for school districts is a matter of priorities. Our first responsibility in public education, surely, is to see that all our students acquire the basic competencies for life in the public sphere. A desirable, but secondary, goal is to support the interests of specific groups in maintaining the home language.

Basic Books Inc., Publishers, 10 East 53rd St., New York, N.Y. 10022; 285 pp., $22.95 cloth.

A new book by David D. Dill and associates calls for the establishment of clearly defined standards for teacher selection, training, and development, and offers suggestions for incorporating such values into professional preparation.

In the following excerpts from What Teachers Need To Know: The Knowledge, Skills, and Values Essential to Good Teaching, Mr. Dill, professor of education and assistant to the chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, cites the failure of education schools to focus on teacher training as an impediment to the growth of the profession:

The singular irony in the mission and strategy of schools of education is that there is not one major university in the United States today that has a professional school dedicated to the teaching profession in the same sense that those universities have schools dedicated to the professions of law, medicine, business, and theology.

Instead, all schools of education are holding companies for professional programs of different types--programs that share no common base of knowledge.

In medicine, law, and business, all professional students must pass through a basic professional curriculum that socializes them to the core knowledge of the field. ... Most, if not all, faculty members in these schools teach in the basic professional curriculum.

In schools of education, this is not the case. Thus, schools of education are riven by debates over who must teach in the teacher-education program and over whether any knowledge base exists for all students in the school.

In short, a community of learning is not possible within schools of education, given their current missions. The effort given over to the development, public debate, and implementation of the knowledge base for teaching within these schools is marginal rather than central to their activity.

There is no distinguished "lighthouse" professional school of teaching whose stature and reputation signal a model professional-school curriculum as do the Harvard School of Business, the Yale School of Law, or the Stanford School of Medicine for their respective fields.

While the influence and impact of a professional school on the stature of its profession should not be overstated, there is every reason to believe that the failure of American schools of education to adopt the education of teachers as their central mission has diminished the teaching profession and has retarded the development of its knowledge base.

The first step in the design of a community of learning in a school of education must be the adoption of the profession of teaching as the school's primary calling.

Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers, 350 Sansome St., San Francisco, Calif. 94104; 247 pp., $24.95 cloth.

Vol. 09, Issue 31

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