This is not going to be a “politically popular” column with some.

It doesn’t matter.

What is at stake is nothing more nor nothing less than the future of our children.

The debate that has broken out over the effectiveness of bilingual education and how it is resolved will, in thousands of cases, decide whether or not a child has access to a good basic education, be able to go to college with the necessary skills to succeed, enjoy successful careers and break the cycle of inadequate education and poverty which led their parents to come to this country to begin with.

Bilingual education is too important an issue to leave to politics, popularity or political correctness.

Issues of Local School Council control, of jobs for bilingual teachers,
of political correctness have nothing to do with the issue of bilingual education.

The only issue which must be considered is whether or not our children are taught sufficient basic skills in English to succeed in school and,
later, in life, period.

It is critical that the students develop reading and writing skills in English in this country. Lawyers have to file their briefs in English. Medical records are kept in English. Architectural drawings are explained in English.

Consider this.

A friend of mine, a Colombian, who had his daughter in bilingual education recently walked into my office.

“My daughter was getting A’s and B’s in bilingual ed classes,”
he said to me. “Since they moved her to the regular classroom, she’s been getting nothing but D’s and F’s. Bilingual ed made her ignorant because they don’t teach her anything.”

“My wife is a bilingual ed teacher and she thinks it’s no good,”
he said.

This was his daughter. No other issue was important to him.

I told him that I would like to use his story but would keep his name out of the paper.

“No, use my name,” he said. “I want them to know what bilingual education did to my daughter.”

His name is Carlos Buitrago. Ask him.

The statistics don’t lie. A recent study by the Chicago Public Schools show that the longer a child remains in bilingual education the further they fall behind their peers in English- speaking classrooms. By the time they get to the eighth grade, they are more than two years behind.

They also show that the longer they are in the program, the worse the student’s Spanish gets.

Bilingual education makes sense as a first step. It is valuable, at first,
while the child barely functions in English, to avoid the trauma of total isolation. That was its intention.

But, once the children have gotten past that initial shock of moving to a new society that functions in English, we show little faith in their intellect if we insist on keeping them in a remedial language situation.

Want proof? In Santa Barbara, California, a study shows that no former students of bilingual education ever scored more than 1000 in the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Most scored well below 800.

You need upwards of 1000 to get into a good college.

In Los Angeles, scores of Mexican parents-more than 50 percent of those polled-are demanding that bilingual education be eliminated from the curriculum.
Why? Because they care about their kids and don’t want them to suffer as they have suffered.

I’ll make you a deal. Let’s compare the scores on college admission tests for Latino students who transition to English within three years to those who stay longer than four years.

Then why the debate? There’s money in bilingual, ed folks.

Bilingual education teachers are defending their jobs. The companies making the teaching aids have millions and millions of dollars at stake,
political activists have a lot to lose if our children are no longer captive to manipulation.

Then ask yourself who benefits if our children are able to think and read and write in English. And, who benefits if they are not?

There is only one issue to think about as you ponder the answer, only one issue in this debate.

What is at stake is nothing more nor nothing less than the future of our children.

Jorge Oclander is the editor of La Raza, Chicago’s largest Spanish-language newspaper.



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