Bilingual trap

Harmful education program must be reformed

Sen. Guy W. Glodis, D-Worcester, appears to be correct in his
prediction that the political climate is hospitable this year to
reform bilingual education in Massachusetts.

Repeated attempts during the past decade to overhaul the
discredited system have failed due to the opposition of groups with a
vested interested in a virtually open-ended and politically driven
system.

Sen. Glodis has filed a bill that would limit bilingual education
to a one-year sheltered immersion program for non-English-speaking
students before moving them on to mainstream education.

That sensible approach follows a formula introduced in California
in 1998 after voters opted for reform. Since the “English for the
Children” law was passed, its success prompted other states —
Arizona, Illinois, Colorado, New York and Connecticut to implement or
consider steps toward bilingual education reform.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the “Parents Know Best”
proposal in September, requiring informed parental consent for
placement in bilingual programs. The Senate is expected to follow
suit.

Significantly, the primary sponsor of the California reform, Ron
Unz, was on hand to offer support for the Glodis bill. Mr. Unz said
test scores have risen 20 percent in California since the new law
took effect.

“Why would Massachusetts be different from California?” Mr. Unz
asked. “If immigrant students can so quickly and easily learn English
and academic subject matter in a state like California with so much
ethnic diversity, why would it not be the case in Massachusetts?”

Why indeed?

Yet die-hard supporters of reform already are attacking the Glodis
bill as “a front for more anti-immigrant propaganda.”

What rubbish.

Helping students to enter the mainstream as rapidly as possible
actually is pro-immigrant — as it was for generations of new
Americans from around the globe whose first priority was to master
English.

For without such mastery, immigrants have limited opportunities,
unable to participate fully in the nation’s economic boom and rich
cultural life.

Glodis said that if reform efforts fail again this year, he will
mount an initiative drive to put the issue before the voters.

We hope that will not be necessary. The Legislature should act now
to reform bilingual education for the thousands of children being
held back by the current system.



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