I am a good driver - but you would never know it given the theatrics of "backseat drivers" whose sudden gasps and quick grasps for the dashboard denote a lack of confidence in my skills.
This drama is alternately amusing, annoying and unnecessary. I'm proud to say that, for the most part, my motto of "when in doubt, step on the gas" has never let me down.
The same adage can also be used to describe the path of bilingual education in America.
English language learners (ELLs) have been thrown into English speaking classrooms with a goal of acquiring this dominant language as fast as possible. If accommodation is made by providing supportive programs in bilingual education it often ignores the research which states it takes 2-3 years before children develop Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and 5-7 years before Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) allows the language of learning to become fully realized.
Negative views surrounding the bilingual education debate have influenced policy and practice. In California, Proposition 227 essentially outlawed bilingual education. This history is full of struggles with conflicting input from "experts" holding various perspectives.
It reminds me of the influences and history of deaf education in America. The push towards assimilation has been forceful and unyielding.
So it is with a great deal of pride that I find myself teaching at the only public dual language (American Sign Language and English) school in America with students who are deaf, hard of hearing and hearing. Here the struggles in bilingual and deaf education come together allowing us to lift up on the gas to give our students an education based on the scientific research espoused by No Child Left Behind (but NCLB is another can of worms isn't it).
We may not have all the answers but we are constantly questioning and learning. Our little school is adding to the history of both bilingual and deaf education. I look forward to seeing where it leads us.