A media project to combat the Big Lie
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Big Lies

Factual disputes are endemic to political debate. Often they involve questions of detail or interpretation for example, whether or not research supports the use of bilingual approaches in the classroom. These are matters on which honest people can and do disagree.

And then there are the calculated untruths, the deliberate attempts to deceive, the demagogic appeals to prejudice the Big Lies. Such tactics flow from the cynical view that, while voters are themselves dishonest in small matters, they lack the imagination or intelligence to lie on a grand scale; hence their gullibility in the face of monstrous deceptions.

The Big Lie is a favorite tool of extremists whose proposals are hard to justify on their merits for example, Ron Unz's initiative to mandate English-only schooling throughout California.

Big Lie #1: Bilingual education is a "failure"

    "There is overwhelming evidence that bilingual education does not work, and has never worked anywhere in the United States on a large scale in 30 years of trying." Ron Unz, email message to a bilingual teacher, 19 April 1998

    Unz has never produced any evidence, "overwhelming" or otherwise, to support this claim. He is contradicted by numerous scientific studies that document a correlation between children's native-language development and their academic achievement in a second language. [More]

Big Lie #2: Young children can learn enough English for school in "a few months to a year"

    "It's not that hard to teach little children English. ... My own mother grew up speaking not a word of English. Her parents taught her a little bit of English the year before she started school. Then once she started kindergarten she learned English very quickly and easily and ended up graduating from college with a degree in English literature." Ron Unz, debate at the Sonoma County Office of Education, 31 March 1998

    Even in small things, it seems, Ron Unz has no respect for the facts. The anecdote about his mother is contradicted by another family member: "By the time she started kindergarten, she was fluent in English," says Unz's aunt, Rivko Knox. [More]

Big Lie #3: Bilingual programs are really monolingual programs taught in students' native language

    "Too often, young immigrant children are taught little or no English in Los Angeles, only 30 minutes a day, according to the school district's longstanding bilingual master plan." Ron Unz, Los Angeles Times, 19 October 1997

    This is sheer fabrication. The Los Angeles Master Plan for English Learners features the following mix of languages in bilingual education programs:

      "Initially, primary language instruction is provided for 70% of the day and English language development is provided for 30% of the day. The use of the primary language decreases until the fifth year, when all English programs of instruction are provided for these students." [More]

Big Lie #4: Bilingual education limits students' long-term earning power

    "Bilingual education is the road to Latino poverty." Ron Unz, debate at the Sonoma County Office of Education, 31 March 1998

    Unz is referring to an unpublished academic report that "Hispanics who attended a bilingual program appear to earn significantly less" than those who did not. Yet the researcher, Mark Hugo López of the University of Maryland, says Unz's characterization is unwarranted ... [More]

Big Lie #5: Prop. 227 would violate no civil rights laws

    "A successful legal challenge [to Prop. 227] is improbable; the Clinton administration admits the measure is constitutional and in accordance with federal law." Ron Unz, San Jose Mercury News, 10 May 1998

    Here's what U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley actually said on April 27, 1998: "The Unz Initiative will in all likelihood result in problems under federal civil rights laws. ... Limiting special language development instruction to one year and preventing a school from providing bilingual instruction to students, despite the judgment of teachers and the school principal that children in that school need bilingual instruction to progress, are likely to result in violations under these laws." [More]