Texas vs. America on Bilingual Education

Five days ago, the Great Gray Lady of New York knocked a huge front-page hole in the Berlin Wall of timorous silence long surrounding the education of millions of immigrant schoolchildren in America. And long-suppressed thoughts and words have come flooding through.

Not only did the lengthy 1750 word Times story run in dozens of newspapers around the country, often in its near entirety, but the last five days have seen at least thirty editorials and columns in major papers discussing the remarkable California results, with more appearing almost hourly in Nexis-Lexis and other databases.

Our national system of Spanish-only so-called “bilingual education” has thus probably received more journalistic scrutiny during this past week than in any previous week during the thirty years of its misbegotten existence.

As might only be expected, the vast majority of the editorial comment has approved of California’s new educational policy; a huge and expectedly rapid rise in the test scores of over a million immigrant children overcomes many doubts.

One notable exception comes from Texas, where the Austin-American Statesman, the newspaper of the Texas state capitol, suggests in the editorial attached below that Texas’s widespread system of bilingual education, mandated by state law, produces superior results.

As an example, the editorial proudly notes that of the Texas students who begin kindergarten not knowing English, “more than half” have learned enough English by the end of third grade to be tested in that language, and only a quarter of these fail those basic tests. The state’s director of bilingual instruction also claims that it is “rare” for Texas students to spend more than five or ten years in school without learning English. The huge Houston school district even requires that bilingual classes provide at least 1 1/2 hours of English each day.

Given the unintended facts revealed by these statements, it is hardly surprising that nearly a third of all Texas schoolchildren—some 556,000— currently don’t know English, perhaps the highest fraction in any state in the nation. And these striking hints may also explain the otherwise remarkable reticence of Gov. George W. Bush on the emerging national issue of whether children should be taught English in school.

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