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April 25, 2001     Beverly Hills Weekly
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April 25, 2001
 

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rnrn en tar) The public opinion forum where Beverly Hills dukes out the issues PRO Californians Together Preliminary results of a study sponsored by the Diane Middleton Foundation show schools providing bilingual education performing as strong or stronger than those providing only English immersion classes. The study, based on an analysis of the stale mandated Stanford 9 assessment test, was conducted by Californians "Ibgethcr, a roundtable of education and civil rights groups and organizations around the state committed to quality education. "Parents in California have requested and have worked hard to make sure that that their Children receive bilingual education. Those students are perlorming as well or better than Students in English immersion classrooms. These results clearly demonstrate that bilin- gual education is effective in teaching English and in providing a more comprehensive instruction,,, said Anaida Colon-Muniz, California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) president. "I am extremely pleased to learn that there has been some improvement among English Learners," said California State Senator Richard Polanco. "Parents and teachers want suc- eess for their children and we must provide effective programs meeting the needs of all Children, including English Learners." Recently released Stanford 9 tests by the Governor's Office show improvements in 'alif~rnia schools. Recent education reforms such as class size reduction, higher achieve- ment goals and additional teacher training have also contributed to the improvement. any other factors beyond the choice of language, such as smaller classrooms, improved facilities and better prepared teachers have really been at the center of the higher achieve- tnent of our students. Although bilingual education has proven to be effective in teaching English learners, it is a combination of reforms that can receive the credit for the improve- ment. 1~ 1998, Californians voted Ior Proposition 227 which increased restrictions on bilin- gual education, limiting parent choice on the best education programs for their children. PtOpsition 227 mandated a one size fits all approach to instruct California's English learners. Californians Together analysis of selected schools providing bilingual instruction t~ a Substantial portion of their English learners indicates that these students can equal or exceed the performance of students in English immersion classes. Colifornians Together is part of California Tomorrow, a state-focused advocacy group t~at ~Vorks with schools and other community organizations. CON 6eorgie Anne 6eyer Ron Unz, the maverick Californian who made history by proving that bilingual education is an expensive ideo- logical fraud, has just returned from the tony Renaissance Weekend in Hilton Head, S.C. This is the annual meeting where American intellectuals and policy wonks, almost all of liberal persuasion, reflect on the world. That is why Mr. Unz's even being there a little like a moose covering a conference of elk - was remarkable. But even more astounding was the response to his presenta- tions on California's Proposition 22"L which essentially abolished bilingual education two years ago. "'Given the atmosphere," he says, "'it is particularly interesting that my various presentations on the success of Proposition 227 and the advisability of replacing bilin- gual education with English immersion attracted not a single objection during the four days. Instead, numerous individuals -- most of them solid liberals - commended my efforts and strongly seconded my views, in some cases offering their future assistance in states like Massachusetts and New York. "This merely confirms my extensive national poling data, which have indicated huge landslide support for English among liberals - even extreme liberals - just like among everyone else." Such changes in these elite groups' behavior and respons, e to the issues of "nationality" and "citizenship" would be interesting alone. But Mr. Unz's experience at the Renaissance Weekend is much like a Rorschach blot test for change, one of many indicators that Americans are beginning to see the absurdity of flagship group-rights programs such as bilingual education. A second, related Proposition 203 was passed in Arizona in November's elec- tion with 63 percent of the vote. And now "English immersion" advocates are moving on to New York and perhaps Massachusetts and Colorado One interesting finding in New York: Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced that one of the problems with "'bilingual" education was that the teachers, mostly Latinos and many enlisted for ideological rea- sons in Mexico, weren't themselves bilingual; they were only Spanish-speaking In Florida, a Zogby poll taken just before the election found supporl Ior all-English instruc- tion in public schools leading by 83 percent to 12 percent. The impoverished but still not defeated pro-bilingual education lobby and mind-set is, in general, not giving in. Their answer to the programs' failure is another sure failure: two-way immersion, which means a second-tier Tower of Babel in which English speakers and Spanish speakers teach each other. As a speaker of five languages. I can attest it can't work. You learn one language at a time by immersing yourself in it, not by the nonsense of pretending to talk back and forth in two languages. Above all else, Americans should understand the core cultural reality, which is that these nationality issues are critical in the modern world. They define whether we become a formless conglomerate of groups bartering for position and privilege, or a nation of differing individuals united in the cause of national cohesion. Georgie Anne Geyer is a nationally syndicated columnist. This article originally appeared in the Washington Times April 19 - 25, 2001 5