Charging the Machine Guns Against English

In politics, the surest road to victory lies not with the strength or brilliance of one’s own forces, but with the fatal flaws of one’s opponents. History is littered with weak, ineffective candidates or campaigns that achieved landslide victories over opponents who were even weaker or less effective.

Thus, in the ongoing national battle over “English,” the fanaticism and predictability of America’s supporters of bilingual education has led them to defeat after defeat, while their ideological blindness prevents them from even recognizing the nature of those defeats. They become laughingstocks without self-awareness.

During the 1998 campaign for Prop. 227, the measure was opposed by nearly all prominent Democrats and Republicans, as well as by the state’s leading newspapers. But over two years of almost universally favorable news reports together with huge rises in immigrant test scores have shifted the ground. Although almost no opponents of Prop. 227 have admitted their error, their actions speak louder than their words.

For example, last year Gov. Gray Davis appointed Nancy Ichinaga of Inglewood, a leading opponent of bilingual education, to the State Board of Education. Against intense pressure, Ms. Ichinaga had moved her school to English immersion years before Prop. 227, and partly as a consequence, had produced among the highest test scores for Hispanic immigrant students in California.

Now the members of the slowly-shrinking California Association of Bilingual Educators (CABE) have mounted a major lobbying campaign to prevent Ms. Ichinaga’s confirmation on the grounds that her hostility to bilingual education prevents her from properly representing the “interests of immigrant children.”

The absurd nature of this charge has led the Sacramento Bee to strongly defend Ms. Ichinaga in the editorial below, lauding her success in blazing a trail for Prop. 227 and describing the actions of CABE as “bizarre” and “outrageous.” This is a welcome change for the Bee, which had previously run some FOURTEEN editorials and original opinion pieces attacking Prop. 227, without ever a single one in support or apology.

Furthermore, a column in the San Francisco Chronicle quoted State Sen. John Burton, the completely unreconstructed left-liberal leader of the California legislature, as announcing his support for Ichinaga in the pungent language for which he is notorious.

The die-hard California supporters of bilingual education have done their best to transform the approaching vote on Ichinaga into a proxy referendum on Proposition 227. I suspect that they may soon regret picking this particular battlefield.

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