Marian on Bilingual Education
American Legion Magazine Article, March 1981
Our ancestors knew things which we apparently have forgotten today:….if (children) were allowed to keep speaking their native tongues, then, instead of a united nation, in a few years we would have been Balkanized into a score of segregated, hostile national groups, each with a different language and a different set of traditions and values?
Holding this piece out of the past firmly in mind, let’s switch reels to the present to Dr. Marion (sic) L. Greenblatt, member of the Montgomery County, Maryland, School Board. In September 1980, she succumbed to a seemingly irresistible urge and told the federal government that its proposed regulation requiring every school system in the land to teach foreign students in their own language is nonsense. Origin of this exercise in futility: the Supreme Court decision previously quoted (involving Chinese-American students in San Francisco in 1974).
It was to the bureaucrats of the Department of Education that Dr. Greenblatt directed these pregnant and pertinent questions:
“How will one go about setting up a testing program for Amharic-speaking students or Khmer-speaking students,” Greenblatt said, “when tests are not available in these languages to begin with? The difficulty of finding teachers fluent in such languages is considerable. How will we define a ‘qualified’ teacher?”
There were no answers to these barbed blockbusters, for the excellent reason that no answers exist. How, you may be asking yourself about here, has Montgomery County been handling its problem of educating aliens? Why, by putting them in so-called “cluster centers” in which the foreign students, according to Spotlight, are “provided intensive instruction in English language skills” until they’ve learned English well enough to go into the regular school program. That makes sense.
I’m glad this particular school system has its back up because it’s a major suburb of Washington, DC, and has more children of foreign diplomats sitting in its classrooms than any other district in the country. If it finds “bilingual education” impossible to im-plement, then so will all the other districts.