A Brief History of Non-English Schools in America

By Phin Upham

From its inception, America was a land built on immigration. Those who came here wanted a place to practice their faith, culture and way of life freely. They came seeking a new opportunity for themselves and during the mid 1600s, the Dutch were among the first to sponsor religious elementary schools.

These schools emphasized both religious instruction and prayer, and they all had close ties to the Dutch Reformed Church. When the English stepped in, they converted some of these schools into private academies and let others fall to ruin.

This trend of starting religious institutions, however, spread throughout the American settlements. Germans in Pennsylvania and New York sponsored schools tied with their respective religious sects. This helped to preserve the German language in America, especially in cities such as Milwaukee and Saint Louis.

Native Americans also began their own institutions to preserve both their language and culture. The Cherokee nation created a 10-year preservation plan, with the aim of keeping their language and cultural values alive. Since beginning that ambitious goal, the nation has invested $3 million into its school systems, including language immersion programs that begin as early as the fifth grade. Everything is done within the Cherokee nation. The school system trains its own teachers, has developed its own curricula for teaching the language, and has devoted significant effort into creating a cultural resource for budding students.

While the national language of America is English, this tradition of non-English schools continues today. Japanese instruction occurs in New York, and Middle Eastern schools preserve those linguistic traditions in major cities all across America.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or LinkedIn page.