I am responding to David Folts' letter (Sept. 10, AFN) about the Spanish language program at Kyrene de los Niños Elementary School. Mr. Folts' fears are unfounded.
As the school's website states: "The United States must educate students who are equipped linguistically and culturally to communicate successfully in a pluralistic American society and abroad." It cites studies, which show that "in addition to developing a lifelong ability to communicate with people from other countries and backgrounds, other benefits [of second language programs] include improved overall school performance and superior problem-solving skills."
A research-based discussion of these programs can be found in the "Eric Digest," at (available on the Kyrene de los Niños website) http://www.kyrene.org/schools/ninos/dual_language/0304fortune%5B1%5D.pdf and http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-9218/start.htm
Folts questions the wisdom of teaching children a second language before they have become fully proficient in their first language. Study after study has shown that the facility for learning languages (including multiple languages) is greatest in the early years when the brain is learning to process language. Moreover, children in full and partial immersion programs have been shown to benefit academically in general. "Over three decades of studies consistently show that immersion students achieve as well as or better than non-immersion peers on standardized measures of verbal and mathematics skills administered in English (see the "Eric Digest" article referred to above)."
Folts is also misinformed in his assertion that a half-day immersion program replaces other instruction. Just the contrary: The other subjects are fully taught, in the second language, with children quickly absorbing both the language and the primary subject matter - which is much more efficient than a separate, isolated language class.
Why Spanish? Because we live in the southwest U.S., where Spanish is the language we are most likely to encounter and the language we are most likely to find useful in travel, business and social situations. This is such an obvious answer that Folts' innuendo that there is "some other motive here" is in itself a thinly veiled admission of prejudice and fear that there is some "danger" that our children might come to understand and appreciate the Spanish language and its native speakers. This is an attitude which can only hinder our children as future citizens and full participants in the political and financial life of an increasingly global society.
I truly hope that the parents of Ahwatukee, and Arizona, are not so fearful of broadening their knowledge of another language and culture that they deprive their children of a rare opportunity to broaden theirs.