Back to Index

Language Diversity: Bilingual in America

From Slovakia, Tom Grey writes "I like English immersion. But I wouldn't want my own children "held back" by being in the same class as poorer speaking immigrants (in Slovakia, my kids speak both English and Slovak fine.) Below is an analysis of two state propositions about it. Especially noteworthy is the ad compaign against immigration in Colorado". Bilingual split
By a two-to-one margin, Massachusetts voters adopted an initiative requiring English immersion classes for students who aren't proficient in English. But bilingual education boosters defeated the Unz initiative in Colorado; 56 percent voted "no." In Massachusetts, the anti-bilingual forces spent no money on advertising, but gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney endorsed teaching in English in his ads. He was a big winner too.

In Colorado, a billionaire's $3 million donation funded a last-minute pro-bilingual advertising blitz that played on white parents' fears. The Rocky Mountain News interviewed the ad men behind the pro-bilingual campaign. Their strategy: Don't mention bilingual education or Latino culture. Instead, raise fears of "Chaos in the Classroom" if non-English-speaking students aren't taught in separate classes. . The announcer states children who speak little English, largely Hispanic students, would disrupt the education of "your children" -- presumably the majority white families of Colorado. . . . An "a-ha" moment came in September, (John) Britz said. They were interviewing what they considered a typical suburban voter -- female, Republican, a parent. The woman was adamant in her support of 31. Then Britz said her own children would be affected. That her child's teacher might be distracted by having to work with students who know little English. "She turned," he said. "She said, 'They're going to put them in my kid's class?'" It was ugly, the admen admit. But it worked.

Ronald Hilton - 11/14/02