Richard Rodriguez states right out in his essay that he is against bilingual education, “I hear them and am forced to say no: It is not possible for a child—any child—ever to use his family’s language in school.” While his opinion seems controversial, he moves through the rest of the essay to lay out for the reader the specific reasons he doesn’t think bilingual education will work.
If we look at the essay we can see that his argument comes from his lived experience as a child. Navigating the complex social systems that are established by language, race, and social class leads the author to explain that he doesn’t think that any students who would be a “bilingual learners” would benefit from such a program because they already participate in their discourse. He explains that “What they seem not to recognize is that, as a socially disadvantaged child, I considered Spanish to be a private language” (Rodriguez). He goes into depth about the fact that it isn’t what is “allowed” or “taught” that is going to make the most significant difference, but the social perceptions of those students that bilingual education advocates seek to influence.
He makes the further point that along with not feeling like the public language (English) belongs to them, students who are the target of bilingual education need to speak English a lot to master its use. Until they internalize the language it will always be foreign to them—something Rodriguez thinks will hold students back. He makes the claim that until someone identifies themselves with the primary culture (“gringo” or American in this case), and speaks the language of that culture, they will not go to the trouble of demanding the rights and privileges that go along with being a citizen or member of the primary culture. He explains that bilingual advocates are condemning young bilingual children never to assimilate or gain that type or perspective because they are allowed to keep Spanish as both their public and private language, something that will hamper their social growth.