Latino Reporter

Friday, June 22, 2001

Panelists Clash Over Bilingual Education

Supporters and opponents of bilingual education sat at opposite ends of the table Thursday as they argued their views on the controversial issue. 

Mickey Ibbarra, a representative of the National Education Association and Josué Gonzalez, director of bilingual education at Arizona State University, sat together on one side of the podium to support bilingual education. 

Rubén Navarrette, a syndicated columnist and editor writer for the Dallas Morning News, joined Ron Unz, an entrepreneur and major supporter of "English for the Children" initiative campaigns, sat on the other side in opposition to bilingual education programs. The panelists heatedly argued the merits of bilingual education and the way journalists have covered the issue, often using Spanish to make a point or take a jab at the opposition. 

Controversy surrounding the panel began when the California Association of Bilingual Educators learned that Unz was on the panel. 

Unz founded most of the 1998 California ballot initiative and Arizona's controversial Proposition 203 last November to eliminate bilingual education programs in those states' schools. 

Denis O'Leary, teacher and President of the Ventura County Chapter of CABE, contacted the National Association of Hispanic Journalists board members last week, saying more people in favor of bilingual education should be included. 

Panel moderator, Daniel González, contacted CABE to let the organization know another supporter of bilingual education had been added to the panel, but CABE had already sent Stephen Krashen, a professor at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education. 

González said that CABE representatives took it upon themselves to "crash the panel discussion by sending Dr. Krashen." 

All four panelists agreed that the issue of bilingual education is complex and has not been thoroughly covered by the media. 

Navarrette stressed the importance of knowing other languages and recognizing the tendency of journalists to go back to the same sources instead of seeking new ones. 

[Josué] González passionately opposed Unz and Navarrette, saying people like them want to make it illegal to speak two languages.