The Denver Post's Education 'Professionals'

June 28th, 2006 2:36 PM

In theory, we're all pro-assimilation. And in theory, even the CEA agrees that Latino kids ought to be learning English. So naturally, the same education professionals who brought you "whole language" and the New Math oppose English immersion programs:

A proposal to immerse students who don't speak English into intense English-instruction classes for a year before they return to mainstream classrooms is not educationally sound and could be harmful to students, educators and critics say.

"This (proposed state constitutional) amendment is one-size-fits-all, regardless," said Sheila Shannon, a professor in the School of Education at the University of Colorado.

At issue is the "Education of English Learners" ballot initiative proposed by a Weld County-based committee, English for Colorado. It calls for placing kids learning English into language classes for a year, without lessons in math, science, social studies or other topics.

After that year, the student would return to mainstream classrooms, said Weld County Commissioner William Jerke, who is leading the initiative effort. Parents of students 10 or older can request a waiver.


But there is division on whether those programs are working.

The research on bilingual education, in which English learners are helped in their native language, shows that students benefit in cognitive, language and social development, [CU Professor] Shannon said. Research also shows that it can take an English learner four to seven years to compete with English-speaking peers, she said.

Critics also say such a plan would deprive parents of choices, would leave English learners behind in other subjects and would be expensive.

First, there is always division on whether or not this or that "reform" is working. Good grief, there are even "education professionals" who think that 3+3 equals something else in Africa. Second, the Post provides no arguments in favor of the plan, but uncritically reproduces sounds bites against it. Finally, if anyone over 10 can get a waiver, it's by definition not coercive or "one-size-fits-all," despite Professor Shannon's objections. "One-size-fits-all" is exactly the system we have now - it's just a size that happens to fit Professor Shannon.

As it happens, both the Center for Equal Opportunity and the Lexington Institute have produced studies supporting English Immersion.

Finally, the Post has chosen as an advocate not someone who is sympathetic to English, but someone whose writings routinely deride the "hegemony of English" in the classroom and in the United States as a whole:

The current official English debate illustrates the problem well. Those in favor of official English, or English only, argue that such a policy is in the best interest of all Americans, especially those who do not already speak English. Furthermore, they argue, one language holds a society together and allows communication and trust across communities. Although such a policy would necessarily involve negative sanctions against those who either oppose it or who cannot abide by it because they do not speak English, the arguments in favor of it are promoted and perceived as benign if not benevolent. The negative sanctions necessary to enforce an English-only policy exemplify the symbolic violence that Bordiue talks about.

Immigrants, in our view, are the victims of a colonizing educational process.

If Prof. Shannon were to ask anyone who was outdoors west of the Mississippi on May 1 exactly who's feeling colonized, I suspect she'd get an answer that might move the askee to violence more than symbolic.

This is the expert the Post went to for an opposing viewpoint. Not someone who thinks bilingual education is a better way to assimilate and acculturate the waves of immigrants, but someone who sees it as a Trojan Horse to prevent their assimilation at all.

It took me about 10 minutes to track this down, by the way, even after being misdirected by the reference to University of Colorado rather than the correct CU Denver.

Cross-posted at View From a Height.