Serious Accusations, Hard Data,
by Stephen Krashen
and Media Myopia
University of Southern California
Media reports on the bilingual education panel at the National Association
of Hispanic Journalists meeting in Phoenix (21 June 2001) missed some extremely
Panelists Ron Unz and Ruben Navarrette made extraordinary accusations.
Unz stated that the educational researchers who claim to provide evidence
supporting bilingual education are "making things up." We are, in other
words, being accused of lying and fabricating data. Navarrette, a columnist
for the Dallas Morning News, claimed that research with conclusions
favorable to bilingual education is "bought and paid for and brokered."
In other words, educational researchers, in his view, have sold out. These
accusations are serious, and they are unprecedented.
I attended this session. When the moderator opened the session to questions
and comments from the audience, I presented a list of research results.
These results showed that, contrary to claims made by critics of bilingual
I also provided evidence that Proposition 227 does not deserve credit for
the increase of test scores in California. Test scores improved for all
children, including those in bilingual programs and those who were never
in bilingual programs. Test scores typically go up when new tests are introduced,
and the new SAT9 was introduced at the same time 227 became law.
children in properly organized bilingual programs acquire English as least
as quickly as children in all-English programs – and usually acquire English
children in bilingual programs drop out less than comparison children in
children do not "languish" in bilingual programs for years; and
bilingual programs are not "all-Spanish," but provide a substantial amount
of English instruction from the very beginning.
I distributed a list of publications, largely from from professional
journals, supporting these claims, studies done by dozens of scholars
at many universities around the world. Their results are very consistent.
It is inconceivable that all of these respected scholars are "making things
up" and that they have all taken bribes.
What did the newspaper reports of the panel cover? Maria Peneda of the
Reporter ("Panelists clash over bilingual education")
devoted a substantial percentage of her report to a misunderstanding about
my participation on the panel, but did not discuss any of the real issues.
Daniel González, the organizer of the panel, devoted nearly his
entire report in the Arizona Republic to Ron Unz's statements about
politicians' reluctance to condemn bilingual education, and Unz's new campaign
to dismantle bilingual education in Colorado (note the title of his report:
"Bilingual-ed foe speaks out; Decries lack of federal
action"). Louis Aguilar of the Denver Post included a brief
mention of the panel in his column on Unz's new campaign in Colorado ("Unz
willing to pay for bilingual-ed fight"), quoting Unz's statement that
"bilingual education is a failure."
Peneda got one thing right. She noted that all four panelists "agreed
that the issue of bilingual education is complex and has not been thoroughly
covered by the media." Her article, and those of her colleagues, only contributed
to this lack of coverage.
Journalists may respond by saying that the panel was not a research
forum, but was a discussion of the media's coverage of bilingual education.
Two of the three reports, however, repeated Unz's unsubstantiated and incorrect
claims that bilingual education has
been a failure. One could also respond by saying that the reporters
dealt with panelists' statements, not with comments from the floor. But
panelists Mickey Ibarra of the National Education Association and Josué
González of Arizona State University clearly and distinctly stated
that bilingual education has been a success. None of the reporters noted
Another important feature of the panel not mentioned in the newspaper
reports was the fact that only about 20 journalists showed up to attend
the session. The conference was attended by about 1000 Hispanic journalists
from all over the United States, and there were only a few other sessions
going on at the same time.