How Massachusetts Liberals See “English”

At times during this past half-year of our Massachusetts “English” campaign, friends have asked me what support we were receiving from the local conservative movement in that state. My response has been that he happened to be out of town during my last few trips there, so I hadn’t yet met him.

Joking aside, by many measures Massachusetts is the most liberal state in our union, with every member of the Congressional delegation, nearly every statewide official holder, and overwhelming majorities of the Legislature being Democrats. And although Republicans have recently held the governorship, the Massachusetts members of that party are hardly those of the Newt Gingrich inclination. For example, the most nationally prominent of those Republican governors, William Weld, was blocked by the Senate Republicans from receiving an ambassadorship on the grounds that he was too liberal to properly represent the views of the Clinton Administration.

With only slight exaggeration, a conservative Republican in Massachusetts is one who supports gay marriage and government-funded partial-birth abortions—but refuses to make these doctrines the absolute centerpiece of his ideology.


Therefore, the analysis and media coverage that will largely determine the success or failure of our Massachusetts campaign is that of the local liberal-leaning media, and as more and more thoughtful analysis pieces from that media have begun to appear, the verdict on our effort seems to be growing more and more favorable.

From the beginning, we have found absolutely nothing to fault in many months of scrupulously even-handed coverage in the Boston Globe, New England’s dominant paper and a powerful voice for liberalism on the national scale. But day-to-day stories of 800 or 1200 words written by so-called “deadline reporters” must necessary aim mostly at recounting immediate events in a “he said, she said” format, avoiding as much spin or judgment as is reasonably possible.

By contrast, journalists producing long, sustained works of investigative reporting are granted weeks of time and thousands of words of space in order to provide a more thorough analysis of an issue; they are also frequently provided a much longer editorial leash to allow their informed opinions to surface. Massachusetts is one of America’s leading centers of such thoughtful journalism, and our campaign has now reached the critical visibility to attract such coverage.

Two weeks ago, CommonWealth Magazine, the flagship political quarterly of New England’s most prominent liberal think-tank, MassInc, published a long and in-depth article on the nature of existing bilingual programs and our initiative in particular, which I attach below.

Although the piece does its best to retain the scrupulous objectivity and even-handedness for which MassInc is widely renowned, some sentiments do peak through. For example, the descriptive subtitle of the piece raises the question “Will the fight brewing over bilingual education be the salvation of Spanish-speaking students?;” and the concluding paragraph seems to provide an answer, suggesting that replacing bilingual education with English immersion may just represent the first step in improving the education of Massachusetts’ many Latino students. We heartily endorse these implied judgments.

If the verdict of the moderately liberal MassInc journalist seems cautious but favorable, the cover story in this week’s Valley Advocate, the dominant progressive/alternative weekly of all western Massachusetts, a publication whose politics is apparently in the general vicinity of the Village Voice or the Nation, is absolutely scathing toward the defenders of the bilingual status quo. As is well-known, alternative weeklies are much freer in their words toward arrogant entrenched authority than are cautious think-tanks, and the article attached below is a perfect example of this. Educational authorities that appear to be desperately reduced to mere name-calling in defending a system that has clearly destroyed the lives of many tens of thousands of immigrant children over decades are seldom treated kindly by such publications.

Thus our Massachusetts campaign continues to follow the pattern laid down by our original California effort. Our opponents are increasingly seen as simply defending the indefensible, and while they may yet retain the enforced allegiance of the Commonwealth’s timorous political establishment, it is increasingly obvious that we have the people— and their journalistic tribunes—on our side.

And as for the Republicans? Well, true to the form of someone representing a party teetering on the edge of extinction, this last week the Republican candidate for Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, declared his firm opposition to “English for the Children.”

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