Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, April 15, 1998
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Riordan on 227
Mayor Richard Riordan has just lost my support ("Riordan Backs
Move to End Bilingual Classes," April 10). Obviously he has not done
his homework on Prop. 227, nor on the facts facing the L.A. school district.
Students whose primary language is not English represent 60% of L.A. students,
80% in kindergarten through third grade. True, there are shortcomings in
public education, but bilingual education is part of the cure, not part
of the disease.
The last 20 years I've taught students whose
primary language is not English. Many of my students have gone on to college
and successful careers. I voted for the mayor last time, but his ill-advised
pro-227 stance puts him in the extremist English-only, anti-immigrant camp.
In this town that primarily translates to anti-Latino.
* Riordan made some good observations but came to the wrong conclusion
on the Unz initiative.
He is correct when he says there are many
bilingual failures. He is equally correct when he says that under "laboratory"
conditions, bilingual education succeeds. This is because under the right
circumstances bilingual education is a powerful tool to teach students
English while allowing them to develop in other subjects as well. When
it is misapplied, however, it is a disaster. The same is true with most
other educational models.
Passing an initiative that mandates what
many responsible educators on both sides think to be a flawed model is
no solution. Instead, we need to move more in the direction that the State
Board of Education did (April 9)--allowing each district to assess the
needs of its own students and select from the many methodologies available.
* The April 12 political cartoon by Michael Ramirez on bilingual education
prompted me to think about my experiences as a child beginning my education.
I am a 56-year-old, highly educated American who happens to be of Mexican
descent. When I was laid off in the 1990s from the aerospace industry,
I chose education for a new career.
I straddled the bilingual issue until I saw
the faces of my non- or nearly non-English-speaking children when I conducted
the compulsory English portion of the school day. Prior to that, they would
have been perceived as obviously bright and inquisitive by anyone entering
the room. The blank faces and stares during the English teaching used to
be labeled "dumb Mexicans." Need I say more?