English in Boston!

Earlier this week, the national campaign for “English” finally reached our East Coast, as an initiative drive was launched in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The road to Tuesday morning’s press conference on the steps of the Boston State House was not an easy one. During the preceding days and months, the chairman of the Massachusetts campaign, Lincoln Jesus Tamayo, a high school principal who entered school in America speaking only Spanish, had been subjected to enormous and very harsh personal pressure aimed at preventing his participation.

But he knew full well that without his willingness to assume leadership, the entire effort might become impossible; and at the figurative five minutes to midnight, he elected to follow his personal namesake and take the path of duty and courage, placing the education of his own students and tens of thousands of others above all other considerations. His signature became the first on the official petition to completely eliminate and replace the 1971 law mandating native-language instruction with an equally strong mandate for English immersion.

The national importance of this new drive for “English” extends well beyond the Bay State’s sizable population, nearly twice that of either Arizona or Colorado. Massachusetts dominates all New England, and the impact of this campaign will reverberate in both Rhode Island and Connecticut, states recently wracked by much similar bilingual controversy but lacking the initiative process needed to ultimately resolve it. Even more importantly, Massachusetts is among the most liberal Democratic states in America, with a strong immigrant tradition, and if “English” sweeps to victory there—as early polls indicate is likely– -similar measures would win anywhere and everywhere else. Since Massachusetts was the first state in America to establish a bilingual education mandate, and served as the model for many others, victory there would also have huge symbolic significance.

Even the most ardent opponents of our MA effort admit that the 30-year-old status quo in their state is an absolutely indefensible failure. Yet numerous attempts over decades by several governors and uncounted legislators at reforming or modifying that failure have left it absolutely unscratched. Now this whole massive system is likely to vanish without a trace within just fifteen months. A television journalist has already suggested that such an outcome would be a political earthquake akin to the political fall of a Kennedy.

Then, too, Boston is one of our nation’s greatest centers of intellectual and media influence, home of Harvard, MIT, and numerous other great colleges and universities, with its local PBS affiliate WGBH-TV serving as the primary anchor of that important television network. Fifteen months of intense campaigning on bilingual education is likely to focus a greater and more sustained national media spotlight on the topic than has been present since the original California vote of June 1998. And our existing system of Spanish-almost- only “bilingual education” is an issue with a unique dynamic: to know it or to investigate it almost always means to oppose it.

I attach below copies of our press release below, as well as the resulting articles and editorials from the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, all generally accurate, though at times dense with extraneous details.

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