I would never advise anyone to look toward the comments section of an online article to find anything resembling rational thought or constructive dialogue, but that’s mostly because most articles which inspire commenters to crack their knuckles and fire away at their keyboards are centered around inflammatory topics, like male frontal nudity on HBO. And so it was with no small amount of surprise that I read the comments on a New York Times article about the city’s recent increase in dual-language programs in its public schools.
The Times reports that these programs—many of which offer full immersion classes wherein English is only spoken 10 percent of the time—are on the rise even for students for whom English is their primary language. And while the Times acknowledges that “not all dual-language programs are equally good,” the piece does paint an encouraging picture of programs which decidedly don’t teach solely to standardized tests, and instead focus on a holistic approach, which just so happens to result in students having facility with more than one language. What could be wrong with this?
Well, if you’re a commenter: lots. It turns out that the very idea that some students—particularly students for whom English is a second language—might not only be speaking English while in school is enough to make commenters invoke Bobby Jindal of all terrible Republicans who said that “immigration without assimilation is an invasion.” Reading through the more than 250 comments currently on the article makes it clear that while, yes, there is plenty of support for dual-language programs, there are as many Times readers who have Donald Trump-esque opinions on the validity of learning Spanish or any other language other than English. (As one commenter bluntly puts it: “Learn English. It’s that simple.”)
Of course, those commenters are missing the nuance (and maybe the meaning of the word “dual”) when they sincerely wonder why anyone—in this day and age—would need to know anything other than English, since so many people in other countries learn it in their own dual-language programs, which is a logical leap so astounding that I… don’t even have anything more to say on the subject other than this: Ban comments.