Todd Warren Guest column
November 17, 2013
To do right by all of our young people here in Sampson County, the teaching of Spanish in our schools should be a priority. An early onset bilingual immersion program whereby elementary students are taught in English and Spanish simultaneously could bring incredible benefits to the reputation and standing of our school system, to the cultural, racial and ethnic unity of our community, and most importantly to our children’s intellectual and academic development and their future life opportunities.
We could be and should be graduating students who are able to communicate fully in English and Spanish. Now is the best time to start.
If one looks at the make-up of 2013’s kindergarten class, more than one of our elementary schools is now majority Hispanic and in all of them numbers are high and rising. Instead of an obstacle, this could be viewed as an opportunity. This population of kids who speak English at school and Spanish at home could be the critical mass that could boost all of our students into bilingual fluency. With a properly conceived and implemented Spanish/English program these children could be the momentum that guarantees success for the rest.
Now to elaborate on the benefits, Sampson County is in many ways lacking in the educational opportunities and resources of more metropolitan areas. But there is one resource in which we abound, Spanish speakers. Imagine the respect and reputation our schools could have on a state (if not national) level if we were graduating entire classes of bilingual students.
As for community benefits, they are great. Aside from one’s opinion on immigration, the realities on the ground are clear. Speaking in generalities, two visibly separate yet connected communities exist. The traditional, rooted community of Sampsonians, (black, white, and Native American) who have been here for generations forgotten and the Hispanic immigrant community who are relatively recent arrivals. We need a way to bring our communities closer together.
If community cohesion, patriotic respect and love for one’s county are important, then nothing could more show our resolve and strength than graduating bilingual students.
Finally and most importantly there are our kids’ futures as responsible citizens and intelligent decision makers to consider. The current scientific and educational evidence is in and raising kids in multilingual situations benefits their intellectual and academic development almost more than anything else.
Our kids are coming into a global economy where English-only is a handicap and a local workforce where the ability to speak Spanish is an advantage, if not a prerequisite, in some jobs. I end with this question — what subject do you wish you had paid more attention to in high school? Twenty to 1 you said Spanish. Let’s do right by our kids, let’s teach them Spanish.