19 Urban Questions: Teaching in the City

By Shirley R. Steinberg; Joe L. Kincheloe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Does Bilingual
Education Matter?

Alma Rubal-Lopez

Urban schools around the country are challenged by the existence of huge numbers of students who possess limited English proficiency. Almost four million students in U.S. elementary and secondary schools are not proficient English speakers, and about 75 percent of them are first-language Spanish speakers. The other 25 percent speak as their home language at least 200 other tongues. The effort to deal with these linguistic realities faces practical and political obstacles in the twenty-first century. On the practical level there are simply not enough qualified teachers to provide language education to many of these students. On the political level there is a widespread perception in the United States that bilingual education does not work and that English-only programs operate more efficiently and more in line with what is believed to be the English heritage of the nation (Lanauze, 1999). While the problems of language and education in urban schools are diverse, this chapter will focus attention on the 75 percent of the linguistically different population: first-language Spanish-speaking Latinos.

Urban schools of education must address the needs of the communities that their current student population will be teaching once they complete their course of study and become certified to teach. The populations in large urban centers in which such schools are located are more often than not composed predominantly of poor nonwhite immigrants who are culturally and linguistically diverse. In New York City, where the overwhelming number of graduates will most likely choose to remain, and in New York State with its numerous diverse cities, the urgent need to educate teachers of linguistically diverse populations becomes even more eminent.

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