Open doors for immigrants

It's a situation immigrant students in the 1910s could only have dreamed about: a school where they were taught in their native languages as well as in English. Where special teachers helped them adjust to their coursework, and more space was made to educate them.

At that peak moment in US immigration history, kids were more likely to have been tossed into school to survive on their own.

Despite continuing controversy over bilingual and immigrant education in the 1990s, greater efforts are being made to smooth the process for the Latin American, Bosnian, and Vietnamese children who have replaced the primarily European children of the turn of the century.

Adapting to a constant stream of immigrants is old hat to US public schools. But despite the fact that schools were seen early on as key to integrating immigrant children, the process has never been easy.

Earlier this century, these children were sometimes turned away when seats were scarce. Classes were held to eradicate foreign accents. In the 1990s, California moved to restrict illegal immigrants' access to public education and eliminate most bilingual education. The first initiative is stuck in the courts; the second is under way, but being challenged.

Our cover story looks at Utica, N.Y., population 64,000, where 300 new immigrant children will head to schools this fall. The city found out the hard way that it needed to prepare carefully for these newcomers. Now that it has, Utica is enthusiastic about the benefits to all - not just those who don't speak English.

*E-mail campbellk@csps.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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