I have two kids in elementary school. One of them is in second grade, in what they call ELDP–English Language Development Program–which is basically taught in English. They do have an aide who will assist the kids in Spanish if they need it. But my youngest daughter, in kindergarten, was put in the bilingual program that is in Spanish, basically.
I see the difference. When my youngest son was in kindergarten, he was able to recognize the different sounds of the letters and was even able to speak some English.
On the other hand, my daughter has learned no English at all at school. She knows things in English because we teach her at home and they also teach her some English at her day-care center.
That worries me, because I believe that bilingual education is not working–at least at the Ninth Street School. It probably works for some other schools, for some other kids–I would say for some kids who just came from Latin America who are older–let’s say 10-, 12-years-old.
I’m not saying bilingual education is bad, but I strongly believe that for kids who start their educations here, from first grade or from kindergarten, bilingual education just does not work.
There are some kids at Ninth Street School in fifth grade who bring home homework in Spanish–completely in Spanish. I think this is just ridiculous. This is not good for them. After all, they’re not going to function in Spanish when they’re grownups.
I came from Mexico and my first language is Spanish. I learned English as a second language. And I don’t think as some supporters of bilingual education have claimed that the culture will be damaged, because after all, we speak Spanish at home.
How can I put it? Spanish is not the key to success in America.
We parents boycotted the school. We stood in front giving out leaflets to parents and we gained some popularity from other parents and eventually up to a hundred supported the idea.
I have several friends whose kids are in fifth or sixth grade and they don’t read and write English. My friends bring me letters in English so that I can read them. I ask, “Well, can’t your kids can help you?” And they say that their child speaks a little bit but he doesn’t read and write English–he is in the bilingual program. And so that’s why they support us in our boycott.
When I took classes at one of the community colleges, 80% of the students were Latinos. In one particular class, English 101, 70% of the students dropped the class within six weeks. They were not able to read and write proper English.
I wouldn’t like to see my kids in that situation. That’s why we are fighting at least to put my kids and some of these other kids in English-only classes.
Some, however, have said that parents like me who boycotted 9th Street Elementary School don’t understand what people here went through in the 1960s fighting for equal opportunity for Latinos and Blacks.
What I perceive from them is that they want equal opportunity, but they don’t stress how important it is to be equally trained, equally skillful, equally educated.
And by giving bilingual education to these kids we’re not making them equally capable. We’re doing the opposite, we’re handicapping them.
LENIN LOPEZ, Garment worker, Los Angeles; participated in boycott of bilingual education program at 9th Street Elementary School