Knowledge is Power: Bilingual Education and Access to Accurate Information

by multilingualmania on February 7, 2010

in Bilingual Education

Over the years I have met many bilingual teachers in California who do not have their bilingual teaching authorization (i.e., BCLAD credential). I’ve asked a number of bilingual teachers about why they don’t have a BCLAD credential or its equivalent, and I am often told many interesting reasons about why they don’t have the appropriate bilingual teaching authorization. Most notably, many teachers tell me that they were told to not get their BCLAD or bilingual credential because they were told not to get it by someone at their university.

At first I didn’t believe that professors, including bilingual and/or Latina/o professors, might have told a bilingual teacher not to get a BCLAD credential. I initially thought that many of the teachers might have misunderstood what they have been told. However, over the past ten years I have heard these types of comments repeated by far too many bilingual teachers that it leads me to believe that there are professors and other university personnel who are sending this message to new teachers.

In fact, I have heard the story told far too many times that I now have memorized a list of names of people at our local California State university who have been giving students this information. It appears that many bilingual teachers have been told over the years that they will be “doing away with the bilingual BCLAD teaching credential”. Other teachers have been told that school districts will not hire them if they have a BCLAD credential. Therefore, many bilingual teachers have opted out of obtaining a BCLAD credential, later finding out when they are hired as bilingual teachers that they in fact need to have a credential.

Why on Earth would anyone give a new teacher such inaccurate and misleading information? Well, I can definitely hypothesize as to why this might be happening, but I will leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions. However, my second question is: Why on Earth would a future bilingual teacher believe something like this? Why didn’t they dig a little further? Why didn’t they question as to why a university would have a BCLAD credential program if the BCLAD credential is obsolete? If they would have dug a little farther, they would have been able to question as to why the university has a masters program in bilingual education as well.

I see this happen over and over again with bilingual educators, where many of us believe everything that someone else tells us about bilingual education. They tell some of us that bilingual education is illegal in California, and many of us believe it. They tell us that our programs are failing, and we allow them to be dismantled without asking for proof.

We must admit as bilingual educators that we sometimes are complicit in the demise of bilingual education.

I have had similar experiences with listening to bilingual educators talk about the local bilingual education masters program. Someone else has told them that they won’t be marketable with a masters degree in bilingual education, and people believe it and get a masters in another topic. What sort of nonsense is this? How is it possible that someone would actually believe that having a masters degree in cross-cultural and bilingual education would not make you marketable?

It’s beyond my comprehension why bilingual educators would not enroll in the local bilingual education masters program, considering that there are very few bilingual masters programs in the state of California. One would think that as bilingual educators that we would appreciate the opportunity to be enrolled in a program that is unique to our needs as bilingual educators. But many of us don’t, mainly because people don’t know about the opportunity or believe what they are told about having a masters in bilingual education.

So I will go back to my original comment about complicity: As bilingual educators, we are often complicit in our own demise. We believe what we are told about bilingual education, or the BCLAD program, or the bilingual masters program. We don’t become educated enough to answer parent’s, administrator’s or the public’s questions about bilingual education. We don’t take the time to learn about building high levels of biliteracy. Some of us have never even read a book that gives us information about bilingual education. Many of us don’t even belong to our local or state association for bilingual education.

At this point in the digital age, there is no excuse that we don’t have access to essential information about bilingual education. There are now a variety of online communities where multilingual educators, parents and other interested parties can network, share information and ask one another questions about bilingual education. This is one of my goals with this blog-to debunk some of the myths that surround bilingual education and to support an online community of bilingual education advocates.

As the old adage goes, “Knowledge is power”. What you don’t know WILL hurt you, and ultimately hurt the struggle for quality bilingual education. Wake up, smell the coffee, and commit to mentoring another bilingual educator or parent who is interested in bilingual education, so that bilingual advocates have access to accurate information.

P.S. Thanks for sticking around to the end of the article. It’s people like you who remind me everyday why I put in so much energy fighting to maintain quality bilingual education programs.

You Might Also Like:

How Do You Get a BCLAD Credential?

Critical Components of Effective Bilingual Programs

A Parent’s Guide to the Critical Components of Effective Bilingual Programs

Must-read Book: Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism

About the Author: Melanie McGrath is a bilingual education fanatic. She passionately thinks, lives and dreams about multilingual education every waking and sleeping moment of her life. Seriously. Melanie is an administrator of bilingual education programs, and considers herself to be an advocate for students, parents, teachers, and others in the struggle for quality bilingual education programs.  As founder of Multilingual Mania, she’s doing all that she can to help create a multilingual and non-racist society one day at a time.

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