Hayakawa's essay entitled Bilingualism in America provides a clearly articulated argument that attempts to demonstrate why current efforts to create bilingualism in the United States are not appropriate for the development of both education and society. Although Hayakawa is himself an immigrant, he contends that all immigrant children should be taught English as a means to create a more cohesive society. Through his argument, he is able to downplay the role and importance of bilingual education in the United States. Even though Hayakawa's essay may be well intentioned, the reality it produces is one that is not supportive of the diversity of America; a principle upon which this country has been established. Further, Hayakawa's essay does not appear to take into consideration the realities of how difficult it can be for many immigrants to be successful in both society and in the educational system.The first problem with Hayakawa's argument stems from the assertions that he makes about the importance of English to the development of the country. Hayakawa contends that, English unites us as American immigrants and native born alike.
[...] Other researchers examining the context and purpose of bilingual education note that this process “aims to teach academic subjects to immigrant children in their native languages while slowly and simultaneously adding English instruction” (Rothstein, 672). As a result of this process, children do not fall behind in their academic instruction and slowly transition into using English on a regular basis. “When they are fluent in English, they can then "transition" to English instruction in academic subjects at the grade level of their peers” (672). [...]
[...] However, research on the development and implementation of bilingual programs seems to suggest that these programs are better suited to the natural methods that immigrants would use in their efforts to acquire English as a second language (Rothstein, 672). Thus, eliminating bilingual programs in the American education system does not appear to be the most salient means for resolving this problem. Arguably, Hayakawa's arguments are one critical problem with the assessment of bilingual education that is presented. In addition, it is evident that Hayakawa's understanding of the definition, meaning and purpose of bilingual education are also skewed. [...]
[...] Hayakawa writes that, “Because we are a nation of immigrants, we doe not share the characteristics of race, religion, ethnicity or native language which form the common bonds of society in other countries” (191). Although Hayakawa's observations are indeed correct, the reality of the United States is that this is the point. America is a melting pot in which any individual can come and be accepted—regardless of race, religion and LANGUAGE. Thus, arguments that attempt to show that the United States must unite under the umbrella of language appear to indicate more of a desire of Hayakawa to unite individuals under one ethnic umbrella. [...]
[...] As noted by Hayakawa, bilingual education programs should be removed from use in favor of ESL programs. While this sounds like a salient alternative, the reality is that ESL programs force children to learn English and academics simultaneously. Researchers examining this process have noted that when ESL is used, second language learners may miss critical academic concepts that are needed for academic development. This is one of the key reasons as to why many educators feel that ESL programs do not provide students with the academic skills that they need to finish high school (Rothstein, 673). [...]
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