A National Problem and a Colorado Solution?

This Monday, we watched as the Colorado Secretary of State accepted our petitions containing the signatures of some 140,000 registered voters in support of our initiative to replace bilingual education with English programs. With just 80,000 valid signatures being necessary, our measure is now virtually assured of a place on the November ballot.

Auspiciously enough, that very morning’s edition of the local Denver Rocky Mountain News carried an article by the paper’s enterprising education reporter revealing that Colorado’s statewide academic tests showed a fascinating though hardly surprising pattern: limited-English students who were not enrolled in bilingual education programs outscored those who were so enrolled in every grade and every subject area. I attach the article below.

This devastating fact merely confirms the pattern previously established with California’s own statewide academic tests and language-acquisition measures, involving millions of students and years of data, which show that limited-English students in English-oriented programs outscore their bilingual education peers by up to a factor of three. Taken together, all these reports raise an obvious question: if all real-life evidence shows that bilingual education is harmful, why defend it? The voters of Colorado and Massachusetts will be providing an answer—probably the right one—to this important question in less than three months.

And if Colorado may soon provide a solution to the education of immigrant students, that same morning, the front-page of the august New York Times carried a story showing the importance of the corresponding problem. According to the Times article, the number of limited-English students in American schools has actually doubled in the last decade, having reached a total of five million. Furthermore, the geographical dispersion of these students has increased enormously, with Latino immigrants in considerable numbers now showing up in Wisconsin and North Carolina schools as well as those in Texas and California.

Unfortunately, while the Times effectively described this growing problem, it fell considerably short in its prescriptive analysis, perhaps because of an almost complete reliance upon tainted sources such as bilingual education theorists and other bilingual education advocates. In the wake of the Times’s previous extensive coverage of the success of California’s dismantlement of bilingual education, these bilingualist sources—wisely—did not directly preach their failed dogma. Instead, their bias was more subtle.

For example, Harvard Education Prof. Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, a notorious defender of bilingual education, argued that America has a desperate need to quickly train an additional 290,000 specially- certified teachers to accommodate the needs of these millions of limited-English students, and was strongly seconded by quotes from the head of the National Association for Bilingual Education. Since the teacher training programs discussed universally espouse bilingual dogma, the resulting curricular impact would be inevitable. But who can deny that teachers require specialized training in order to instruct students who don’t know English, namely who are limited-English?

Unfortunately, in the topsy-turvy world created by our Schools of Education, up is down and down is up. Hard as it might seem for any rational person to imagine, being a “limited-English” student and not knowing English have absolutely nothing to do with one other. The remarkable truth is that perhaps all of the five million limited-English students cited in the article speak English as their first and only language. Or perhaps not. No one knows.

Throughout the U.S., the criterion for being classified as “limited-English” typically involves two components. First, someone living at home with the child must speak a language other than English- –an elderly grandmother who speaks Norwegian will do just fine. Second, the child must test somewhat below the national average on academic tests given in English, with the cut-off usually being around the 35th or the 40th percentile.

Now a rather obvious problem with this definition is that 40 percent of ALL students score below the 40th percentile, whether they were born in rural Mexico or rural Idaho. Thus, it should hardly astonish us that a vast number of students raised in immigrant families—at least about 40%—fall into this limited-English category, whether or not they themselves speak English as their first and only language.

Here we once again come directly to grips with further sad evidence of the intellectual capabilities of our numerous credentialed professors of education, who developed and have repeatedly defended this methodological absurdity for decades, surely putting to shame the dimmest 20th century apologists for the productive wonders of collectivized Soviet agriculture. Put another way, it is obvious that most of the faculty of our Schools of Education find the behavior of simple percentages a subtle and mind-challenging mathematical mystery, one whose intricacies require years of focused concentration. One fears that very few American professors of education can easily answer the following question: “About what percentage of American students will score below the 40th percentile on a nationally-normed exam?”

This remarkable facility to claim that up is down, and the corresponding willingness of many educational reporters to accept these statements without challenge at face value, is indicated in another article that appeared on this same day in the Denver Post, which I also provide below.

After devoting nearly a full year to blood-curdling rhetoric about the monstrous educational harm that our proposed “English” initiative would inflict upon Colorado’s enrolled immigrant, students, two local professors of bilingual education suddenly switched gears and claimed in a new study that since bilingual education scarcely exists within Colorado schools, our initiative served no purpose.

Presumably, their clever strategy—-borrowed from the notorious head-hiding strategy of the ostrich– -was intended to persuade us to abandon our campaign in confusion and burn our petitions on the day we were scheduled to submit them.

But a more cynical (or energetic) reporter might have asked these acclaimed academics and determined political activists why, if bilingual education programs were indeed so largely a figment of the imagination in Colorado, they had chosen to devote so much of their time and energy to protecting these mythical entities, rather than engage in more practical pursuits, such as preserving the endangered habitants of unicorns or perhaps counting the stars in the sky? Sadly, the reporter merely transcribed their arguments, apparently making no effort to question them.

Finally, I should note that after 31 years of legal stasis and 17 years of furious if non-productive legislative hearings, the speedy lawmakers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have now passed and the unelected Governor signed new legislation requiring for the first time that “bilingual” teachers in Massachusetts actually be able to speak the English language.

This shockingly insensitive change to America’s oldest statewide bilingual education mandate provoked furious opposition from the more committed elements of the local bilingual education industry, who were only partially mollified by the universal explanation that this serious encroachment on sound bilingual principles was solely motivated by the need to deflate and defeat our own ballot initiative, scheduled for a vote in just twelve weeks.

Presumably, if our Massachusetts measure is defeated in November, the legislature can quickly undo these onerous requirements and restore the bilingual status quo ante.


P.S. Several months ago, I published a quite controversial piece on a completely unrelated matter, suggesting that the Sharonist government of Israel for its own extreme ideological reasons had chosen to avoid building any security fence along the Israeli-Palestinian border.

Numerous individuals soon criticized me, claiming that the Sharonists had finally agreed to quickly build such a fence, albeit under the popular pressure of 80% of Israeli voters according to media polls. Yet Tuesday’s New York Times revealed that after three months of such effort—and hundreds of additional dead and wounded from suicide-bombings—the Sharon Government had completed just the first 120 feet of fencing along their 225 mile border. At this rate, simple multiplication indicates that the entire fence should be finished in about 2,500 years.

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