Why LatinoBeat Supports 227

March 23, 1998

REGARDING: "Latino Beat Supports Unz", dated (March 13-19, 1998)

I read Mr. Edward M. Olivos' opinion which originally appeared on an Internet bulletin board and then printed in your paper about Latino Beat's editorial position in support of Proposition 227.

To print Mr. Olivos' opinion without Latino Beat's editorial -- and its three accompanying rationales -- for comparison, places his views without context and your readers unable to understand the reason behind our decision.

I don't quarrel with Mr. Olivos expressing his opinion. As a teacher at Brooklyn Elementary School in San Diego, Mr. Olivos' opinion are valued by us and we've published four of them. We've encouraged him to continue to submit more.

However, there are some inaccuracies in Mr. Olivos' opinion which I want to correct.

Mr. Olivos says that Latino Beat "consistently runs anti-bilingual education articles."

Latino Beat has run 478 articles on bilingual education since Feb. 1997. None of them can be considered pro- or anti-bilingual education.

Many of the articles were written by me in the same professional, fair and accurate manner as the two printed in El Latino about the predatory pricing practices by one of your competitors.

One of the bilingual education articles was recognized for outstanding reporting in the field of politics by the National Association of Hispanic Publishers, an organization El Latino is a member. It was the interview I did with California Association for Bilingual Education President, Dr. Rosalia Salinas, titled "CABE president defends bilingual education".

We've published 85 opinion pieces on the initiative or bilingual education with nearly 70 percent of them being opposed to Prop. 227 and supportive of Mr. Olivos' views on bilingual education

Mr. Olivos' statement that Latino Beat can be equated to being with English Only is as ludicrous as suggesting that Mr. Olivos is in one mind with Ron Prince, the author of Proposition 187, who also opposes the Unz Initiative.

Mr. Olivos states that we should "follow the lead" of groups who oppose the initiative. We are an independent Internet news service and find it counter to the premise of journalism to be anything other than independent.

Contrary to Mr. Olivos' statement that Latino Beat probably has never been in a bilingual classroom, we told him, that Latino Beat's executive online editor has been a bilingual teacher for nearly 20 years and has a Masters in communication with an emphasis linguistics.

Latino Beat has done its homework. Unlike other journalists, we've read the research; interviewed dozens of experts in the field, such as Dr. Salinas. We've even interviewed the leading proponent of bilingual education, Dr. Stephen Krashen, whose language acquisition theories California's bilingual programs hinge upon.

But, we began to question his theory after he admits in his latest book that the most practical way to learn Spanish was to go to spend time in a Spanish-speaking country, "working in Spanish, socializing in Spanish, and interacting a great deal with Spanish-speaking children."

Further, he write that language can be acquired by "extensive pleasure reading, extensive academic reading, and extensive interaction with native speakers in a variety of situations." In other words, learn a language through total immersion.

If the guru of bilingual education believes these are the best way to learn a second language, then why aren't children being taught the same way? Why aren't we allowing them to socialize with English-speaking kids, or to learn academics in English or read English-language books?

From a pedagogical perspective, Proposition. 227 recognizes that children need special help. It provides for the use of a method of instruction which is wholly-supported by CABE and other proponents of bilingual education.

To describe this method of instruction as "unproven" or "not based on research" begs the question why did CABE support this method before, but only now are rejecting it? Why do CABE members currently use this method of teaching with over 130,000 children, but now it's an "unproven" method?

The answers are obvious and they're not based on pedagogy.

Latino Beat believes that bilingual education will not be eliminated and, in some instances, will actually be enhanced and expanded. This is why Mr. Prince and extreme right-wing groups oppose Prop. 227. They know that Unz provides for bilingual classes and, that all children regardless of legal status will be provided an education.

The San Jose Mercury News reported, "Prince, a Southern California anti-immigration activist and the key supporter of Proposition 187, called the Unz initiative 'an out-and-out scam.' He adds, 'It does not end bilingual education. . . When you read the initiative itself (you) see that it does not end bilingual education.'"

Mr. Prince opposes Prop 227, that's why Latino Beat supports it.

Dan Stein, executive director of the anti-immigrant group, Federation for American Immigration Reform, also opposes the Unz initiative because it bypasses Proposition 187 and provides education for all children who do not speak English.

Anti-immigrant groups oppose Prop. 227 and that's why Latino Beat supports it.

Mr. Olivos is not the only one to take offense to Latino Beat's editorial position. To be sure, we have been attacked by hate groups for our support of the initiative.

Quoting one of the most racist groups in Southern California, Voices of Citizens Together, they write, "The Unz initiative is a snake in the grass -- no wonder this group (Latino Beat) of reconquistas supports it."

Racists oppose Proposition 227, and that's why Latino Beat supports it.

But the most important reason to support Prop. 227 is because, it gives parents the choice whether their children will be placed in bilingual education classes. The initiative takes the decision-making away from the state, the districts and special interest groups and places it back in the hands of parents. If parents want their children in bilingual education, they can have it. If parents want their children in English classes, then districts are obligated to follow the parents' decision.

Thus, the argument goes beyond whether bilingual education works or not. It is whether parents are still the ones who should be making the decisions about their children's education. That is the underlying basis of the initiative and -- for better or worse -- our position is to support the rights of parents to make decisions about their children.

Isaac H. Cubillos
Editor, Latino Beat