Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

BILINGUAL EDUCATION

Adopted by the 109th Annual Convention of the
Central Conference of American Rabbis
June, 1998

Background

Rabbi Judah the Prince affirms: "The world endures only for the sake of the breath of schoolchildren." It is the responsibility of every community to ensure the education of its young, by providing teachers who can inspire students, enabling each child academic mastery of his or her studies. We are enjoined to teach in a manner that affirms the student's self-esteem: "Those who are shamed by their lack of skills are not able to learn" (Rabbi Hillel, Pirkei Avot 2:6).

Bilingual education -- the teaching of substantive curriculum in a child's native language while giving special instruction in English language and literacy skills -- has a long history in the United States. Bilingual education programs could be found in American schools as early as 1694. A resurgence of nativism in the late nineteenth century marked the beginning of the gradual decline of bilingual education. Interest in bilingual education arose again in the 1960s, and culminated with the 1968 Bilingual Education Act . The two central goals of the Bilingual Education Act are English proficiency and achievement in academic content areas. Moreover, bilingual education simultaneously promotes our common language and fosters respect for diverse languages and cultures. Such diversity enriches our society and enriches the public schools.

Language-minority students face unique obstacles in public school and our educational system should help students overcome those obstacles by providing an appropriate education that enables such students to become proficient in English and skilled in specific subject areas.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Central Conference of American Rabbis:

  1. Calls upon federal, state and local governments to utilize the following principles as guidelines in their legislation.
    1. Programs for language-minority students should be designed to ensure that students become proficient and successful in English.
    2. Public schools should make available to language-minority students an opportunity to learn substantive subjects in their native language.
    3. Programs should develop literacy skills in the best way possible for each child, promoting the child's self-esteem while continuing to work toward the ultimate goal of English proficiency.
  2. Supports adequate funding to train and re-train competent teachers to ensure the continuing high quality of the programs.