New York City vs. English

Although near-warfare in the Middle East, the final stages of the tightest Presidential race in forty years, and the likelihood of a “subway” World Series between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets have obviously dominated the front-pages of New York’s papers, the growing controversy over the City’s huge and failure-ridden bilingual education program appears to be holding its own against all other breaking events.

On Tuesday, the front page of the Metro Section of the Times carried a second John Tierney column focusing on the successful model of English immersion used in New York’s Catholic schools, along with a separate news article outlining the bilingual education hearings scheduled for that morning, which would explore replacing or reducing those deeply entrenched programs. That same day, the New York Post described an interview with Herman Badillo, the “Grand Old Man” of New York Hispanic politics and author of the Congressional Legislation establishing bilingual education, but who now denounces those programs—especially in New York—as a sham and a fraud and a failure.

The hearings themselves, which I attended yesterday as a speaker, were quite instructive. Nearly all the politicians and political activists, including those expected to be critical, either praised or defended “bilingual education,” and generally urged more support and funding, either because the programs worked so well or because they worked so badly and needed more help. By contrast, a long succession of immigrant parents, members of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, a left-leaning community activist organization, denounced bilingual programs, mostly through a Spanish- English translator, for refusing to either teach their children any English or allow them to leave the program.

Metro IAF leaders said the group had been fighting NYC’s bilingual education establishment on behalf of its immigrant members for over eleven years, with virtually no support or assistance from New York politicians during that period, and hence not a shred of real success.

Although later Tuesday morning, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told a reporter that he personally favored limiting bilingual education to no more than two years—rather than the three or five or seven which is common today—he has no legal authority over the matter. Over the next few weeks, we’ll see whether the members of the NYC Board of Education and the other powers that be decide to listen to the quiet, desperate Spanish of the immigrant parents or the loud shouted English of the bilingual industry advocates.

This entry was posted in Bilingual Education, UnzColumn and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.