Monday, September 21, 1998
Bilingualism Supporters Told To Work Media
Two national experts say the media have been taken in by opponents'
By MARISA SAMUELSON, Tucson Citizen
Through superficial and inadequate coverage, the media are unwittingly
fanning flames created by bilingual education opponents, two national experts
on the issue said in Tucson.
"Journalism should not be confused with
social science," said James Crawford, a Washington, D.C.-based writer
and former editor of the journal Education Week.
He said that, too often, the media rely on
sound bites and anecdotes in reporting on bilingual education.
Crawford was joined by Stephen Krashen, a
linguist and professor of education at the University of Southern California,
to speak to about 150 educators and parents Friday at Wakefield Middle
School, 101 W. 44th St.
Crawford said the media played a major role
in handing out inaccurate information about bilingual education in California
during the Unz initiative campaign, which sought to dismantle bilingual
But Crawford said part of the reason journalists
didn't get it "right" in California was because proponents were
evasive and did not always explain the issues to reporters.
"We did not provide an effective strategy,"
In June, California voters approved the initiative, also called Proposition
227, that effectively dismantles state-funded programs for bilingual education.
Crawford said many reporters in California
and in other states are looking for the easy way out, instead of looking
in detail at academic studies, which are often mentioned by proponents.
"Arguing by anecdote can be quite dangerous"
because it is not always representative of a larger truth, he said.
Crawford said the press is also guilty of
giving prominence to "man bites dog" stories.
He said California newspapers gave extensive
coverage to a demonstration by Latino parents favoring the initiative at
a Los Angeles school because of its novelty. But, dozens of protests by
Latino parents against the initiative were under-covered by the press.
In Arizona, bilingual education backers should
band together to better inform the public by providing more information
to the media.
"(The media) deserve our help and encouragement,"
Crawford said, adding that "being hostile" isn't constructive.
He also encouraged proponents to meet with
newspaper editorial boards and write opinion pieces and letters to the
"The anti-bilingual side has learned
to exploit this option," he said.
Jean Favela, director of bilingual education for the Sunnyside Unified
School District, agreed that proponents should "try to present all
the facts" to the media.
"Unfortunately, opponents are focusing
on quick, knee-jerk ideas," she said.
Favela cited a recent example when the Arizona Department of Education
released a report that found that only 2.7 percent of students in bilingual
education programs actually leave them.
Opponents of bilingual education, including
Ron Unz, the Silicon Valley millionaire who was behind the California initiative,
often refer to this statistic as a failure of the program.
But Favela said this is misleading because
the statistic doesn't take into account all the children who may well be
advanced in their English proficiency, but are not yet reclassified into
mainstream, English-only classes.
"A lot of the bashing of bilingual education
has more to do with power and politics. It's not based on pedagogy,"
USC bilingual expert Krashen, who outlined
nine "bogus" arguments against bilingual education, said opponents
accuse bilingual programs of keeping children from learning English.
"I am not in favor of an all-Spanish-speaking
Arizona," Krashen countered. "The goal is (to teach) English."
"I firmly accept the goals of groups
who support English," but those groups different methods than his
of getting there, he added.
Davis Bilingual Magnet Elementary School
Principal Guadalupe Romero said reporters should dig deeper and visit more
classrooms for firsthand evidence.
About 80 percent of students at Davis, 500
W. St. Mary's Road, are either English-dominant or speak only English,
Romero said opponents aren't looking at ways
to improve education as a whole.
"I think we need to make education better
for all children," she said.
Romero said if a program isn't working perfectly, it should be improved,