While bilingualism is an inarguably great skill to possess, perhaps the focus on language (and the implementation of the Spanish language) is getting a bit out-of-hand. It’s even gone so far as to extend to Presidential debates.
During the Republican debate in Florida last Monday, the potential presidential candidates were divided on nearly every issue but one: the importance of the English language. According to CNN, Newt Gingrich stated, “I think it is essential to have a central language that we expect people to learn and to be able to communicate with each other in.”
Mitt Romney, who spent the previous twenty minutes lambasting his competitor, agreed: “English is the language of this nation,” Romney said. “People need to learn English to be able to be successful, to get great jobs.”
And while I am well aware of the fact that the candidates are, without a doubt, using the language issue to appeal to the culturally ignorant who are too lazy to learn a second language, the Republicans make a good point. Language is a unifier. And if you’re an immigrant who wants become a citizen of the United States, you must do the same as every immigrant before you did and learn the language of this country.
And yes, Professor, I know that there really isn’t an “official” U.S. language. But, come on. If that was really the case, Americans would be speaking German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Mandarin, etc. And it would be outright chaotic, too.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the importance of bilingualism in a global economy. Personally I speak two languages, and I’m working on a third. But now certain states are forcing native English speakers into “immersion programs” that teach subjects like math and science in different languages. Is this really a good idea? Aren’t students already struggling with these subjects enough as it is? Is it really fair to hinder the education of a native English speaker in order to accommodate for those who refuse to play by the same rules that every other immigrating group before them played by? Absolutely not.
Legend has it, when the Soviets suspected an American spy during the Cold War, they would subject the accused party to a series of language tests. In the middle of these tests, they would drop a random mathematical question, the objective being to see whether the suspect would slip up and answer the mathematical question in English.
Recently schools across the country have banned the use of cell phones in the classroom. It’s obvious why this makes sense: cell phones are a distraction. Multi-tasking divides one’s attention and leads to a mediocre grasp on each concept. And learning Spanish and Math at the simultaneously is essentially the same thing as scanning Facebook during Calculus class.
There is certainly a place for secondary languages in the classroom. We should be working on ways to teach young Americans how to succeed in the global economy, and bilingualism is a great start. But synthesizing math and Spanish is a sign that political correctness is getting exponentially loco.