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The Bilingual Trap By: David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, August 04, 1997


Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese come to America and are forced to learn English. And do very well. They score higher than any ethnic group on those "Eurocentrically" biased standard performance tests, get into the most elite colleges in impressive numbers and go on to become businessmen, engineers and computer scientists. They do it all without affirmative action quotas or special language programs. In fact, the affirmative action quotas are largely there to keep Asian numbers down, so that lower-scoring, government-privileged minorities can get in.

Mexicans and other Latinos come to America and are put in "bilingual" programs where English is a second language. And often not even a language that is spoken at all. The majority of the 330,000 Latino children in California's bilingual education programs are limited by administrators to 30 minutes of English per eight-hour day. The results are an abysmal 6 percent annual rate in moving Latino students from Spanish-taught to English-taught classes, a 50 percent school dropout rate, low test scores for the students who graduate and, in the adult work world, low-paying jobs.

Thank you, liberals. California's bilingual program launched through the efforts of Chicano activists and defended by the Ford Foundation-funded Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), teachers unions and the "progressive" lobby is the largest such program in the nation. It costs $320 million annually. But now it is under siege, in part from the people it was thought to have served.

The rebellion began with a protest and boycott staged by 200 immigrant parents in Los Angeles whose children were forced into Spanish-language classes after they had requested English. They kept their children home and won the support of Republican Mayor Richard Riordan, until the school was embarrassed enough to back down and provide them with English instruction.

Ron Unz, a right-wing Republican candidate in the last gubernatorial election and Silicon Valley millionaire, has put his money behind a ballot measure called the English Language Education for Immigrant Children Initiative (or the shortened English for Children). Imagine! In 1997, in America, it takes a ballot initiative to give Spanish-speaking immigrants the right to have their children educated in the language of the country in which they have chosen to live, and thus enhance their opportunity to succeed.

Bilingualism, like its sister, multiculturalism, is really a vast patronage and jobs program for liberal activists and their friends. That is why the perpetual failure of bilingual programs appears to be of little concern to them. The liberal politicians and self-styled spokesmen for the Latino community are too busy building their patronage systems which means lining the pockets of their friends and political supporters to care.

Not all liberals have remained deaf and blind to the problems of bilingual education. Gloria Matta Tuchman, an award-winning Mexican-American educator, has spent the past 20 years teaching English to first graders at a school in Santa Ana, Calif., through the immersion method. The idea is obvious and simple. Young children pick up new languages much more easily than adults. Throw them into a class where English is spoken all the time, and they will learn. Which is just what they do under Tuchman's tutelage. Ninety-nine percent of her first-grade kids move successfully into second-grade English classes every year.

Now Tuchman has joined Unz in a coalition that includes Latinos, conservatives and even some leftists in support of the English for Children initiative. One of the latter is Alice Callaghan, who runs Las Familias del Pueblo children's center on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. Callaghan helped organize the parents' boycott that sparked the growing anti-bilingual education rebellion. "This is the first politically incorrect thing I have ever done in my life," she told a reporter.

Why is this so politically incorrect? Who says that Latino and other designated minorities need endless government-provided crutches to succeed in a country while Vietnamese boat people do so well without them? Immigrants from hundreds of non-English-speaking nations have come here, been immersed in an English-speaking culture and climbed the American ladder of success. Why are Latinos such an underprivileged group in the liberal perspective? When are liberals going to treat Latinos and other people who are of different ethnic backgrounds as they would treat themselves? When are they going to set them free?


David Horowitz is the founder of The David Horowitz Freedom Center and author of the new book, One Party Classroom.


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