The Irascible ProfessorSM

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
Education costs money, but then so does ignorance.   .....Sir Claus Moser, 21 August 1990

Commentary of the Day - October 6, 1999:

Why the "Unz"-man is wrong on bilingual education:

Ron Unz, the wealthy theoretical physicist and entrepreneur, has announced that he will run in the GOP primary for the chance to oppose Diane Feinstein in her bid for reelection to the Senate in 2000.  Unz is well known for his opposition to bilingual education.  He was the money behind Proposition 227, the measure that dismantled most bilingual education in California last year.  Unz plans to make his opposition to bilingual education the centerpiece of his campaign for the senate nomination.

In the view of the Irascible Professor, Unz is the quintessential example of someone who is too smart for his own good.  The Harvard educated Unz forgets that we now live in a global economy.  To lead in that economy we need people who can communicate in more than just English.  Instead of an English only policy in our elementary schools, we ought to be requiring all our students to be bilingual at a minimum.  The problem has not been that we have had too much bilingual education in our elementary schools, but that we have had too little of the right kind.  Namely, we should be ensuring that students who come into our schools with some degree of fluency in a language other than English develop that skill, while at the same time developing genuine fluency in English.  At the same time, those students who are monolingual in English when they enter school need to become fluent in at least one other language.  Here in California it would make good sense that the other language be either Spanish or one of the languages spoken on the Pacific Rim.

It's a shame that someone as bright as the "Unz"-man wasn't astute enough to realize that the problem wasn't bilingual education per se, but rather the self-serving bilingual education establishment in California, which ensured that bilingual education wasn't.  Instead of putting in place true bilingual education, Unz's Prop. 227 managed to throw out the baby with the bathwater.


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©1999 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro