Bilingual Ignorance

Bilingual Ignorance, by Ron Unz
Orange County Register (Letters), Sunday, June 16, 2002

I must take issue with the ignorant and rather insulting tone of Yvette Cabrera’s column on the subject of bilingualism.

Ms. Cabrera wrongly characterizes me as an “English-only” advocate, implying that I somehow fear the use of other languages. Instead, I’d told her during our long conversation that although knowing more languages is better than knowing fewer, English is obviously far and away the most important language today, not merely in America but worldwide.

I also pointed out that since California’s public schools have so much trouble teaching students to read and write properly in even one language, it’s complete foolishness to have them simultaneously teach two—or perhaps five. California’s failed experiment in bilingual education bears this out. It’s hardly surprising national surveys have shown that—unlike Ms. Cabrera—nearly 80% of Latino immigrants support an all-English education for their children.

Ms. Cabrera is also wrong when she claims we are becoming a “bilingual” society. By most measures, Latino immigrants are learning English and abandoning Spanish about as quickly as did earlier waves of immigrants from Italy, Poland, and Greece. This pattern has been extensively discussed by Gregory Rodriguez in the New York Times and elsewhere and has also been the subtext of several books by Richard Rodriguez (no relation). Perhaps Ms. Cabrera missed these writings by two of America’s most highly-regarded Latino journalists and literary intellectuals. After all, they write in English.<P>

I think Ms. Cabrera should have spent more of her time in college learning the basics of good journalism and less indulging in ethnic activism.


Ron Unz, Chairman
English for the Children
Author, Proposition 227

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