Last spring, 9-year-old Derrick Fields sat in his social studies classroom at Sherman Elementary School, learning about the creation of the telegraph. The machine was invented so that “someone can connect to someone who is far away,” he said.
This was pretty normal stuff for a fourth grade history lesson, except for one thing: The entire lesson — from the textbooks to the teacher’s instructions to the students’ short essays — was in Spanish.
In fact, half of Derrick’s time is spent learning in Spanish and the other half in English in what’s known as a dual language immersion program.
Teaching academic subjects in Spanish, or any foreign language, has been widely understood to be illegal in California since 1998. [Proposition 227](https://ballotpedia.org/CaliforniaProposition227,theEnglishinPublicSchoolsInitiative_(1998))
appeared on the June ballot that year, offering voters a chance to weigh in on whether or not students should be taught primarily in English in public schools. While opponents saw the measure as racist, it was loudly championed by Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley millionaire with political aspirations, as the best way to integrate the state’s booming immigrant population.