Following the recent decision by New York City’s Department of Education to drop a French dual-language program in Manhattan, as reported by various media (Batch, NY Post, TapInto), I wanted to express my full support to the parent-led effort that has involved hundreds of diverse families and dozens of nationalities united to create a new French dual-language program in Manhattan.
Dual-language education has enormous potential. Why? Because our children are part of a world that is shrinking and in which languages serve as pathways to understanding others around the globe, as well as understanding who we are.
Our children deserve the opportunity to connect not only with their relatives and friends, but also with their and others’ culture and history. This learning approach has the potential to foster respect, tolerance, and mutual understanding. These are the cornerstones of a peaceful world.
We need to embrace and advance homegrown bilingualism, but that can only happen if we offer these languages in public schools. Furthermore, immigrant children raised in environments that value the language of their parents learn the dominant language faster, as many of the French-speaking parents supporting the cause of dual-language education believe.
Issues of race, poverty, segregation, class, and gentrification have had and continue to have a significant bearing on the development of bilingual education programs and on public education in this country. We must be careful that these programs do not become exclusively for the privileged.
With the benefits of bilingualism and multiculturalism becoming clearer to researchers—in particular the impact of bilingualism on cognitive enhancement, critical thinking, and sensitivity toward other people and cultures—we need to engage all parents to become bilingual “revolutionaries” and fully support their undertakings when they strive to create dual-language education for all.
These individuals will not just be advocates of bilingual education, but true pioneers willing to spur positive change in their societies and re-enchant the public with public schools, all while promoting an active community life (socially, economically, culturally) and a mutual understanding and respect for minority groups and people of varying sociolinguistic and economic backgrounds.
This is the path to break the crippling cycle whereby access to good education is often linked to household income and status.
Dr. Fabrice Jaumont
Author, Educator, Researcher
Photo credit: Nadia Levy, Catherine Remy