During the past few weeks, the stunning attempt by the California State Board of Education to nullify Proposition 227—an effort from which they now appear to be back-tracking under growing media and political scrutiny—has fully occupied America’s very limited national quota of public mindshare on “English.” Under these circumstances, other developments of considerable importance have received less than appropriate visibility.
For example, New York City’s newly elected liberal Republican Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, whose upset victory largely depended on his remarkably strong one-half of New York’s overwhelmingly Democratic Latino voters, recently made public statements strongly critical of existing bilingual education programs, and hinted at their possible demise. An article from the New York Post is attached below.
Elsewhere, our ongoing effort to place an “English for the Children” initiative on the November ballot in Colorado continues to move forward, with local media outlets now reporting very favorable polling numbers for the proposed ballot measure.
Statewide polls by third-parties reported support running at 68% in one and 70% in the other, numbers identical to within the margin of error. Although these huge apparent leads of between 40 and 50 percentage points will surely shrink during the course of an actual campaign, they indicate that Colorado voters are likely to follow those in California and Arizona in dismantling Spanish-only instruction.
In addition, the influential Denver Post last week unveiled a massive collection of articles on bilingual education and our pending initiative, devoting some 6500 words in six separate pieces to the subject. The series was introduced with back-to-back front page stories by prominent local education reporter Eric Hubler, and was aggressively if perhaps reasonably entitled “The Last Word on Bilingual Education.” Several of the articles are attached below.
Most of the reportage was extremely even-handed and quite probing. In particular, Hubler obtained a devastating statement from Pam Martinez, one of Denver’s most prominent pro-bilingual education activists, admitting that the existing bilingual programs were so egregiously bad that they probably constituted unconstitutional racial discrimination against Latino children. With friends like this, Colorado’s bilingual education programs hardly need any opponents.
Martinez’s statements are not surprising. Over the past five years, from the very earliest days of my detailed investigation of the subject, I have always been surprised to encounter very, very few prominent bilingual advocates who will actually defend existing programs. Many—including among them some of America’s most prominent bilingual education supporters—have been privately or even publicly as scathing toward the programs as Ms. Martinez, fully admitting that millions of Latino students had had their educations and lives ruined by dreadful bilingual programs.
However, while so many of these bilingual advocates are perfectly willing to condemn bilingual education programs in reality, nearly all continue to defend those programs in theory, believing—despite all apparent evidence to the contrary—that more money or different methodologies will suddenly allow these programs to flourish after thirty years of almost completely unbroken failure.
Being from a scientific background myself, I must sadly judge that such a position derives more from stubborn dogma than from objective analysis. And dogma—especially educational dogma—certainly dies hard.
Unfortunately, my statements on that score, including those in which I recounted my numerous conversations with leading bilingual advocates, were seriously misunderstood by Hubler. He (quite naturally) assumed that if I were claiming that these individuals condemned the dreadful failure of bilingual programs, I was also implying that they privately supported my efforts to dismantle those programs. As a consequence, one of Hubler’s articles focused on these apparently false claims on my part. Fortunately, the Denver Post graciously agreed to publish a letter of mine clarifying Hubler’s confusion on that important matter. Hubler’s troubling article and my letter, which ran this morning, are provided below.
The world of bilingual education is surely among the more Alice-in-Wonderland hidden corners of our society, a place where top bilingual advocates can denounce those programs as doing monstrously unconstitutional harm to the education of Latino children—and yet still continue to defend those programs to the last ounce of their strength.
Given such a bizarre world, even normally careful journalists can easily fall into significant error.
- Read Mike’s Lips: Kids Should Learn English
NY Post, Monday, February 4, 2002
- Foes, backers speak different languages
Denver Post, Sunday, February 10, 2002
- Foes cite ineffective schools, ethnic friction
Denver Post, Sunday, February 10, 2002
- Cited ‘backers’ dispute claims
Denver Post, Monday, February 11, 2002
- Story mischaracterized bilingual remarks
Denver Post (Letters), Friday, February 22, 2002