Originally published by Salon on August 4, 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.