Music connects to the soul, regardless of what language it's in.
What does being bilingual mean for a kid who is growing up in poverty, or close to it? Besides the immediate social and cognitive benefits, the first thing that comes to my mind is upward mobility. Learning languages while in school is one of the few subjects that puts our students at a direct advantage coming out of high school. Bilinguals are one of the most sought after and recruited groups for jobs, college, law school, and even the military. For far too long, a bilingual education was mainly cordoned off for the privileged students whose parents knew the value in ensuring their children would become bilingual or multilingual. In states such as California, until recently, many times children who were already bilingual were excluded from the opportunity of a bilingual education.
Inner city schools, strapped for funding, have had to make many tough choices and the cuts to go along with these choices. All too often, language classes haven't been treated with the value that they deserve. In fact, they've been mistreated. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is learning multiple languages and finding ways to compete with, and far surpass, the United States in many aspects. It's time to refocus and change our mindset in this country before we fall further behind.
Learning languages goes beyond a diploma, certificate, or other academic recognition. It goes beyond putting our students at an advantage in the job market. It goes beyond the health benefits of a faster brain and the ability to slow the onset of Alzheimers and Dementia.
Learning other languages serves to connect us. It builds social bridges between folks and it teaches us to see the world from other perspectives. It opens our minds and our hearts to other possibilities. Having a dual language program where everyone is invited helps our students to learn about each other and learn with each other
As an advocate for educational equity, I would be out of line if I didn't mention the fact that some of us are born with advantages that others don't have. Call it a silver spoon, call it privilege, put whichever term applies, because it's real. I'm not advocating that we take anything away from those students who have. What I'm saying is that we need to ensure that all our students have the most opportunity for success. Expecting our lower income family students to compete with the others on a mass scale is a bit unreasonable, unless those students are given the tools, guidance, and resources that they need for success. Equity isn't about giving the same thing to everyone, it's about making sure students have an equal shot at competing with others who have more.
But how do we reach students, and parents, who have never really been exposed to the gift of multilingualism? How do we get them on board and understanding that by learning another language there is nothing to lose, only possibilities and opportunities for the future? We connect learning to their soul.
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