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Speaking to the Issue of Bilingual Education

September 22, 2002

Re "Dual-Language Classes: Are They Just a Waste of Words?," Letters, Sept. 15:

As a teacher for 30 years, the past four at the Santa Ana Unified School District, I'm saddened by the growing number of fine children (and their parents) being misled by some Latino leaders and educators, and being enrolled in dual-immersion classes.

Our students are some of the most dedicated and hard-working I've ever encountered. Many are enrolled in an after-school program, and last year I had almost half of my classes give up a hundred hours of vacation time to attend classes to further their English skills. It must never be said these children don't want to learn English.

While some Latino educators and community members feebly argue the merits of the "dual-immersion" program, citing theory or test scores that have shown questionable gains (How much might they have grown in an English-immersion program?), they ignore reality: Twenty years of bilingual education has assured many Latino workers they'll be the last hired, first fired, lowest paid and least educated, with the highest dropout rate. Rather than point fingers and cry racism, why not at least give English immersion a chance? Do leaders such as Nativo Lopez truly care for these children, or is he still trying to collect on the "us against them" mentality?

Ronald Thrash

Anaheim

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I read with interest the issue in the Sunday Times about the recall petition of Nativo Lopez. My stepson arrived here from China in June 2001 with zero English. After less than six weeks here, he started fifth grade. There was no one at his school who spoke Mandarin, and even if there had been, we would have insisted on English only.

Armed only with an electronic dictionary and a can-do attitude, within one year he is fluent in English and has a 3.5 grade-point average that he hopes to improve to a 4.0. There's another side to this issue as well. If we provide bilingual education for students who speak Spanish, then in the interest of nondiscrimination, it must be provided for any language. A rather daunting task, I would think.

Lopez should get the message. Immersion in English is the only way to go. If parents want their children educated in Spanish, then send them to a boarding school in their home country. Of course, like others, we don't want our son to forget Mandarin. We will make sure that he gets continued education in his native language as well. Also, we plan to have him take Spanish next year at middle school.

Mike Bushey

Orange

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The dual-language idea is something that has found its time. My grandchildren attend a Spanish-immersion public school in Portland, Ore. From their first day in school they are taught math, science, some social studies and language arts in Spanish for half of the day, and writing, reading and social studies, including American history, in English for the other half of the day.

My three granddaughters, ages 7, 9 and 11, are fluent in Spanish for their grade level and accomplished in English, their native language. Their parents want them to have a mastery of at least two languages so that they will be comfortable in the world and will be able to contribute to that world. The parents choose to send their children to this particular school and the student body is entirely English-speaking children. They are bright, eager learners, and I completely believe in this program.

Anyone who travels in Europe comes to realize that almost all people there have at least two languages. This is a different idea from bilingual education and should not be compared to it.

Mary D. Nienow

Santa Ana

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