Views on Richard Rodriguez's Criticism Towards Bilingual Education in the United States

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1853 Words
Date:  2022-10-08

Bilingual education is a system of teaching in two languages, in a native and secondary language. In the training, there are varying amounts of the native language used, and it mainly relies on the program model. Bilingual education primarily refers to the use of two languages as a way of giving instructions to students, and it is considered as part of the entire education curriculum. There are several types of bilingual education systems, but the common ones are two-way or dual language immersion and transitional bilingual education. The bilingual education system has been applicable in the United State for many years and many students whose native language is not English, have benefited from learning a new language while conserving their native language in the process. Still, there have been criticisms to this educational system, amongst who stands Mexican-American author Richard Rodriguez. In his book "Hunger of Memory" he criticizes bilingual education based on his personal experience. Nevertheless, there have been many oppositions from educators, and students that have multiple example of the positives effect of slow cultural incorporation instead of assimilation. Language is crucial in all interactions and aspects people have in their lives whether in private or public life.

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I attended a bilingual school in Latin America, where the concept of the program is to receive quality education and become fluent in two different languages leading to vocational and social success. This is a privilege available only to middle and high-class society that can afford it. Yet, in the United States, bilingual education has a different approach and purpose. It refers to the education of children whose English is not their native language, and the purpose is to learn English and to adjust to the American culture. To achieve this however, it is not imperative that they elide their native language or culture, which for many is the institute of learning.

Richard Rodriguez childhood language assimilation experience started when he was young as he was a Mexican immigrant's child living in Sacramento, California. His experiences in school made him regard English as a public language and Spanish, the language he had known since he was a child, to be family or private linguistic. These childhood experiences were the ones that shaped his opinion on bilingual education. Rodriguez mainly argues that it is not possible for students to use their family or private language in school (Lim 519). He further states that this is to misunderstand the public uses of schooling and it affects the intimate life of the family language.

Primarily, Rodriguez is a strong supporter of the notion that the individuals who migrate to the United States, should get assimilated into the American society and their language. He mainly believes that the people who are discouraging the immigrants to avoid becoming part of the community are misleading them (Lim 533). To support his argument, he states that people do not lose their personality or individuality by getting assimilated to the society. He further goes on to state that such assimilations are necessary as they will make possible the achievement of public identity. It is from this point of ideology where Rodriguez argues against bilingual education and the doctrine that students should be taught in their mother tongue for a period after joining the school.

Once English was imposed on Rodriguez at the age of seven, his English skills and proficiency improved and his life changed dramatically. He was able to answer questions in class, and he felt empowered. Primarily, he began to feel a connection with the outside world away from his house. However, his relationship with his parents changed. He started to notice that he was having fewer conversations with his parents and this was mainly because for Rodriguez language was the pathway to family closeness.

Similarly, his Spanish started to falter after he decided to focus on speaking English amid intervention by his family members (Lim 522). Although he was upset by the loss, he states that his relatives were wrong to believe that Spanish was the only thing that was keeping the family united. Importantly, just after learning to speak in English fluently did Rodriguez started to consider himself as an American. This means he was able to acquire the rights to become a member of the society, according to his arguments.

Due to his controversial stance against bilingual education Rodriguez has received a lot of criticism from the people who are in support of the system. The individuals who were opposed to bilingual education saw Rodrigues as a stunning "minority" witness. Primarily, the people who were committed to the program vilified him as a traitor (Rodriguez 77). Moreover, no side was interested in the niceties of his evidence and experience of quiet exposition.

Importantly, Rodriguez is opposed to the bilingual education as he claims it does not address the root problem of illiteracy or the low achievement problems of students which starts at the elementary school level (Rodriguez 123). He argues that the proponents of the system are greatly mistaken of the fundamentals nature of learning (Caldas 194). He argues that the purpose of education is to provide the student with public competence and public education. In his book, Rodriguez states that, "A primary reason for my success in the classroom was that I couldn't forget that schooling was changing me and separating me from the life I enjoyed before becoming a student" (Rodriguez 34). Rodriguez criticizes the bilingual system claiming that it confuses children who were not born knowing the secondary language that they are forced to adopt. Rodriguez was born speaking Spanish but the English immersion program, also referred to as the 'sink or swim' approach, demanded that he adopted the English language. In the 'sink or swim' approach students are taught exclusively in English regardless of their native language (Wang 106). As such, he came to assimilate into the English language and culture, forgetting his own Mexican culture due to "discrimination against undocumented families, targeting principally Mexican/Mexican-American families"(Caldas 194).

Rodriquez argues that the use of the family language in the classroom goes against the goals of acquiring tools to develop the public language. This is because the students will be given instructions using their first language instead of the publicly recognized language (Merino 87). This will limit the student's ability to become proficient in the English language limiting their skills and development. He further argues that the teacher's instructions are to teach and train the students in the use of public language. Rodriguez states that without a doubt he would have felt more confident and comfortable if his teachers would have spoken to him in Spanish, but it would have setback his inclusion to public society and the acquisition of his public identity(Rodriguez 18). Moreover, he rejects bilingual education because he claims that culture is connected to language rather than people. After his painful family experience due to his language assimilation, he wrote the book "Hunger of Memory". In his essays Rodriguez presents hard negative views concerning the bilingual education system in America and how teachers are not educated on bilingual education rather than in the use of English so it would inconvenience to teach on other languages. Moreover, he states that the Latinos in California do not become proficient in speaking English or Spanish. It would be adequate that there would be the use of one language that is acceptable by all to be used in schools (Merino 83). This would ease the communication process and would make it easy for people to express themselves. Lastly, Rodriguez's views on bilingual education have been about language policy and not about education (Goldenberg and Kirstin 29). Although most people tend to think that bilingualism is a modern issue in the United States, the opposite is true . It has always been part of the history of the nation. In the U.S, bilingual education involves any form of teaching that is used in the school systems in which the English language is used together with other languages in the classroom. Primarily, in the United States, bilingual education had a long history as it started during the time immigrants began entering the country. The largest part of immigrants came from northern and western Europe and settled in the major cities of the United States taking over the industrial market because they worked faster and where paid less than American workers. Immigrants introduced new cultures and languages to the community and with that came the need to address their incorporation into the American society. This was the beginning of the social and economic movement that introduced bilingual education in schools in the United States. There were many bilingual programs created in the United States between the 1830s and 1890s that were managed by foreign-language speakers. The bilingual programs established by foreign language speaker did not foster Americanization like the programs created by the Anglo-Americans (Ramsey 8). The community members primarily where interested in fulfilling the linguistic needs, so social and cultural assimilation was not a topic of focus. In early, 1839, Ohio was the first state to endorse bilingual education (Gandara and Kathy 2). Additionally, in 1847 Louisiana followed the footsteps of Ohio anud enacted a similar law for bilingual education as it had a large population of French-speaking immigrants. The bilingual education programs fail to equalize educational opportunities for language-minority students because of their lack of freedom to deliberate effectively and the narrowed opportunity" (Wang 117).

Similarly, in 1850, New Mexico also passed an Act that permitted bilingual directions in Spanish and English. By the start of the 20th century, about 12 states in the United States had enacted a form of bilingual legislation that allowed bilingual instruction in the public-school education system (Poza 24). Therefore, there is a need for English learning lessons programs so that such students can be able to understand and speak English since it's the national language in the United States. Additionally, English is also a International language so it can help students communicate globally. Moreover, there were also localized and simple bilingual education programs that were organized by religious or specific immigrants' groups in most American cities and town.

Without no doubt, a move by the United States to isolate itself from foreign relation was reflected on the national education policies, "but this argument could not forestall the coming repression of 'foreign' languages" (Gandara and Kathy 2). Primarily, individuals who could not communicate in English were seen to be un-American and disloyal. By the end of 1925, many of the American States had already allowed the policies they had enacted on the bilingual education to become inactive and the system to fade away. However, the changes that took place in America as the composition of the society after the Second World War exacted pressure on the public education system to accommodate a large number of students who used English as a second language. Several studies on the performance of students in English-only instructional environments at the time indicated that the education system was not giving all students equal opportunities (Merino 83). The system mainly favored students who used English as their first language.


To address this issue the United States Congress passed the first Bilingual Education Act in 1968. The Bilingual Education...

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Views on Richard Rodriguez's Criticism Towards Bilingual Education in the United States. (2022, Oct 08). Retrieved from

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