Now that the last embers of Fourth of July fireworks have died down, America has entered the summer vacation months, often described by journalists as the Silly Season. As might be expected, few things better typify this description than the activities of our nation’s desperate defenders of Spanish-almost-only instruction.
In Colorado, diehard advocates of that state’s bilingual education system long ago correctly realized that their best—perhaps their only— realistic chance of saving their failed programs from annihilation was to prevent voters from exercising their democratic rights at the ballot box, a task made easier by that state’s notoriously convoluted petition approval laws. To that end, bilingual activists filed an enormously long and exhaustive list of what I would regard as completely frivolous legal challenges to the ballot title and summary of our English for the Children initiative prepared by Colorado’s official State Title Board. These legal challenges, and the endless appeals and revised appeals they provoked consumed close to a full year of calendar time, during which we were legally precluded from beginning our qualifying petition drive. Finally, just a few weeks ago, Colorado’s State Supreme Court, whose members were almost entirely appointed by past liberal Democratic governors, issued its final and unanimous decision in our favor, allowing our signature-gathering for the November ballot to begin.
So far, so good. But this full year of legal wrangling reduced our permitted period for obtaining the 120,000 or so required signatures from the six months allowed under the Colorado constitution to little more than six weeks if we are to make our early August cut-off date. Obviously, gathering six months worth of signatures in just six weeks represents an enormously difficult test to meet, but the remarkable enthusiasm that our issue appears to have generated leaves me cautiously optimistic that we will ultimately succeed.
Certainly, our opponents appear to be growing quite desperate. At their Denver press conference held yesterday, they apparently became quite agitated in their language, characterizing yours truly as “an overzealous ignoramus” for opposing bilingual education, as well as reportedly throwing around even more wild charges of “racism” and claims that I was a “meddlesome foreigner,” presumably because my permanent abode is in the Sovereign Nation of Palo Alto, California. Considering that five separate statewide polls by major media organizations during the last year have shown our measure enjoying a lead of around 45 percentage points among Colorado voters, such desperation is quite warranted. I am attaching a news story on these Colorado developments.
Meanwhile, our equally desperate opponents in Massachusetts have taken a completely different tack. There, our signature drive concluded weeks ago, and we have already been officially notified that our measure will appear on the November ballot.
This state of affairs has become a matter of enormous embarrassment to the Massachusetts Legislature, which has for the past sixteen years annually debated various proposed bilingual education reform bills without ever actually passing a single one. In 1971, Massachusetts became the first state in America to establish a statewide requirement for bilingual education, and although that extraordinarily harsh system of mandatory native-language instruction has been the subject of endless negative media coverage and condemnatory editorials, not a single word of that law has been changed in the past 31 years.
Faced with the very real and humiliating prospect of the voters doing within a few weeks what elected officials had avoided for 31 years, the Massachusetts House yesterday passed by an overwhelming margin a package of alleged reforms, which actually do almost nothing aside from providing politicians with the excuse that they have indeed done something.
One of the few significant elements of the proposed Massachusetts reform is that it would for the first time require that bilingual teachers actually know English. Presumably in another 31 years, the Massachusetts Legislature might pass an additional measure requiring them to teach English as well.
- Groups blast bilingual education proposal
Denver Rocky Mountain News, Wednesday, July 10, 2002
- House votes to revamp bilingual ed
Boston Globe, Wednesday, July 10, 2002
- House approves changes to bilingual education
Associated Press, Tuesday, July 9, 2002
- House OKs bilingual education reform bill
Boston Herald, Wednesday, July 10, 2002
- More of the same, Editorial
Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Monday, July 8, 2002