Los Angeles Times

Sunday, January 25, 1998

Bilingual Education

Imagine, if you will, an AIDS vaccine is put on the market. However, only 20% to 30% of all those infected have access to this vaccine, and 95% of all persons with AIDS are not being cured.
     Given these numbers, does it make sense to eliminate the use of this AIDS vaccine because 95% of those with AIDS are not cured? Of course not; clearly the failure rate would be primarily attributable to the lack of access to the vaccine, not to the efficacy of the vaccine.
     Well, this is exactly what proponents of the Unz initiative would have us believe. It is well documented that only 20% to 30% of all limited-English-proficient students are enrolled in a bilingual education program. They claim that only 5% of all limited-English-proficient students are reclassified each year, therefore we need to eliminate bilingual education.
     Assuming that these reclassification figures truly reflect success / failure, it does not make sense to eliminate bilingual education. In fact, these numbers indicate the need to improve access to bilingual education.
     Moreover, there is not one language acquisition expert who supports the proposition that a person can become fully literate in a second language in one year. It is one thing to learn "playground English"; it is another thing to be fully literate in English.
     Linguistic and education experts all agree that language acquisition takes at least five years. The goal of bilingual education is to enable children to learn English, math, science, etc. The Unz initiative will not only inhibit the learning of English, but math, science and other subjects as well.
     The Unz initiative is a one-size-fits-all approach that will eliminate any and all local control of English language instruction. That is, every school district will be compelled to implement this obviously flawed approach--no exceptions.
     Director, Community Development,
     El Concilio del Condado de Ventura