I agree with the general sentiments of “Repairing Bilingual Education” (editorial, Dec. 22), but you are wrong to recommend reforming the system in New York City rather than replacing it with English immersion.
English immersion is not “sink or swim” — that would be submersion. Instead, sheltered English immersion provides special classes in which English learners are taught English (together with academic subjects) as rapidly as possible, then mainstreamed once they have learned the language.
You are correct that English immersion works best with younger children — that is why the California and Arizona initiatives I sponsored were focused on immigrant students under age 10. However, the vast majority of the limited-English students in New York City and elsewhere enter school when they are quite young. Over half are American born, and most of the rest arrive before the age of 7. Older students who don’t know English have usually spent years in American schools, but in so-called bilingual programs that do not teach English.
I hope that you will re-examine the details of bilingual education and come around to endorsing efforts to replace that remarkably misguided program.
Ron Unz, Chairman
English for the Children
Palo Alto, CA, Dec. 22, 2000