(Bits of) Good News

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Today, I have (bits of) good news to share. Maybe lots of it, or maybe stuff we already knew… maybe even things that we need other people to acknowledge. Lately, these are the things that have been on my mind.

So, here goes: first the bits of news, then some thoughts about it all. You might remember my columns from May and July, where the proposed reorganization of the Office of English Language Acquisition was discussed. My first bit of good news comes from the Conference Report on the "Minibus" appropriations for the Departments of Education and Defense has language on pp. 545-546, expressing Congress’ bipartisan support for keeping OELA intact. The National English Learner Roundtable, of which JNCL is a member, worked hard over the past six months to get this, and we’ll keep up the pressure on the Department of Education. Your support and interest has been incredibly helpful.

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Second, (and hear through to our good friends at Californians Together for flagging this), we are already seeing amazing benefits from Proposition 58 in California! A recent article about the Carpinteria Public Schools – and their expanded Dual Language Immersion programs — highlights the cognitive, educational, and community benefits that accrue to everyone, when we provide Dual Language Immersion.

According to the school district, everyone collaborates on student success in DLI, and learners advance in their Spanish literacy and improve on their English Language Arts tests, well ahead of peers who do not have the advantage of DLI.

Continue to the next page to learn more …

Of course, we know this, as parents, educators, and bilinguals. We see it in our kids, in ourselves, and in our communities.

I struggled with two things over this past summer. The first is my own position as a middle-aged white man who happens to be bilingual – I wrote about this in July. I like to think I do my best, but that’s probably privilege speaking as well.

The second is weirder, and harder for me to figure out. I am often struck by how hard it is for me personally to understand the perspective of someone who is monolingual. Speaking French since early childhood, learning French and then Russian at school and in college, working as a translator, interpreter and teacher, and living and working overseas have all changed how I view the world. When I was 18, or 25, I thought it would be easy to see another point of view, to understand the feelings of someone whose background and experiences are very different from mine.

But at this point of my life, at almost 50, I am at least aware that others’ experiences, values and worldviews can be (and indeed often are) very different than mine. That understanding was unlocked, in part, by being bilingual. A paradox, I suppose.

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Bill Rivers
Author: Bill Rivers

Dr. Bill Rivers has more than 25 years of leadership experience in culture and language for economic development and national security, with expertise in the private, public, and non-profits sectors, in research, assessment, program evaluation, policy development and advocacy. Before joining JNCL-NCLIS, he served as Chief Scientist at Integrated Training Solutions, Inc., a small business in Arlington, Virginia. While at ITS, he served in a contractor role as the Chief Linguist of the National Language Service Corps. Prior to working at ITS, he was co-founder of the Center for Advanced Study of Language at the University of Maryland.

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