Hayakawa's Divisive Thoughts On Education

Senator Hayakawa’s Oct. 1 Op-Ed article, ”English by Law,” is an incredible misrepresentation of facts and a transparent excuse to justify the new round of budget cuts that the Reagan Administration is proposing against Government programs for minorities and the poor.

he Senator is entitled to his opinions about bilingual education, but he is not free to present distortions of the facts. It is simply not true that ”more and more children are having their entire curriculum taught to them in their native language” instead of being taught in English. Hayakawa has been studying the English language long enough to know that the prefix ”bi,” as in ” bilingual education,” means that two languages are used for instruction, not just one. I have personally observed more than 40 bilingual education programs across the nation, and I can verify that they are teaching English. I speak from first-hand knowledge. Does he?

The Senator also misrepresents the role of the Carter Administration in the actions that followed the Lau v. Nichols decision of the Supreme Court. It was the Nixon and not the Carter Administration that issued the so-called Lau remedies. (It was also the Nixon Court that handed down the order in a unanimous decision.) There are policy problems in this area, but trying to pin them on Mr. Carter is a partisan cheap shot.

I do not understand the Senator’s proposal to make English the official language of the United States. It is already as official as it needs to be. The officialness that he proposes is really a paranoiac reaction against the changing demographics of the country and the increasing number of Hispanic citizens.

Such proposals are divisive and serve no useful unifying function. Hayakawa would force all Americans to use only one language (someday maybe a single religion, too?). How can he propose this and also claim he does not want ”to stifle their rich human resources”? That is pure cynicism. It’s analogous to a mugger’s saying he wants your money but not necessarily your funds.

What we need in these trying times are public policies that improve life, learning opportunities for children and the chances for a pluralistic society to work out its problems with dignity and respect for others. A linguistic equivalent of book burning is not going to accomplish that. JOSUE M. GONZALEZ Washington, Oct. 2, 1981

The writer was the U.S. Education Department’s director of bilingual education in the Carter Administration.

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