For the students who speak only a minority language, or are limited-English-proficient (LEP), bilingual education is not an optional luxury. It is a necessity required to access an acceptable education.
Bilingual education is not a recent development in America. As early as 1839 Ohio enacted a German-English program to teach immigrant students (History of Bilingual Education). The political shifts of the 20th century greatly curtailed bilingual efforts and recent political views against it have cast the issue back into the spotlight. Proponents of an English only system have pointed to the fears of losing our national identity and that speaking English makes you American. This approach has led to the sink or swim approach to educating our youngest students. Though these objections may be raised with good intentions, the long-term effect for the student and society is harmful and the cost is high.
Students need to be assimilated into our language as well as our society. With a bilingual program, students are taught the desired English, yet have the chance to also explore other subjects in their native tongue. This keeps the student on pace and the additional knowledge also aids in the learning of English (Crawford, 1998).