The past decade and a half has seen the city of New York improve significantly the number of ESL/Bilingual programs. Many schools in New York City and particularly in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn have recognized and acknowledged the needs of the rising LEP population and are responding by addressing these needs(The State Education Department, 2010). With ESL or bilingual programs that include Chinese, Spanish, French, Korean and Haitian Creole, more than a hundred schools in the city of New York have integrated some form of bilingual program in their curriculum.
Since culture is a learned set of shared interpretation about values, norms, and beliefs, how people express themselves, how they think, how they solve problems and how they move is thus touched and altered by the medium of culture. Acknowledging that culture is multifaceted, multilayered and thus complex, through ESL/bilingual education helps students to understand how cultures differ and different cultures respond differently to comparable situations. By involving peers and parents in the gradual process of acquiring cultural competence increases the opportunities for interactions, observations, and experiences. Once cultural competence is acquired, students become more tolerant and accepting of people who appear different from them based on their cultural heritage. Since New York is a highly metropolitan city and an absolute representation of global society, the world is morphing to, bilingual programs prepare students to handle diversity competently(Metropolitan Center For Urban Education, 2008).
Issues of racism, work ethic, political intolerance, cultural intolerance, morality, concepts of beauty, ideas of personal space, religious intolerance and other hidden biases are some of the issues that would be positively influenced by bilingual programs. As students become more aware of others who are different from them, their level of compassion and sensitivity increases and they are able to communicatebetter, interact and engage in constructive problem solving within a complex societal setting and with people who hold different beliefs and have different values(Metropolitan Center For Urban Education, 2008).
Ultimately, bilingual programs play a critical role in addressing cross-cultural issues in the city of New York just the same way it would anywhere else in the country and in the worldbecause it recognizes, acknowledges and allows for the existence of healthy multiculturalism based on the firm foundation of respect for all cultures(Shunnarah, 2008).
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