Saturday, September 10, 2016

Proposition 58 is in trouble: Letters in the LA Times, 9/10/16

 The Los Angeles Times published six letters in reaction to an editorial supporting Proposition 58.  The first is mine.  The rest are bizarre.  Below are the letters and my comments.

To the editor: I strongly agree with your editorial. In fact, bilingual education is even more effective than the Times' sources indicate.
( “Return to bilingual education,” Editorial, Sept. 7)
The most rigorous research design is to compare the progress of children in bilingual programs and children in all-English programs with similar backgrouds.
In general, these studies have shown that children enrolled in bilingual programs do better than children in all-English programs on tests of English reading.
Bilingual programs do not prevent the acquisition of English – they facilitate it.
Stephen Krashen, Los Angeles

To the editor: In my experience as an educator, teachers — even previous bilingual education teachers — who observed Prop. 227 from Day 1 of kindergarten were almost shocked to see how much students from Spanish-speaking communities understood when immersed in English, and became fluent far more quickly than those starting in Spanish and gradually “transitioning” to English.
Regrettably, there are too many people in education and politics who have a vested interest in keeping these kids “in their place” while espousing that they have their best interests at heart.
Prop. 227 failed to meet the students’ needs only because too many schools failed to follow the law, and Prop. 58 would only legalize what is already under way.
Prop. 58 should fail and a serious expose of current practices is long overdue.
Wayne Bishop, Altadena

SK comment: Bishop says that teachers tell him that children acquire English rapidly without bilingual education.  We don't know how many teachers he has talked to, and Bishop is clearly not aware of this research cited in my letter. Wayne Bishop is a math professor at Cal State. Longtime critic of bilingual education and a traditionalist in math education.

To the editor:  Changing the law is just a smoke screen for the real problem: a lack of budget for training parents to speak English, because students lose the benefits of immersion learning when they do not speak English at home.
If you want to find great charter school, just pick one that funds adult education to learn English. If you want a great LAUSD school, find one where the principals support adult education, instead of lobbying the neighborhood to go back to the old system for their own personal benefit.
Harold Walter, Northridge

SK comment: Walter says we should make sure parents learn English, and English should be spoken at home.  Obviously unaware of the research  showing that students who continue to use the native language at home do better in school than those who move exclusively to English, and have a more active social life.
Bhatnagar,  J. 1980.  Linguistic behavior and adjustment of immigrant children in French and English schools in Montreal. International Review of Applied Psychology 29: 141-158.
Dolson, D. 1985. The effects of Spanish home language use on the scholastic performance of Hispanic pupils. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 6, 135-155.

To the editor: To be clear, parents are continuously fighting to have their voices heard in the education conversation, so I doubt that Prop. 58 would empower them overnight.
The new accountability system for schools seems to be unclear and confusing. Furthermore, the editorial goes on to state that immigrant parents and their school districts should be trusted to work this out together, but I believe often times immigrant parents can't get translators at district meetings.
No, I don't trust Prop. 58. Let's first work to improve our current education system, and encourage school districts to find ways to further dual language immersion programs that work.
Evelyn Macias, Reseda

SK comment:  This letter says out that 58 will not empower parents, because many don't speak English well can't get translators at district meetings. (So lets get more translators!) Says 58 is premature but presents no arguments against it.

To the editor: There’s another hugely important point: How vital it is for English-only children to learn at least a second language, if not more. There is no better way to learn about the culture and history of another group of humans than through the study of their language.
Luckily for me, back in the 1950s, I was sent to a private school. Beginning at age six, every one of us was immersed in German, every day of our lives; Spanish and French, frequently and later on, Greek and Latin. I became fluent and comfortable in the cultures and histories that were taught as a natural accompaniment to the language classes.
Kristene Wallis, Valley Village

SK comment: This writer wants more emphasis on foreign languages for English-only children.  Assumes this is an either-or issue, and is irrelevant to the question of Prop. 58. 


If letters 2 through 5 represent the public's reaction to Proposition 58, it will not pass.  Studies done in the 1990's show that the public agrees with the principles underlying bilingual education, but do not realize that bilingual education is based on these principles. (See Question 46 in Crawford, J. and Krashen, S. 2015. English Learners in American Classrooms. DiversityLearningK12.)
We need to get busy.

PS: I cannot respond to letters 2-5 in the LA Times. They only allow one letter every 60 days.


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  2. Harold Walter's comment about us somehow discouraging parents to talk to their children in their heritage language is prejudicial. I am shocked that any publication would allow this. Language minority families should never be made to feel ashamed for their heritage language, particularly by schools.

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