English: Hope in Denver, Despair in New York, Classes in Florida

I just returned from five days spent in Denver, Boston, and New York City, sites of likely “English for the Children” campaigns during the next year.

My meetings in Denver went particularly well, with conditions clearly ripe for a November 2002 ballot initiative closely modeled after the California and Arizona measures. During the visit, I met with the editorial and news staff of the Denver Post, resulting in an even-handed article on my plans, which appeared on the following day’s front page, and is attached below; a smaller item appeared in today’s New York Times. I strongly suspect that tens of thousands of immigrant students in Colorado will be following their California and Arizona cousins into English immersion classes in the near future.

By contrast, the main local education story during my visit to New York was the failure of Chancellor Harold Levy’s effort to privatize several unsuccessful local schools by turning them over to the for-profit Edison Corporation. Although just a minority of parents apparently favored the privatization referendum, an interesting column in the New York Post, attached below, suggests that many of those who did were Hispanic parents motivated by anger at New York’s disastrous system of mandatory Spanish-only instruction, in which many American-born Hispanic children are taught virtually no English. If so, then NYC’s political leaders may be fighting the wrong battle: pushing public schools down the complex and controversial path of privatization seems a convoluted means of achieving to the end of having schools teach English.

Finally, an interesting attached article from the Orlando Sentinel underscores the almost complete absence of bilingual education programs in Florida, America’s most bilingual large state and home of its most politically powerful Hispanic establishment. Although Spanish is almost an unofficial second language in much of South Florida, and Miami was the birthplace of America’s earliest bilingual education programs, nearly all of Florida’s huge population of immigrant students are today taught in English immersion classes.

This apparent paradox is easily explained. Bilingual programs have never worked anywhere, and Florida’s powerful Hispanic establishment has the determination and clout to easily crush any such misguided attempt to prevent Hispanic children from learning English in public schools. Thus, throughout America, strong bilingual ed programs are a clear sign of a politically weak Hispanic leadership.

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