Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole must be running scared. After decades in government, the Republican presidential front-runner is trying to shed his Washington insider’s skin and slither out a born-again right-winger.

How else to explain his recent attack on bilingual education and on those who would inject more about the shameful treatment of minorities into the nation’s historical record? In a Labor Day speech before the American Legion, Dole suggested such accommodation and inclusion is un-American. He’s wrong.

Dole has announced himself ready to fight to make English the nation’s official language, a sure-win battle since no one has suggested any other mother tongue for the United States. Still, the senator has decided that a non-English speaking population is a threat to the republic. He would kill funding for bilingual education programs in public schools except for those narrowly designed to help immigrants learn English.

Most students in bilingual-education programs spend part of the day studying traditional academic subjects in their native tongue and part of the day studying English. Dole would rather have their education in subjects like history, math and science put on hold until they first master the language.

Some children, especially the very young, may learn English more quickly without bilingual education. But far from being the act of inclusion that Dole insists, abandoning bilingual instruction altogether would ensure that many non-English speaking kids fall so far behind academically that they never catch up. That’s a prescription for more school dropouts. Ironically most would learn English anyway, from TV and friends. It would be a shame if they left school before learning much else.

The threat that Dole sees in including a more factual and complete historical account of the plight of minorities in the United States is even harder to find outside his political periscope. There is so much in this nation’s past to be proud of; it’s shameful to conceal the warts. A far greater threat is the rush to abandon tolerance and inclusion.

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