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Language Bond

November 19, 1995

George Ramos' Nov. 6 column misses the message of Quebec and bilingual education. The crux is not whether bilingual education will cause the Southwest to secede but the cohesive and divisive power of language. Language has united Quebec and divided Canada. Bilingual education sows those same seeds in our country.

The first step in assimilating an immigrant group is language. As the children learn the language, the perceived differences dissolve and the group becomes an integral part of society. Our history is a perfect example. This diverse nation has survived the Civil War, two world wars and racial and economic strife in no small part because of our common language.

Being a second-generation Hispanic, I am not insensitive to a desire to keep one's heritage alive. My grandparents immigrated from Mexico and until their deaths spoke little English, but insisted their children learn the language. Due to my family, I am fluent in both English and Spanish. As a graduate of a university and law school, I can attest how difficult it would be to succeed without a proper grounding in English.

It is naive to believe our educational system will produce a truly bilingual student. Bilingual education is really non-lingual education. The family, not government, must keep one's heritage and tongue alive. The state should ensure that language be a common bond that unites us, not a wall that separates us. We should recall that when God decided to disperse the masses at Babel, he chose the power of language.

DAVID J. PANTOJA

Riverside

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