IT’S TOO BAD that Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, whom we considered a wiser man, decided to spice up his presidential bid with an attack on bilingual
education. His remarks to the American Legion convention in Indianapolis had a know-nothing quality the Kansas Republican does not need to take his best shot at his party’s nomination.
Dole apparently is overreacting to advice that his image as a legislative conciliator is too boring so he must target immigrants and beneficiaries of affirmative action with the ferocity of a born-again Pete Wilson.
He also took aim at a proposed set of national history standards, voluntary guidelines advanced for primary and secondary schools by the UCLA National Center for History, for concentrating on dark aspects of U.S. history like McCarthyism and the Ku Klux Klan.
Instead of fretting, the senator should laud the freedom of Americans to learn both the good and bad about their nation’s history. He should disown any federal attempt to sanitize the record.
His joining the English-only cause is particularly lacking in Republican good sense. The primacy of English needs no government intervention, and the GOP bible calls for keeping government off people’s backs.
Education is primarily a state function, so federal officials shouldn’t sweat, either, over the details of how to instruct San Francisco school kids from dozens of linguistic backgrounds. Many are helped by bilingual teaching, but all have the goal of English proficiency so that they can make their way in this country.
The real misfortune in the current retooling of Dole’s image is that it furthers a demagogic trend that hurts those least able to withstand the hit. People struggling to become full-fledged Americans can’t afford to have self-interested politicians setting the natives against them.
Dole told the Legionnaires he wants to “return this country to greatness” (though we don’t agree the U.S. as the beacon of democracy ever stopped being “great”). Throwing 1.2 million California youngsters out of their bilingual classes seems like a dunce of an idea.