Tucked inside Massachusetts new bilingual education law is the cherry on top the ice cream. The law calls for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education [DESE] to create a little sticker on high school diplomas. This sticker or cherry honors students that graduate high school that have a working knowledge of two or more languages.

Imagine this. Massachusetts, dishing out a seal of bi-literacy to students that are proficient in English and another language. Not bad for a state that has 30% of its high school graduates enrolled at state colleges and universities needing remedial help. If this seal of multi language proficiency is remotely like MCAS to graduate, these students are doomed.

Don't get me wrong. It's necessary for today's students and adults to be able to operate using more than one language. We live and work in a global economy. Those that are bi-lingual or better get to craft their own career ticket. My skepticism is with the Massachusetts bureaucracy. They are highly proficient at screwing things up.

Notwithstanding my personal views on government education, if DESE is going to create these seals of bi-literacy, then let's make dual language proficiency a Massachusetts government high school graduation requirement. All students. No child left in just English. New Bedford has 28% of its student body labeled as English Language Learners.

I propose that all Massachusetts government high school graduates, have a working knowledge of English and at least one other language. Mandate it in the curriculum as early as elementary school. Furthermore, any new teacher hires for a Massachusetts traditional or charter government school must be at least bi-lingual. These pronouncements take effect beginning with the high school and college graduating class of 2022.

We know a working knowledge of two or more languages is imperative for unfettered advancement. It's time to actively practice what we preach. Students learn from the educator. Making sure our teachers are proficient in more than one language sends a clear and proper signal that our state and country is turning from English immersion to multi-linguistic. There's no turning back. Government mandates attendance, standardized tests and vaccinations. Let's do the correct thing and instill a love of language that will last a lifetime.

Editor’s Note:   Brian Thomas is the host of Brian’s Beat on 1420 WBSM New Bedford.  He can be heard weekdays from 10am-Noon and Saturdays from 6am-9am.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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