SIXTH COLUMN

"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Students in Florida May Be Required to Take Spanish

Should English-speaking children in the United States be forced to learn another language under the pretext that "English used to be the language that's spoken and now it's something else?"

Bi-lingual education, teaching foreign or immigrant children in their own languages in the United States rather than in English, has been controversial for some time. Naturally, children educated in the home languages don't transfer as quickly to English as they would if they were immersed in English. The reason given for this strategy was to allow students to learn content and skills. Of course these students continue to maintain the culture of their home countries rather than become acculturated to the American mainstream.

Acculturation and participation as Americans in the citizenship process is why the Florida proposal is so troubling. Could it be that the United States is slowly being acculturated as Latin Americans and erasing the predominate Anglo and Northern European cultural characteristics, perhaps setting us up to become part of American free trade and culture conglomerate that has been quietly developing over last few decades. At present, the group includes North American countries, using NAFTA and CAFTA as the base. Talks are also including South American countries.

Immigrants groups are now in the driver's seat. Why should they learn English or acculturate to the mainstream when the government of the United States is planning to sell the mainstream down the river? These developments occur in tiny steps:

LEE COUNTY— A proposal in Tallahassee is causing a stir in schools in Southwest Florida. The state's top democrat is supporting a plan to make Spanish classes mandatory for all students in kindergarten through second grade, just like English or Math.

The youngest students in Southwest Florida's public school system could soon be saying hola to a new language. A proposed law would make Spanish mandatory for students in kindergarten through second grade.

"I frankly believe, the earlier you teach someone, the better it is," said George Muentes, an English as a second language teacher.

The law would make Spanish a core class like math and science. It would also force school officials to shuffle an already crowded schedule."

The length of the school day won't change, but the Spanish would have to be squeezed in somewhere, which means a few popular classes may have to be cut to make room.

"The options would be the specials, the arts, music and PE. But here in Charlotte County those are very important to us," said Mike Riley of the Charlotte County school district.

If the bill passes, it won't take effect till 2007. But the thought of mandatory Spanish classes is already a controversial subject with some parents.

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