Do Black Students Also Need Prop. 227?

The latest sign of the stunning shift in conventional wisdom on the consequences of bilingual education unexpectedly comes from a leading black columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner William Raspberry of the Washington Post. On Monday, Raspberry provocatively speculated that the educational failure of black students may partly result from the de facto “bilingual education” inflicted on them in schools, where they are simultaneously exposed to a mixture of standard and non-standard English.

Repeatedly citing the dramatic academic improvements for Hispanic children since the 1998 dismantling of California’s bilingual education programs under Prop. 227, Raspberry wonders whether a similar measure aimed at blacks might not be desirable. When prominent liberal black columnists begin calling for a national version of Prop. 227 targeting blacks, the political tide has unmistakably turned.

Similarly, although the opponents of our recently launched Massachusetts campaign are eerily parroting the failed arguments of their 1998 California counterparts, the world and the facts have moved beyond them. How can replacing bilingual education with English immersion be so risky an experiment, given the rapid gains of 50% or 60% already notched by over one million immigrant students in California?

Furthermore, attempts by Massachusetts spokesmen for the bilingual education industry or its political protectors to raise their usual charges of racism or xenophobia are now treated with the complete derision which they deserve. For example, a recent column by the Boston Globe’s Alan Lupo, reportedly one of that liberal paper’s strongest left-progressive voices, chides our opponents for their inflamed rhetoric, surveys the issue with even-handed caution, and reasonably suggests that a series of public debates or forums might be the best venue for sorting out the facts. Given the weight of over one million California test scores, a fair debate for “English” is tantamount to a pending victory.

Finally, Monday’s edition of NPR’s Talk of the Nation carried an excellent hour-long debate on “English.” Since the transcript is far too long to include, I provide a link to the transcript: and also a link to the RealAudio Version:

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