English as a Second Language (ESL) or Bilingual Education has been a part of America's educational history since America's educational conception. Bilingual Education is defined as a dual-language program designated to provide equal educational opportunities to students of limited dominant language proficiency. This research will provide a brief historical overview of the program, provide a brief explanation as to why these programs are important to the education of our nation, present some of the arguments both pro and con related to the issue and then discuss the future of such programs.
The first state to adopt a bilingual education program legally was the state of Ohio in 1839. This was done to allow a child to receive German-English instruction at his parents' request. Louisiana was the second state to enact such legislation allowing for the implementation of programs in French and English in 1847. Spanish did not enter the bilingual educational map until the adoption of a bilingual program by the New Mexico Territory in 1850. At times, bilingual education has encompassed languages as diverse as Italian, Polish, Czech, Norwegian and Cherokee.
"Enrollment surveys at the turn of the 20th century reported that at least 600,000 primary school students (public and parochial) were receiving part or all of their instruction in the German language - about 4% of all American children in the elementary grades." (Rethinking Schools, Spring 1998, 1)
During the early 20th century, an immigration backlash and anti-foreign attitude obliterated these promising programs in favor of English-only programs in vast attempts to Americanize these groups. English-only programs continued to be enforced until the failure of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students could no longer be ignored. This led to the Bilingual Education Act of 1968, the foundation for federally funded ESL programs and eventually the Equal Educational Opportunity ...