I was disappointed, to say the least, to read (The Los Angeles Times, Feb. 17) that the Bellflower Unified School District's plan to group all students who speak limited English at a separate school has been attacked as being racist or "ethnic" by an enterprising "consultant." Chuck Acosta (consultant with the Los Angeles County Office of Education's Bilingual Services Department) calls it an attempt to "segregate."
The bilingual education program has wasted manpower, material, time and countless millions of scarce dollars. Now that concerned educators (not consultants) want to try to correct the problem, someone has the unmitigated gall to yell "fire!" in the crowded theater.
Businesses and even the military have long used intensive language studies to prepare their people to deal with non-English-speaking people. There isn't a shred of difference in the underlying principle in the Bellflower "Newcomer School" project.
It works out to be the greatest possible gain, in the shortest possible time, for the least cost! The youngsters will, for the most part, learn more readily than adults in the business world.
After 15 years in the high school classroom, I have become acutely aware of the need for such intensive language study in the first year or two of a child's education. This is the time to give those younger students the better advantage in acquiring communications skills in English in order to be prepared to perform better in the latter grades. This is not the time to be yelling "segregation," which is another term for "racist."
It is a sad indictment that so-called "civil rights" jargon must be interjected into a practical attempt by the school district to solve a problem. The plan sounds like the best thing since the invention of the wheel.
The Newcomer School plan calls for a concentrated effort to get the parents involved, as well as the students. And some want to call this "segregation," or "ethnicity," when what they are really saying, is: "We want that social color mix whether there is any language skills learned or not." There is much more to education than mixing the colors socially. The battle cry of those minorities should be "Color me educated!" not "Color me black, brown, etc."
I understand the paranoia of some minorities. God knows, they have been mistreated too often. And some legitimately distrust the system. But this intense language school is absolutely away from any such thing as segregation.
I also noticed that Acosta and the others opposing the plan have certainly not come up with a better proposal. If they can't be part of the solution, they shouldn't be part of the problem.
The goal of the Newcomer School plan is education, not segregation or civil rights. If this is racist, so be it. Priorities seem never to be put in the right perspective in the minds of some. It is hoped that the Newcomer School plan WILL be adopted, will work and will be supported by those minorities that need it most.