Los Angeles Times
Sunday, April 26, 1998
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Bilingual Education Controversy
Were there really "benefits in English immersion" as reported
We are told only that "almost a quarter"
of the limited English proficient children in Orange improved their oral
fluency by "at least one level" after five months.
What happened to the other three-quarters?
What does one level mean? On most measures of oral fluency, there are five
levels, and level 4 is considered good enough to function in English in
a mainstream class.
If this kind of measure was used, it means
that these children made very little progress, and would be nowhere near
ready for the mainstream after one year, the limit imposed by Proposition
Professor of Education
As the English department chair at Orangeview
Junior High School in Anaheim, I am extremely concerned about the disastrous
implications of Proposition 227, the "English only" initiative.
While all the attention is on how to teach
immigrant children English, no one is talking about what will happen to
our mainstream academic classes and "regular" students if this
initiative takes effect.
Placing limited English proficient children
into regular classes after only one year of sheltered English support might
sound like a good idea, but what about our mainstream kids?
What will happen to the quality of their
education when one-third to one-half of their peers are not fluent in English?
Rather than leave the LEP students behind, most teachers, who by their
nature are generally altruistic and caring, will alter their curriculum
and slow down the rate of instruction.
With mainstream teachers already facing daunting
challenges of large classes, integration of emotionally and physically
challenged students, influences of gangs and drugs, and low parental support,
dealing with a large influx of limited English-speaking students will only
exacerbate the problem.
It will result in further "dumbing down"
of the core curriculum for mainstream American children.
Proposition 227 is yet another attempt at
a rigid, statewide mandate that does not address the needs of mainstream
and LEP children caught in the cross-fire between liberals and conservatives.
Re "A Bilingual Bill at Last,"
editorial, April 22: The bilingual debate is the same as the phonics debate,
all or nothing. Real teachers know that the middle ground is the only thing
that works for the vast majority of students.
Fountain Valley has been using specially
designed academic instruction in English with native language aides for
years. This method has been far more successful than any of the districts
cited in your editorial. In fact, leaders from Fountain Valley (Project
GLAD) have been awarded the academic excellence rating at the national
level every year since 1991. They deserved the award!
LARRY SEVERSON, Fountain Valley
Victoria Lee-Jerrems and Ellen Wu (Opinion,
April 19) spelled out very clearly why we must vote against Prop. 227.
Being bilingual has tremendous advantages in today's global economy. For
that reason I chose to place my two sons in bilingual programs. They will
not be part of another generation of "tongue-tied" Americans.
Could it be that Ron Unz and his supporters
fear that Latino Americans and Asian Pacific American students will have
a linguistic and economic advantage over those students who choose not
to learn another language?
RAUL MARTINEZ, La Habra
In "Supporters of Bilingual Education
Go on the Offensive" (April 17), Gloria Matta Tuchman, a candidate
for state superintendent of public instruction, was quoted as saying, "The
people will decide, not activist groups or people who are trying to promote
their own political agenda."
Among the strongest supporters of the goals
of bilingual education are neither "activists" nor people with
a "political agenda." Rather they are research scholars and language
educators who know that the preponderance of psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic
research related to the education of linguistic minority students in our
schools validates and supports the principles of bilingual education.
If Tuchman is aware of this literature and
chooses to ignore it, it is she who is playing the political game. If she
is unaware of the research, then she certainly should not be elected to
a position that calls for informed decisions.
RUSSELL N. CAMPBELL, Professor Emeritus, Applied Linguistics, UCLA