The controversial bilingual waiver law requiring California teachers to become proficient at speaking and teaching a foreign language is scheduled to expire on June 30. It definitely should expire. To a long rest with it should go the penchant of the Legislature and state schools hierarchy for perpetuating and extending bilingual language instruction at the lower grade levels.
For years now, California taxpayers have been paying for teaching “Spanglish” to the children of legal and illegal immigrants to this country, most of them Latin Americans, to help ease them into American society. The program, for all its good intentions, has produced little positive result beyond the most primary instruction in the reading and speaking of English.
In fact, some teachers feel the bilingual program has only slowed the absorption of Latin American children into the mainstream culture. The students are taught major subjects in Spanish, so the transition to speaking and writing English can be a slow and faulty process lasting five years or longer. Even so, bilingual schooling has become a cause celebre for Latin American activists and Mexican-American politicians, ranking high on their list of demands along with bilingual voting ballots.
Some of them admit that bilingual schooling helps perpetuate the Spanish language and culture through the schools, not through a more appropriate place–the home. Moreover, it helps get Spanish-speaking people jobs in schools, and it helps get Hispanic legislators elected and re-elected.
Over the years, bilingualism has become a big issue in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida — so much so that concerned Americans have responded with a proposed English language amendment to the Constitution.
Well, English is the predominant language of our land, salted as it is with all the rich idioms and words of other lands, and will remain so. It needs no official ratification, sanctification, or constitutional amendment to keep it predominant.
At the same time, California taxpayers of all ethnic backgrounds should reject the arguments of some legislators and educators that bilingual education is somehow vital to the well-being of the entire state — not just those of Latin extraction. Further, we should reject their argument that a lessening of support for bilingual schooling and bilingual ballots will demonstrate a racist social streak intended to keep Spanish-speaking people “in their place.”
It is a specious argument on its face. But teachers who have refused to sign the waiver law about to expire have, in fact, been made second-class citizens, some assigned from teaching the gifted to menial school tasks, for refusing to agree to learn and teach a foreign language. They have lost jobs because of a law that punishes them for exclusively speaking the predominant language of the country.
And bilingual education — the purpose behind the language waiver law — clearly discriminates against a growing number of Asian children coming into the California public schools. Since California state law requires that there be a bilingual program in any school in which there are 10 or more limited-English-proficient students, Cambodian and other Asian children are placed in Spanish-speaking classes. Asian children then are learning English with a Spanish accent.
English is the predominant language of this country. No Asians make a great fuss about that. Millions of European immigrants have made no great fuss in the past. It is only Hispanic activists and politicians, who have built a power base around it, who want to continue and expand bilingualism in the taxpayers’ schools and in society as a whole.
The language waiver law should expire on Tuesday, June 30. And, after a brief immigrant acclimation period in the lower grades of public schools, bilingualism as a matter of public policy and public expense should be cast aside.