I’m sending a lengthy and excellent piece in today’s New York Times Sunday Magazine.
To my mind, the untold story of the bilingual education debate is not the bilingual education doesn’t work—every single serious journalist who has spent substantial time or effort investigating the issue has reached this universal conclusion and the recent reports of rapid English immersion success in California’s post-227 schools indicates the same.
No, the missing story is why the politicians of both parties are STILL completely unwilling to take any steps to end an extraordinarily unpopular program which has never worked anywhere in America on a large scale in thirty years of effort.
For example, the New York Times story below focuses on the disastrous nature of NYC’s bilingual system from an educational perspective.
Now couple these facts with the political implications of the October 1998
Zogby International poll of 1411 likely New York voters, which found support for ending bilingual education at 79%-14% (!!). There is virtually no public policy issue which attracts such enormous support across all political, ethnic, and ideological lines: Dems (72-20), Reps (87-8), Jews (75-18), Latinos (62-33), blacks (77-16). A November/December Zogby poll of 1949 likely voters nationwide found almost identical numbers: 77%-19%, with even self-described “very liberal” voters backing the proposal by 67%-25%.
Any serious student of our political system quickly concludes that politicians will almost never do what they believe is right but politically unpopular. However, it astonishes me that America’s politicians are absolutely unwilling to do what is clearly right and overwhelmingly, enormously popular. Politicians are a very strange human sub-species.
- The Bilingual Barrier
New York Times Sunday Magazine, Sunday, January 31, 1999