Arizona Daily Star
Thursday, October 1, 1998
To our readers
A Guest Comment we published Saturday, ``Government funding is skewing bilingual education,'' did not meet our standards for publication. We regret publishing it.
The commentary was on an important topic. We published it to help educate the public and to further the discussion between proponents and opponents of bilingual education.
One of our requirements for Guest Comments, however, is that they be written by the claimed author. Saturday's commentary was submitted by Michael S. Martinez, chairman of English for the Children-Arizona.
Rather than being an original piece of writing by a Tucsonan, though, it was a slightly rewritten version of a commentary published in 1997 in the Los Angeles Times by Ron Unz, chairman of the ``English for the Children'' initiative in California.
Cosmetic touch-ups to commentaries published by other people elsewhere, even with the original author's permission, do not meet our standards for publication. It is plagiarism, and it is not acceptable.
We believe Guest Comments offer our readers an important opportunity to join in public debates in a much more substantive way than is allowed by letters to the editor. We believe most readers and writers of Guest Comments respect that opportunity.
Sunday, October 19, 1997
Bilingualism vs. Bilingual Education
As each new microchip and fiber-optic cable shrinks the circumference of our world, more and more Americans recognize the practical importance of bilingualism. Even today, entrepreneurs or employees fluent in Chinese, Japanese or Spanish have a distinct edge over their English-only peers.
Saturday, September 26, 1998
Government Funding Is Skewing
|But if other languages such as Chinese or Spanish are of growing world importance, English ranks in a class by itself. Although English is not and never has been America's official national language, over the past 20 years it has rapidly become the entire world's unofficial language, utterly dominating the spheres of science, technology and international business. Fluency in Spanish may provide a significant advantage, but lack of literacy in English represents a crippling, almost fatal disadvantage in our global economy. For this reason, the better public and private schools in Europe, Asia and Latin America all provide as much English as early as possible to young children.||Although English is not and never
has been America's official national language, over the past 20 years it
has rapidly become the entire world's unofficial international language.
It utterly dominates the spheres of science, technology and international business.
Fluency in Spanish may be a significant advantage, but lack of literacy in English is an almost fatal disadvantage in our global economy.
For this reason, the better public and private schools in Europe, Asia and Latin America all provide English instruction as early as possible.
|During this same period, many of America's own public
schools have stopped teaching English to young children from non-English-speaking
backgrounds. Influenced by avant-garde pedagogy and multiculturalist ideology,
educational administrators have adopted a system of bilingual education
that is usually "bilingual" in name only.
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.
|Many of America's own public schools,
however, have stopped teaching English to young children from non-English-speaking
backgrounds. Influenced by avant-garde pedagogy and multi-culturalist ideology,
educational administrators have adopted a system of bilingual education
that is usually bilingual in name only.
Too often, young immigrant and native born children (who are grouped together) are taught little or no English. Usually a small percentage of time is spent during a day's instruction, according to the school district's long-standing master plan, for bilingual education.
|This is based on the ridiculous notion that too much English too early will damage a child's self-esteem and learning ability. Hundreds of thousands of these American schoolchildren spend years being taught grammar, reading, writing and all other academic subjects in their own "native" language--almost always Spanish--while receiving just tiny doses of instruction in English, taught as a foreign language.||This is based on the ridiculous notion that too much English too early will damage a child's self-esteem and learning ability. Hundreds of thousands of American schoolchildren spend years being taught grammar, reading and all other academic subjects in their ``native'' language, almost always Spanish, while receiving just tiny doses of instruction in English.|
|As one might expect, the results of such an approach to English instruction are utterly dismal. Of the 1.3 million California schoolchildren--a quarter of our state's total public school enrollment--who begin each year classified as not knowing English, only about 5% learn English by year's end, implying an annual failure rate of 95% for existing programs.||The results of such an approach
to English instruction are predictably dismal. Every year, only
2.7 percent of students in bilingual education make a successful transition
to English-only classrooms (a statistic recently released and published
by the Arizona Department of Education). The rest remain in classrooms
where they are typically taught in Spanish, often into the seventh and
eighth year of school.
According to the recent results of the annual test of achievement, of the 15 lowest-scoring elementary schools in the language part of the test, 12 are bilingual schools. Of the 15 lowest-scoring elementary schools in the reading part of the test, 14 are bilingual schools. Of the 10 lowest scoring junior high schools, nine are bilingual schools.
Our native-born children continue being arbitrarily segregated into classrooms where they are required to speak Spanish, typically with neither the knowledge nor the permission of the parents.
|Defenders of the status quo argue away these devastating
statistics by claiming that 5-year-old children normally require about
seven years to learn a new language and actually have much more difficulty
learning second languages than teenagers or adults; these are academic
dogmas with absolutely no basis in reality.
On the other hand, the dreadful flaws in the current classification methodology are kept well hidden. In California, children from immigrant or Latino backgrounds are categorized as not knowing English if they merely score below average on English tests, meaning that unknown numbers of children whose first and only language is English spend their elementary school years trapped in Spanish-only "bilingual" programs.
|Defenders of the status quo argue away these devastating statistics by claiming 5-year-olds normally require about seven years to learn a new language and actually have more difficulty learning second languages than teen-agers or adults. These are academic dogmas with no basis in reality.|
|The real dynamic driving this bizarre system is special
government funding. School districts are provided with extra dollars for
each child who doesn't know English. This generates the worst sort of perverse
incentive, in which administrators are financially rewarded for not teaching
English to young children or pretending that they haven't learned the language;
schools are annually penalized for each child who becomes fluent in English.
Under such a scheme, the widespread educational fiction that young children require seven years to learn English suddenly becomes understandable, as a necessary, enabling myth. And although no one has been able to properly document the total amount of supplemental spending on children limited in English, the annual total for California certainly exceeds $400 million and may be as much as $1 billion or more, sums that can buy a tremendous amount of silence or complicity.
|The real dynamic driving this
bizarre system is special government funding. School districts get extra
dollars for each child who doesn't know English. This generates the worst
sort of perverse incentive, in which administrators are rewarded for not
teaching English to young children or pretending the kids haven't learned
the language. Schools are annually penalized for each child who becomes
fluent in English.
Under such a scheme, the widespread educational fiction young children require seven years to learn English suddenly becomes understandable as an enabling myth.
|Unfortunately for its profiteers, "bilingual education"
is completely unworkable as well as unsuccessful. Even after 20 or 30 years
of effort, California has had absolutely no luck in finding the enormous
supply of properly certified bilingual teachers to match the 140 languages
spoken by California schoolchildren. All sides in the debate agree that
the old-fashioned "sink or swim" method of learning English is
the worst alternative, yet more California schoolchildren today are submerged
into this approach than are in properly structured bilingual programs,
although courts have ruled the former unconstitutional and the latter legally
mandatory. "Bilingual or nothing" in practice often means "nothing."
These facts may only now be coming to the attention of California's affluent white elite, but they have long been well-known to the current system's primary victims, powerless Latino immigrants and their children. Over recent years, there have been a series of spontaneous protests against "bilingual education" by angry parents, most notably the 1996 Latino boycott at Los Angeles' 9th Street Elementary School, which directly inspired our "English for the Children" initiative campaign.
The initiative, targeted for next June's ballot, would end bilingual education in California by making it truly voluntary. Parents could still have their children placed or kept in a bilingual program, but only if they took the affirmative step of seeking a waiver. Since public opinion surveys, including a recent Los Angeles Times poll, have consistently shown 80% to 85% dislike for the current program among its supposed beneficiaries, voluntary bilingual programs will become very few and far between. And those programs that do survive our initiative by attracting genuine parental support are probably worth preserving. In a state as large and diverse as California, even the most unlikely program may occasionally succeed due to specific local conditions or unique individuals.
But either way, all of California's immigrant schoolchildren finally will be granted the right to be taught English, the universal language of advancement and opportunity, supplementing their own family languages. Only by ending our failed system of bilingual education can we foster the true growth of bilingualism and the unity and prosperity of our multiethnic society.
|The only way to make the necessary
change so all children can learn English as quickly as possible, and thereby
increase their chances for academic success, is by uniting against this
approach and demanding a change be made.
Many critics believe our organization, English for the Children - Arizona, is anti-immigrant, anti-Spanish language or racist. Yet our main objective is the effective education of all children of all races to a level that hasn't been achieved in 30 years. The goal is for children to learn English as quickly as possible so they can reap the benefits they so deserve.
|Ron K. Unz, a Silicon Valley software entrepreneur, is the chairman of the "English for the Children" initiative campaign. In 1994, he challenged incumbent Gov. Pete Wilson for the Republican nomination.||Michael S. Martinez is chairman of Tucson-based English for the Children - Arizona.|
Thanks to Wendy Goodman of Tucson for tracking down the plagiarism.
where the texts differ, the lies remain the same.