Biligual Education For the past thirty years in the State of California, bilingual education has been undertaken by all the public schools of the state. Under such system, children of non-American ethnic have had a special treatment in their early academic career. Children of minority groups have been thought various subjects in their native tongues. Such subjects are Math, History and some Science classes. The bilingual program presented the student a scholastic curriculum that simultaneously instructed students all the required classes while teaching them the English language.
For such method, bilingual teachers were the focal point for the success of individual students of any class level. Prior to Proposition 227, Californias programs for immigrant students included English as a Second Language, in which students were taught the English language for part of the day, and bilingual education, in which students took classes taught in their native tongues until their English improved. The bilingual educational system was legally first introduced by Governor R. Reagan in 1967. Reagan as Governor of California signed a bill eliminating the states English-only instructional mandate and allowing bilingual education. Proposition 227, that has reformed the thirty year old bill, has taken affect on June 2, 1998.
The proposition introduces a new way of teaching the English language to immigrant children. Such proposition is also called English for the Children or simply the Unz initiative after its author and chief financial backer, Ron K. Unz, a Silicon Valley millionaire and conservative Republican who has no children or background in education and has never set foot in a bilingual education class. The Unz initiative calls for one year of courses taught in English, with an emphasis on learning the language; a system that many fear is a return to a past when children were sometimes punished for speaking Spanish, but that others say is a return to sanity stated Don Terry in his article Bilingual Education Facing Toughest Test. In addition, one of the more controversial points of he plan involves a waiver system whereby parents who prefer native-language instruction for their children can request that the children be removed from the English-immersion classes.
The request will be granted if they can find parents of twenty of more children on the same school who want the same thing. If they can not find enough parents, they are allowed to transfer to another school that will provide it. Like many other initiatives or bills, Proposition 227 had raised many issues in the State and the entire nation. These issues vary from legal human rights, including freedom of choice, to political and social issues. In fact many argue that the issue of bilingual education has mainly been viewed as a political and social matter rather than an educational or pedagogy problem. In addition one of the strongest argument of the opponents of the bill is to call on racism to counter attack the views of its supporters.
Racism is in fact one argument that deserves a much closer look. About eighty percent of all non-English speaking students in California are Mexican or of Hispanic descent. Many feel that the Proposition will create a greater barrier for Latino children to become successful citizens in America. Mexicans have been the main source of cheap labor in America. The opponents of the Bill state that it will prevent Mexican children to fully learn the language, therefore preparing the student to meet greater challenges in school and eventually drop out of school.
With a lesser level of education, therefore, the children will not be able to quality for the better, high-paying jobs, that are available to the white population. Such situation will enforce the myth that Mexicans and Latinos are second class citizens. Moreover, the Mexican communities and other opponents in California believe that Proposition 227 works in parallel with Affirmative Action and Proposition 187. According to Yleana Martinez in 1994, voters easily passed Proposition 187, which cut benefits for illegal immigrants and, most recently Proposition 209, which ended Affirmative Action in state hiring and school admissions. Republicans rejoiced in those victories, but observers say that the latent anti-Latino temperament of these two measures has forced the party to undertake some damage control. Although they have tried to distinguish themselves from the racist temperament of these two previous campaigns, and although the top leadership still opposes it, the majority of the California GOP has endorsed the initiative. Regardless, the bill will strike mostly Latino families and schoolchildren.
Such laws are leading the Mexican people of California to become more distant and less represented on all social aspect of our environment. All immigrant students entering public schools, is believed, will automatically start the so-called americanization process. To become American is the main outcome of migration to the United States. Slowly many immigrants are faced with the confusing problem of learning a new culture, the American Culture. Needless to say, for an individual to become an active member of any new society, learning and integrating the local way of living is part of growing is the new environment. So it can be conclusive to state that one way or the other, immigrants will have to accept the fact that the need to melt in the American culture is imperative for them to be socially successful.
Many multi-cultural citizens have accepted such natural response, however, many argue that it is important for them to maintain a sense of awareness and clear knowledge of their native culture and traditions. However, other argue, that this belief is the root cause of segregation among minorities in California and the rest of the nation. On the other hand, most Hispanic parents want their children to learn English as rapidly as possible. Some Latino leaders have tried to describe Unzs measure as immigrant bashing, but their case was weak. Indeed, all the polls showed that Proposition 227 had a strong support even among Hispanics. Early opinion polls showed widespread support, including among Latinos, for eliminating bilingual education.
But Latino support seemed to have shrunk with every new poll. In December 1997, according to the statewide Field poll, the overall support was sixty nine percent in favor and twenty four percent against. Among Latinos it was sixty six percent in favor and to thirty percent opposed. In February, in a second Field poll, overall support was still sixty six percent in favor and twenty seven percent opposed. Among the Latinos it was forty six percent in favor and forty five percent opposed.
State Senator Richard Polanco, the head of the Legislatures Latino Caucus, said he expected most Latinos to vote against 227 said Don Terry. As stated earlier in California the debate went beyond pedagogy. If you say you are against bilingual education, youre looked at as a racist, said Fontana High School teacher Melody Arganda. Because bilingual teachers get paid more, theyre accused of being in it for the money. Education has been seen as being the most important ingredient for the success of any individual in western societies.
Without an adequate education, a person will more likely fall under a poor social class, not being able to get high-paying jobs, forced to work for minimum wages and struggle through life. Lack of education has also been one of the main reasons for the increasing rate of crime throughout the nation. In addition to racial and social issues rising from the proposition, political and economical problems have also emerged. On April 27, 1998 the Clinton Administration announced its opposition to the California ballot initiative that ended bilingual education, saying that the President and other official would have actively campaign against it. The White House press Secretary Michael D. McCurry said the Administration opposed the initiative because it would have made it more difficult in Congress to defeat bills intended to end Federal support of bilingual programs and would jeopardize President Clintons budget proposals to hire more teachers proficient in foreign languages.
Few new political and social groups were born during the presentation of Proposition 227. Last September an organization was formed to fight the English for Children initiative. The committee included human rights groups, state teachers unions, school districts, school board members, state lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties, and a handful of national and activist organizations. Such organization was called the Citizens for an Educated America: No on Unz. The organization based its main arguments on the fact that they believed that the proposition was not going to fit all the schools systems in the State. The further argued that such one-size-fits-all program that treats all children the same, may rise more problems simply because the method may work in Los Angeles but not in Fresno.
Another argument is the legal rights of the students. Education is a right, not a privilege argues the organization. There has been, however, a mutual agreement from both sides of the issue that the bilingual education classes and the infrastructure of such system had been ineffective and poorly managed by many schools in the State. In fact, according to many articles published during the high times of the proposition, stated that the number of qualified bilingual teachers was dramatically small. Over twenty thousand bilingual teachers were needed in order to accommodate the 1.4 million students that were in bilingual classes in 1997-8 academic year. The need for professional and qualified staff emerged due to the fact that the number of minority children in California sharply raised in the decade.
Such influx of student slowly caused the problem of quality education. Children were left without any guidance in their learning. Some were lost in the system and switched classes. Supporters blamed the shortage of qualified teachers on the lack of political and fiscal support for the programs. The problem became so serious that two years ago in Los Angeles, some two hundred Latino parents, led by bilingual teacher Alice Callaghan, became so angry at the unwillingness of administrators at the Ninth Street Elementary School to teach their children in English that they boycotted the school.
Many of the parents were minimum wage garment workers. Some of those students had been in bilingual classes for six years and couldnt write a simple English sentence, which was not surprising since for some LEP (limited English proficient) students English instruction consisted largely of three hours on the playground and in the lunchroom mixing with the English-speaking children. And since it was virtually impossible to find enough qualified teachers for the scores of languages that Californias students bring to school, it was not unusual to find Korean or Middle Eastern students being instructed in Spanish. For a generation, while federal law had required schools to provide special language instruction to assist English learners in obtaining an equal education, it was never mandated the form that such assistance should have taken. Peter Schrag explains in his article that Since the seventies, a mixture of blind faith and administration arrogance had not only kept bilingual education afloat, but also made i …