There are situations in education where flexibility is welcome. The flexibility that Bennett is talking about is not. In fact, he tries to do what a lot of people in Washington and other parts of the country have not been able to do--to get rid of one of the best tools a student has to improve himself and be a participant in "the American way of life."
What Bennett is saying is to go back to the archaic times when children used to be punished for speaking other languages than English; when the schools had the "flexibility" to put students who did not speak English in classes for the mentally retarded.
It is not fair to the thousands of children who have benefited from bilingual education. I know one in particular, Ramon, who had it not been for bilingual education, would have been a dropout.
It is not fair to the countless monolingual teachers who gave hundreds of hours to learn another language to communicate better with their students.
It is about time we think about education rather than just bilingual education. To educate our children as total people, we need any available means, and bilingual education is one of those means.
Even though English is the paramount goal, while he or she is learning the language, the education of the whole child is of the utmost importance.
The Supreme Court stated in Nichols vs. Lau that there was no "equality of education if children did not understand what was going on in the classroom." It takes about two years to learn another language.
The rights of liberty are guaranteed by our Constitution. Education is one of the ways to acquire that freedom.
Let us not deceive ourselves by our own ethnocentrism. Let us look beyond our frontiers.
Instead of talking about the failures of bilingual education, let us focus on the successes of bilingual education and try to educate all our children.
There cannot be flexibility if that means stifling the child's growth and potential.
GUIDO M. RIVERO