May 3, 1998 — So, the University of Miami does a study and finds that Hispanics who speak English earn three times as much as those who don’t.
No stunner there. Makes perfect sense. People who live in the United States and do not speak English will almost by definition end up in low-paying jobs with no future. The surprise, actually, is the study’s other finding:
Hispanics fluent in both English and Spanish earn about a third more than Hispanics who speak English only.
The actual figures:
- Average income for a Hispanic family of four, in the Miami area, whose
members speak only Spanish: $18,240.
- Speak only English: $32,800.
- Speak both Spanish and English: $50,376.
Thomas Boswell, the professor who conducted the study, said he based his findings on 1990 Census figures, but added he thinks the gaps between the three groups have grown wider.
There are a lot of other places in addition to South Florida where knowing two languages — Spanish, in particular — can put more money in the pocket.
Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, New York — all these states have trade with Latin America as well as large Hispanic markets, so fluency in English and Spanish can be a business advantage.
Oh, and California, too. It’s good to be bilingual there also.
You wouldn’t know it.
In California, voters will almost certainly pass Proposition 227, the
“English for the Children Initiative,” which would just about end bilingual education in the state’s schools. And every poll has shown that Hispanic Californians support the measure almost as strongly as non-Hispanics.
California has a problem. The state’s bilingual education system, as it is now, does not work. Kids indeed do not learn English as fast as they can. Bilingual educrats claim that can take 10 years for a child to learn English and be “mainstreamed” to full-time English instruction,
a theory so absurd it would be laughable if kids weren’t being hurt. Remember,
the families who make out best are those who speak Spanish and English.
But ending bilingual education is not the way to fix the crisis. After all, a lot of native English speakers graduate from high school functionally illiterate, and nobody says that the system is so rotten we should give up and stop teaching native English speakers how to write proper English.
No, the solution is to force teachers to teach better and demand better performance from their students.
Same with bilingual education. What California needs to do is make bilingual ed make better, not throw it out altogether. Aside from the fact that bilingual education keeps students from falling behind in math or history (since these subjects would be taught in a language they can understand), a good bilingual education program working in conjunction with a good English program can also make immigrant kids fluent in English as well as in their native language,
a decided advantage in the real world of California business. And isn’t school supposed to prepare kids for the real world?
Ron Unz, the man behind Proposition 227, is not unaware of this. A few months back I asked him whether his proposal wouldn’t ban “dual bilingual”
schools, where courses are taught in two languages for every student, native English speakers included. “Not at all,” Unz e-mailed me . “So long as there were sufficient parental interest and district support, such schools would be fine under our initiative. In fact, I’d expect our initiative to result in most districts having bilingual magnet schools.”
Unz apparently sees the value of a well managed bilingual education program.
He has even written to me that “For a high school age student, I think bilingual education may make a lot of sense, though some immigrant friends of mine disagree.”
It does make sense. What doesn’t make sense is why Unz — a smart guy who cannot be accused of anti-Hispanic bias — insists on ending bilingual education instead of fixing it.