“English” Returns to Boston

This past week, as the first tender shoots of pre-Spring foliage began probing the end of New England’s winter, important public issues began simultaneously testing the end of the “media winter” inflicted by the all-engrossing consequences of the attacks of September 11th. And of these reborn issues, our current initiative campaign to dismantle bilingual education in its oldest statewide bastion of Democratic Massachusetts appears among the most visible.

Almost exactly six months to the day after those 9/11 attacks, the Tuesday edition of the influential Boston Globe carried a long front-page story highlighting the troubling nature of existing bilingual programs, and setting the stage for the following day’s legislative hearings, focused on our initiative, three competing legislative proposals, and the general subject of bilingual programs.

On Wednesday, the hundreds of elected officials, fervent political activists, and bused-in schoolchildren who attended those long hours of public hearings could draw varied ammunition from that morning’s Globe, carrying a total of four separate articles, editorials and opinion pieces on bilingual programs, coverage that completely dominated that day’s op-ed page. The Globe editorial in particular emphasized the dreadful failure of the existing statewide system, and noted some encouraging indicators of success in English immersion programs, such as those used in Catholic schools with heavy immigrant enrollments; the editorial also condemned the state legislature for having largely ignored the existing problems for decades.

The highly contentious hearings themselves were covered extensively in the Thursday papers, with articles in the Globe, the more conservative Boston Herald, and all the other major Massachusetts newspapers and media outlets. Then, this morning, the Herald ran yet another editorial seconding the powerful legislative testimony of John Silber, former Chairman of the State Board of Education, that the “utter failure” of existing bilingual education programs could only be rectified through their complete replacement by the English immersion programs that have proven so successful in California, probably by means of the proposed initiative.

If this early coverage is any indication, both the policy and the politics of “English” look set to receive a very thorough and complete review over the next eight months by the media and the public in one of America’s most staunchly liberal Democratic states and the national center of our country’s academic world. Thus, the broader implications of this Massachusetts initiative campaign should be readily apparent to Congress and the rest of America.

I attach below a small selection of the dozen or more major Massachusetts articles, editorials, and columns that appeared over the last few days.


P.S. Meanwhile, on the California home-front, the bizarre proposed actions of the California State Board of Education to weaken Prop. 227 have now apparently provoked sufficient public and media outcry that the Board is continuing their rapid and pronounced retreat back to legality. These very heartening California developments will be discussed at greater length in a subsequent column.

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