The NAACP is Right on This

There’s a school district in Prince George’s County, MD (which works out to suburban DC), that’s looking to set up two public (not private) high schools for immigrants and second generation students who don’t speak English—and to teach in their old country language.

The NAACP is objecting, and they’re right on this one, albeit for some wrong reasons. Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s County branch of the NAACP, had this:

It risks turning Prince George’s County into a segregated school system[.]

He said the setup is a violation of Brown v Board of Education, and he’s close. He’s also worried that this will divert resources from the existing school system, and he’s right here, too. This objection, though, isn’t that important; any effort to add schools will divert those resources.

Tehani Collazo, Senior Director of Casa’s Schools and Community Engagement section, disagreed, also with reason:

If we are saying all [English-language-learning] students must go to these schools, that’s one thing. But we are not.

Like the many that already exist across the country, the International Schools are schools of choice. They are built on an innovative and proven model that will help support the needs of our most struggling group of learners—English Language Learners.

They’re both missing the larger point, though, about American education in this context. The segregation argument is close, but it misses.   Brown was about forced segregation; this is voluntary.

On the other hand, “schools of choice” are appropriate for a lot of things, but not in this context. There can’t be any choice about being taught in English.

Immigrants need to assimilate into American culture; it’s our culture that has created the opportunities we have and that underlie our enormous success. Our culture isn’t learned by students and their families holding themselves apart from it, which is what happens when students go to American schools to learn in their own language instead of in English.

Language is thought, and English is the language of American culture. It’s entirely likely that English needs to be taught with greater emphasis in those of our public schools that have large fractions of their student populations who don’t speak a version of English natively. However, public funds should not be spent on public schools that will teach only in a foreign language. That’s not how American culture will be learned; that’s not how immigrants will assimilate.

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