The most stupefying development in the public schools in my lifetime has been bilingual education, especially in California.
After centuries of immigration, what negative developments provoked this program to educate the children of non-English speaking immigrants primarily in their own family languages?
There are innumerable examples of great leaders in all fields who couldn’t speak a word of English when they entered the first grade, yet became eloquent in the language and successful in life without such a program. I have written often about the mixed neighborhoods in which I was raised, where the parents constantly drove home to their children, “Learn English first. This is America!”
Why was this principle lost?
Recent research has uncovered that even Spanish-speaking families in California are determined that their children, as soon as possible, master the mainstream language needed to function fully in a pluralistic society.
This attitude never proved detrimental to those immigrants who wished to remember and memorialize the language and culture from whence they emerged.
I have a friend whose Spanish accent is still so thick and her English vocabulary so limited that we both laugh at how difficult it is for me to understand her. Her brother, on the other hand, while still fluent in Spanish,
speaks perfect American English.
In his words: “When we arrived from Colombia, I remained with my father in Florida and entered a school where instruction was only in English.
I had no choice but to immerse myself and learn it fast or sink. My sister had the misfortune of joining the rest of our family in California and entering a bilingual school where she was educated primarily in Spanish.” One such example, of course, does not prove the case but demonstrates the kind of results that are now bringing Spanish-speaking families out of the shadows to make some very negative appraisals of the results of this program upon their children. Who is benefiting from it?
There is unassailable evidence that it is a 95% failure for the students but a 100 percent success for those earning their living in this program.
Ron Unz, conservative Republican, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and former candidate for the Republican nomination for governor of California, has fathered a ballot initiative to reform this program, also mothered by Gloria Matta Tuchman, the child of a Mexican-American family from Texas.
It is impossible to fault Unz as an “immigrant basher’ because in the days of the 1994 Proposition 187, denying all sorts of benefits and education for illegal immigrant workers and their children, he stood alone and very lonely as the only Republican leader in California against it.
He was also able to mobilize some very prominent national political figures to oppose it and for this reason alone challenged its champion, Pete Wilson,
in the Republican primaries for governor.
Therefore, Unz has certified that he is great supporter of the sizable Hispanic community in California and views its family values, self-reliance and industriousness as representing ideal republicanism and the best hope for the future of the Republican Party in California.
He has amassed a formidable amount of evidence that bilingual education in the California public schools benefits only those who administer the program and irreparably damages the innocents enrolled in it by unnecessarily delaying their mastery of the mainstream language, even into higher education,
To me, the sad thing I have repeatedly written about is that some government programs, initiated with the best of intentions, later proving to have very negative unintended consequences, prevail into eternity, nevertheless, because they have become institutionalized to the benefit of those who are gainfully employed in administering them.
An even worse shame is that Spanish-speaking leaders of all political affiliations, who by now must realize the negative consequences for the children of their ethnic group, have not already risen up in rebellion against it. Why should Ron Unz need to initiate this reform in their behalf? Be assured, when this proposition finally qualifies for the ballot, liberal politicians will assail it as immigrant bashing, conservatives will back away from it as if it were the plague; both, however, will join in a monumental bipartisan dance step, slithering away from the responsibility of correcting this great wrong being imposed upon some of our children.