The sad, beautiful fact

Surrender is the moment when you say, “I bet every single one of those 1,000 books I’m supposed to read before I die is very, very good, but I cannot read them all, and they will have to go on the list of things I didn’t get to.” – Linda Holmes, NPR

sadIt is safe to say that my life has, at least, one defining and dividing moment.  That moment is the day (or as it turned out, dayS) I boarded a plan and traveled to Brazil for two years.  Until that moment, I had no dreams of travel.  I had no dreams of meeting people very different from myself.  I had no dreams of learning new languages (my high school experience taught me that I was, in fact, incapable of learning languages).

Of course, while I and many others may say we want to see, learn and experience as much of this world as we can; we also know, at least intuitively, the same insight that Linda Holmes points out about the World’s literature.  There is too much.  You can’t.  You won’t.

Like Holmes, those of us who want to (and I honestly think that “those of us” is actually “all of us” to varying degrees) experience as much of the world as possible know and accept that “sad, beautiful fact”.  We find it inspiring in itself, that humanity has created a store of culture, story and knowledge that could never fit into the life of one single human.

It is indeed a type of surrendering, to realize that there are simply too many people in the world.  I will never come to know even superficially 1% of the people in the world.

But this version of Ms. Holmes’ “sad, beautiful fact” is even more heart-wrenching.  I imagine it is a very rare statement, hearing one say, “oh, I wish I could have read the Lord of the Rings one more time before I died.”  For the vast majority of the great books, we seem to find a once-reading, quite enough.  We seem, in general, to fulfill our need by getting through Shakespeare, Twain, dickens and all the rest, at least once. But not necessarily more than that.

Rarely, in the adventure of understanding people, is it satisfying to meet and speak with people just once.  Indeed, the act of meeting an interesting, beautiful or compelling person once is like an addiction.  And separation can and does lead to a withdrawl-effect that my Brazilian friends would call Saudade.  An affected longing for the past.

As I progress in this meeting of people, I am just now realizing what I am getting myself into; which is essentially a very broken heart.  Every Thursday night, I think about my closest of friends at the University of Utah.  Our rituals now shattered in our scattering.  We rarely have contact now, even though those few people had a transformative impact on my thinking.

On warm nights, I feel the absence of sand, a volleyball court and my friends from the English Language Institute.  People from all over the world converging in one place at one time.  We are now scattered once again.  People who I didn’t realize until it was too late, that I felt a deep and abiding connection to.

Eating at a Brazilian restaurant will invariably send me introverted and contemplative.  It is difficult to express just how much I love and miss my dear friends in Brazil.  Saudade, I suppose.

These feelings are not the providence of the traveler alone.  All of us feel this, to one extent or another.  I write as if I have stumbled upon some inspiring insight into the human experience in the age of globalism.  I haven’t.

We all feel the pain of losing a loved-one.  The moving on of friendships; the separating of families.  Suck it up, we might say.

And that does seem to be the truth of the matter.  At some point that I am not entirely sure of, we must stop lamenting (at least publicly) the loss of our friends to time or distance.  At some point, the letter, or the e-mail, or the Facebook Message no longer seems to hold the same emotional “hit”.  Old friends just ‘know’.

As I am discovering, some feel a slight sense of discomfort at this kind of longing being vocalized.  Perhaps it is the chronic nature of the lament.  Every so often, we remember each other, how much we miss each other and it is quite a pain (literally) to tell each other once again.  We dig up old feelings, perhaps unveiling some feelings for the first time.  We bring them up, once again, just to feel their warmth and then bury them again, because it still hurts.

Until, it seems, we find our place.  “Our place” varies widely.  It sometimes is in the hometown you were born in, sometimes it evolves naturally from the life-plan your family sets out for you.  At times, “our place” is in an unexpected place, with unexpected people.  I suppose some people never find their place in the world, and as such, must continually struggle in a way more directly with these feelings.

Right now, I am lamenting the logical conclusion of the life that involves traveling, experiencing and meeting people.  It is the “sad, beautiful fact” that you will never keep up with all the people you will meet.  And even the people you feel a potentially deep connection with, may slip through your fingers.

This is true for everyone, not just the traveler.  Even if you never leave your childhood hometown, you will have siblings get married, grandparents will die and friends will move away.  There is, however, a comfort of knowing your place in the world.  Of either “surrendering” (in the sense Holmes describes) to it, or “culling” it; forcibly making your place.

The traveler (as I know it) has a strange and vague path towards making a place for themselves in the world.  The romantic version of the nomad is something like The Alchemist.  Where a simple boy, unable to obtain his childhood love, goes on a great journey through North Africa, through the merciless Sahara and finds his “place” and love in (naturally) an oasis-town.  It’s a beautiful story; not necessarily realistic, even as a template.

What the traveler gains in broad experience, they can lose in deep understanding.  It certainly has been wonderful to see all these places and to know (to the degree possible) the people in my life.  But the nature of our meetings, even with people I feel a profound connection, dictates only the most superficial of dives into the relationship.  Leaving us (or at least me) knowing there is a deeper connection to be discovered, but that will almost certainly never be explored.  A sad, bittersweet and yet beautiful fact.

Advertisements

The Foreigner Fallacy

“They said most English teachers use students for money and show no respect to Koreans and have an arrogant attitude to us because they can speak English. One friend said they want teacher who has qualification of teaching, and another friend said he thinks native English teacher doesn’t really care about their present job. They are more like a traveler than a teacher.” –24 year old female Korean

I don’t want to simply re-write what has been spewed non-stop on the internet about Native English Teacher’s effectiveness here in Korea.  The Lament of the Native English Teacher is a story old as the position itself, and I’ve commented about it already.

But I wanted to relay some anecdotes that I have been collecting recently that peeked my anxiety.  I have been, over the last month or so, carefully asking my Korean friends (all in their 20s) how they felt about their NETs in high school.  It’s a question that has to be timed just right.  They all know I am an NET and they would never willingly say something they thought I might find offensive.  But if done carefully, they are more than willing to tell me their thoughts.

If I had to put their collective perspectives about NETs in Korea into one sentence; it would be something like, “I don’t really remember.”

It is rare for a student to ponder their former teachers, I suppose.  (As a teacher myself, I do it all the time).  But with a little pushing, memories come back.

For the most part, my friends viewed their NETs as novelties.  A kind of oddity.  Something to be endured.  Significantly, not one of my friends said they felt like they learned anything meaningful about language from their NETs.  To be fair, I’m sure if they thought about some of their other Korean teachers, they could come to the same conclusion.  I am not certain I learned much from some of my high school teachers.

However, there is a difference.  With a Korean teacher, “not learning” comes down to being a bad teacher, or a disinterested student.  For NETs, the alleged reason they didn’t learn much, if anything, is because they couldn’t understand them.  It wasn’t a matter of bad methods, under-training or laziness (persay).  To them, it was simply a cultural and linguistic problem, irresolvable.

And that is, very seriously, a problem.  I don’t mean to say it’s an actual problem, what I mean is, it is a very serious perceptual problem that the students conclude because it feels obvious.  Here is the stereotypical view:

“Frankly I don’t feel good about that foreigners get a offer to be a teacher in Korea. I think people come here for doing so called “teacher thing” so they can get some money and have fun at the night time.”

“A few days ago I read a newspaper article on native teachers. According the article: Korean parents and students like Korean teacher who can speak English well more than native speaker. That means now Koreans also know native speaker doesn’t help to improve their English.” – Teaching in Korea from a Korean perspective – A Girlandtheworld Girls Of The World interview

It is a blatant non-sequitor to go from “parents and students like Korean teachers more” to “native speaker doesn’t help improve their English”, but what I’m driving at is the perception.  And that is certainly very real and popular.  Here, in the same article, the young woman shows outright the disconnect between the average persons understanding of modern language teaching technique and the reality.

“In my case I learnt how to write good article in English at my uni. My teacher was one of good native teacher I’ve met, and he teach with passion but the problem was only a few students could understand what he said.” 

Second language education, theory and methodology recognizes that “negotiating for meaning” is an important part of the language learning process.  Meaning, not understanding everything your NET says is not bad teaching, necessarily (though, it certainly can be).  It forces the student to listen and formulate hypotheses that can be tested.  A good language teacher recognizes a good hypothesis and can evaluate that as learning, even if the student’s hypothesis is wrong.  For example, the common way to form the past-tense in English is add ‘-ed’.  Everyone knows there is a huge list of exceptions.  So when you teach ‘-ed’ and your student then says,

“I flied to New York last week.”

You can be confident the student understands the rule; even though on a test of grammar, that student would be “wrong”.  More importantly, the student has a tool with which to create sentences with words they have only just learned.  I’m not aware of a verb “to splarf”, but if one were to splarf  in the simple past, it would probably come out, “It splarfed.” and not some other variant.  This was humorously demonstrated by cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker when he wrote an article and titled it, “Why no mere mortal has ever flown out to center field“.  The claim being that in baseball, the verb ‘to fly’ was reanalyzed as a new verb (or at least a new sense of the verb) and was thus assigned the default simple-past morpheme.

It was never an absolute phenomenon  (to fly is a common verb), so you’ll find a mix of “flew” and “flied” in the corpora, but ‘flied’ has, over the years, become much more common than ‘flew’.

But that kind of teaching is very different from the traditional method.  Languages in general force teachers and students to try different classroom approaches and techniques because only a very few progress using traditional lecture, “sit n’ git”.  (Of course, in general, the lecture is slowly giving way to other styles).  However, the effect is amplified in language courses.  If your students aren’t prepared for it, and it is presented by a foreigner then it is easy to misattribute the problem to the foreign-ness. (As an aside: this line of argumentation still baffles me in perhaps another way.  What is “learning” if not feeling a sense of discomfort? Either in your current knowledge, or in the way you obtain it?)

— So what of all this?  I suppose for myself it is a coming-to-grips with the realization that while my students seem to like me, seem to be happy to see me; their memories will likely not include a sense of having learned from anything I did.  You have to kind of sit on that for a moment.  For myself, my own way of coping with this sad reality comes from a familiar place.  C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves.

“…The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching. … The hour when we can say ‘They need me no longer’ should be our reward.” Pg. 50

Linguistic Consciousness-Raising

A few months ago, I saw a video of the Star-Spangled Banner being sung in Navajo.  It triggered a moment of clarity for me in that, I recognized in myself no conflict with the song being sung in another language other than English.

In fact, it felt almost super-patriotic, considering everything the United States has subjected the Native Americans to.

So, to book-end the language and authority series, we’re going to look at this idea, that says, “The national anthem and pledge of allegiance should ONLY be done in English”.  It is becoming more and more of an issue, as language classes around the country are teaching kids the pledge and other things in languages like Arabic.  And some people aren’t too happy about it.  But it seems to me that this is a case of discrimination and not one of patriotism.. or something equally bizarre, like.. the idea that the pledge only makes sense in English.

To show why.  Let’s watch two videos.  The first, is the Star-Spangled Banner being sung in Spanish.

And now, the Star-Spangled Banner sung in Navajo.

How was your reaction?  If you defend the proposition that the anthem should only be sung in English, were you equally upset by both versions?  Did you feel one was more offensive than the other?

Sadly, I can’t actually rely on anyone reading this article to respond authentically; because if you are a person who believes in the English-Only movement as one of patriotism, then you would be more than willing to lie about how you feel here.  Luckily, Youtube videos have ways of exposing the English-Only mindset.

Let’s start with the Navajo version.  First, over 77,000 views! 250 “likes” and 5 “dislikes”.  An overwhelmingly positive statistic.

But, more enlightening, are the comments.

diabolicalajyo 1 month ago

greatest anthem i have heard…

Leah Walentosky 6 months ago

This is a beautiful version of the anthem. This is the one that should be sung at the next superbowl.

MrReoification2 2 years ago

my great uncle was a dine code talker and my grandfather is chief joesph medicine crow

nicklane4 3 years ago

at our school in ganado we listen 2 this after pledge of allegence

And so on.  I tried to look on all the Navajo-sung videos, but I couldn’t find an example of a white person upset about this.  There is even a video from a Yankees game.  No one cared.  The only people who had negative comments were like this fellow:

travisnez 1 year ago

this song is a disgrace! Cannot believe it is still being sung in my language. After all it was the red, white & blue that tried to kill off my people. It’s sad that my sacred language is being used to sing this ridiculous song.

No “English only!” folks though.

Now for the Spanish version.  For some reason (hmm.. I wonder) the video does not have a ‘like/dislike’ count, but it has been viewed almost 147,000 times. (First difference, more people are aware of the Spanish version than the Navajo version).

A selection of comments (warning: the language is offensive).  The following is the very first comment on the video (as of today).

What the fuck is this shit?…this is the United States of America – speak English or get the fuck out of this great country

Reply ·

Natural8o9Reborn 1 day ago

You’re just an ignorant Troll. The USA is built on its multicultural society. Todos somos humanos, somos equales. I’m American, I speak two languages and im not even Latin. If it wasn’t for EVERY single race that is in our country, we wouldn’t be the “Great” country you speak of.

Reply · in reply to Sports70

LesterisMusic 8 months ago

This has been flagged as spam

Exactly. First off, it sucks. Secondly, it just means nothing to Americans & it will never be absorbed, taken serious, or be part of America in reality. It was just a “pop” project and some artists made money making it in the studio, pfft. To hell with those who can’t handle the truth and that get “offended”, they’ll get over it. It will surely NEVER be a part of the American mainstream. Dicho. In the United States of America, there is the Star Spangled Banner, period.

This has been flagged as spam

fucking spics cant learn anything other than spanish, a filthy dialect ,vulgar latin+ vulgar arabic+vulgar greek =spanish fuck spain. these latinoes dont even know what spanish is made up of even though they speak it. they got no culture, i speak also spanish but there’s nothing importan to learn in spanish unless its something important from another lnguage that was translated to spanish. i mean look at spain’s history in europe,never invented anything in science.fuck spain.

Reply

DerekIsAwesome1494 1 year ago

lol, English is the language made by the germanic barbarians who destroyed years of flourishing civilization by the Romans. The languages derived from Latin are the languages of Culture and Civilization, while English is the language of Barbarity and Murder, and Imperialism, and Genocide, and Racism. Plus, Spanish has more speakers than English.

Reply · in reply to murggik

PatrioticEagle50 10 months ago

The Roman Empire, the French Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Italian Empire, all imperialistic, and their all LATIN language. How is english more imperialistic then Latin language nations? Or any other language for that matter? The chinese had several empires, the egyption empire, the aztec empire. Imperialism is not a Germanic idea, it is a human idea. The Romans, or the civilized culture, invaded germanic land, and you don’t expect them to fight?

Reply · in reply to DerekIsAwesome1494

I was fascinated by the latinate/Germanic conversation that erupted.

There is simply an overwhelming difference when someone hears the Star-Spangled Banner in Navajo compared to Spanish.  Why?  Is it because it’s unpatriotic? Well.. you can tell yourself that, but it doesn’t seem to explain the divergent reactions, does it?

What does help, is noting the difference in size of the two minority groups.  Latinos are an ever-growing part of the American geo-political landscape.  The Navajo and other Native American tribes were subjected to rampant racism, war and genocide that drastically reduced their numbers.  After awhile, we gave them “their lands” back to live on.  There are native Americans alive today who went to special boarding schools where they were corporeally punished for speaking their native language.  We used to care about natives speaking their language.  But they simply aren’t a big enough part of the population to matter anymore.  Mainstream America doesn’t need to worry about silly natives singing the national anthem in Navajo.

Let’s not forget that the Navajo and other tribes are perceived by mainstream America as some of the most ardent supporters of the United States.  The Navajo Code-talkers of WWII are a national treasure.

How do “English-only” types view Spanish-speakers?  With suspicion.  It feels un-patriotic in a way that Navajo doesn’t.   There are many Latino-Americans who, it should be noted, don’t even speak Spanish.  3rd generation latinos follow the same “grandfather” trend that all other immigrant peoples faced.  Which is that while 1st generation immigrants may only speak their native language, their children (2nd generation) will invariably be bilingual.  And by the 3rd generation, many of have lost the native language of the 1st generation altogether.  Some dialects of English like Chicano English are mistaken as “badly spoken English by a native-spanish speaker”, when in reality, many of the youth who speak Chicano English don’t speak Spanish.  Leaving them in this sort of no-man’s land, where they may believe they don’t speak a language at all.

Of course, English-Only types can’t out-right proclaim their racism, it’s in bad taste these days.  So instead we get the arguments that were addressed in the last post.  The idea that “multi-culturalism has failed” and the re-writing of history so that “English has always been the unifier of America!!”

But, really, while many good people may be convinced that an Official English amendment is a good thing; it simply boils down to this:  It is not about language.  It is not about protecting English.  It is not about helping minority groups.

English%20Only

” Instead of calling people out on March 4th for all the usages they get wrong, how about pointing out all the thing things that people–against all odds–get right? Can you correctly pronounce “rough,” “though,” “through,” and “thought”? Congratulations, you have just navigated the Great Vowel Shift. If I ask you to come up with synonyms of “ask” and you respond with “question” and “inquire,” congratulations: you have seamlessly navigated your way through 500 years of English history. Do you end sentences in prepositions? That is awesome, because that is a linguistic and historical tie back to Old English, the dyslexic-looking Germanic language that started this whole shebang almost 1500 years ago.”

harm·less drudg·ery

I love National Grammar Day. I also hate National Grammar Day. That may be surprising–after all, I’m a journeyman grammarian. I make my bread deciding whether a word is an attributive noun or adjective, parsing adverbial uses over conjunctive uses, writing those delightfully boring usage notes in your dictionary.

I love National Grammar Day for all the reasons you’d expect a massive nerd like me to love it: a chance to revel in and highlight the most-dear idiosyncrasies of my language and our feeble attempts to explain it. All you need to do is read through all the Grammar Day haiku that have been written, each falling like a cherry blossom in late Spring, to get in the spirit.

But I also hate National Grammar Day, because it ends up being less a celebration of the weirdness of English and more an annual conclave of the peeververein (as gentleman-copyeditor John E. McIntyre

View original post 1,035 more words

National Unification, Bilingulism and Official English

Language and Authority – part 1 and part 2

Proponents of Official English claim that they seek merely to recognize a state of affairs that has existed since the founding of the nation. After two hundred years of common-law cohabitation with English, we have simply decided to make an honest woman of her, for the sake of the children.  — Geofrey Nunberg, The Official English Movement: Reimagining America

english-getout

Here, we will approach the cultural movement in the United States of making English the “official” language of the land, which is closely tied to the “English-Only” movement (though not necessarily the same).  I will not address the popular quips, like, “why do I have to press 1 for English?” or “There should be English translations on all businesses”.  These ideas are superficial to the real philosophical and logical arguments behind the movement.  That is not to say that debating the superficial is meaningless.  It means that trying to address all those arguments is overwhelmingly time-consuming.  A more focused conversation addresses the underlying foundational beliefs.  I will, therefore, restrict my comments to addressing the two key figures in the Official English movement, Senator S. I. Hayakawa and Representative Norman Shumway.  You can read their positions here.

The argument for a constitutional amendment naming English as the official language of the United States, as argued by Senator Hayakawa and Rep. Shumway, rests on basically two founding ideas.  The first is national unification by common language and the second is the failure of bilingualism. This essay will first consider these foundational ideas and then prove them false based on current scientific research.

English as National Unifier

To begin, both men start in the same fashion by assigning English the title of unifier in the United States of America.  Senator Hayakawa describes American society as a “hodgepodge of nationalities, races, and colors represented in the immigrant hordes that people our nation” (Hawakawa 94); holding this society together is the common language.

Representative Shumway says, “common language has been the ‘glue’ which has held us together, forging strength and unity from our rich cultural diversity” (Shumway 121).  This unifying characteristic of language is a powerful idea and one which people in a society like the United States can secure themselves to, especially when it can be difficult to say what it really means to be an American.  With so much diversity, or at least perceived diversity, it can appear that the common bond which holds us all together, is that we all speak English.

However, this presupposition is not as sure a foundation as Hayakawa and Shumway have proposed.  Throughout the history of the United States, the attraction and unifer of this country has not ever been English.  The first European settlers; the Puritans, the French, the Spanish, the southern and eastern europeans after the revolution, the Asians in the 1900s and the modern latin immigrant, all share the common trait that they believe in the opportunity and liberty that America represents.  Perhaps the claim underlying these ideals is that a common language allows the immigrant the ability to acquire opportunity, liberty, freedom and happiness; but there is no historical precedent for this in the United States.

It is impossible to tell from these two texts what Hayakawa and Shumway know about the linguistic past of the country, but their presuppositions about language being the glue of our society betrays ignorance.  One can hardly make the case that before our current time, all immigrants came to the United States with a passion to learn English when settlements of immigrants often preserved their native language, such as the Germans in the north, the French in the south and the Mexicans in the west.  Nor can the claim be made that because an ethnic group either came to America already speaking English, or made the commitment to learn English, that they were respected, given equal opportunity, or even protected under our constitution.  One only needs to look to the Irish Catholic and the African-American.  Indeed, far too often in our past and present are minorities persecuted, whether they speak English or not.

sfl-chan-lowe-englishonly-police-strike-again--001

With the historical context in mind, Hayakawa’s closing statement “[o]ne official language and one only, so that we can unite as a nation” (100) rings awfully hallow.

David Crystal in his book Language Death adds;

There are two intractable difficulties with [monolingualism as a unification tool].  The first is the naivety of the conception that sharing a single language is a guarantor of mutual understanding and peace, a world of new alliances and global solidarity.  The examples to the contrary are so numerous that it would be impracticable to list them.  Suffice it to say that all the major monolingual countries of the world have had their civil wars, and that as one reflects on the war-zones of the world in the last decades of the twentieth century, it is striking just how many of them are in countries which are predominately monolingual (Crystal 27).

If unification is what the United States is striving for, entrenching in monolingualism is by no measure the logical direction.

The Failure of Bilingual Education

Building off of unification by language, Hayakawa and Shumway move to the next major point, the failure of multiculturalism and multilingualism.  Both men point out some very real issues facing cultural minorities in the United States.  Hayakawa quotes Earl Byrd, noting that,

“Hispanics are the least educated minority in America” (Hayakawa 98). 

Shumway states:

“existing government policies are discriminatory, by keeping language minorities forever on the fringes of our society” (Shumway 123).  

It is foolish to believe these are not actual problems facing America today.  However, both writers over-extend these facts and blame multilingualism as the cause, most specifically, citing bilingual education.

As regards bilingual education, Hayakawa states, “[d]espite the ministrations of the Department of Education [in bilingual education], or perhaps because of them, Hispanic students to a shocking degree drop out of school, educated neither in Hispanic nor American language and culture” (Hayakawa 98; bold added).  This is a strong argument and one that must be taken seriously.  It is unfortunate that the Senator does not make his position more explicit or explain the causal relationship of bilingual education and the drop-out rate of Hispanic students that his advocating.

As it is, a simple look into the history of the education of minority groups reveals that bilingual education was proposed as a solution to the already high drop-out rate of hispanics.  Sandra del Valle, in her book Language Rights and the Law in the United States, writes,

“Interest in bilingual education was not serendipitous; the educational plight of many Latino schoolchildren was increasingly visible during the early and mid 1960s.  The drop-out rate for Latinos, Chicanos and Puerto Ricans was often the highest amongst all ethnic groups.”  She continues, “both Puerto Ricans and Chicanos had seen their native languages ridiculed and suppressed either through the outright punishment of children for speaking Spanish or by legislation changing the national language of Puerto Rico to English.  The educational fall-out of these policies were not surprising: Latino students left school in droves, alienated, uneducated and isolated in their own countries” (Valle 225; italics added).

If there is a casual relationship between language policy and the academic drop-out rate of Hispanic schoolchildren, clearly it is that Official English is a detriment to successful education of linguistic minorities.

gbiside

Hayakawa and Shumway’s argument may stand still, if a causal relationship can be linked to minority group drop-out rates, and the current practice of Bilingual education.  However, this is a near impossible task.  Mostly because, while we give it one name, bilingual education is really a cover title for many different approaches to the education of linguistic minorities and majorities.  Not all of which share the same goals, practices or educational theories.

The history of bilingual education is not altogether a success story.  Indeed, much of the learning process over the years has been in the implementation of theories and practices that do not work.  In 1968, Congress passed sweeping legislation for bilingual education, opening up resources to this very new way of teaching.  The theory at the time driving this new legislation was that cultural minorities were “deprived”.  This was based upon research into the developmental process of infants, which considered intellectual and visual stimulation critical.  Children not given the appropriate stimulation were considered deprived.  On this, del Valle notes:

“The idea of social or cognitive deprivation found a footing in the politics of culture … the concept of ‘cultural deprivation’ grew with its implicit condemnation of the ‘culture’ of Latinos and blacks.  For, it was the divergent and, therefore, deprived culture of these children that was leading them to educational failure” (Valle 227).

With this in mind, Shumway’s comments that, originally, the bilingual educational theory, “was a good one” (123: emphasis added) is disconcerting.  It was a start, but a crude one from which we have learned much.  To suppose it is something we should try to reclaim is to take a step backwards.

It is insufficient to describe all the various methodologies under the single title, “bilingual education”.  So many different approaches are developed, that to lump them all together is descriptively unsatisfactory.  Shumway believes that the transitional method, in which the goal is to transition the child to education in the majority language as soon as he/she exhibits  somewhat proficiency, is the ideal way (123). However current research, in the United States, has shown that late-exit immersion programs are the most successful.  J. David Ramirez who conducted the research in 1991 in behalf of the Department of Education found that,

“students who were provided with a substantial and consistent primary language development program learned mathematics, English language reading skills as fast or faster than the norming population” (del Valle 223).

This, in comparison to Shumway’s remarks that, “[i]n many cases, however, bilingual education may be counterproductive by fostering continued reliance on the student’s native language” (Shumway 123).  Giving the Representative the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he is speaking about other bilingual programs, and not the late-exit immersion programs.  But of all the programs, excluding language maintenance programs, late-exit immersion keeps the native language as the primary language of education the longest, which seems to be what Shumway is claiming to be the main detriment.  Clearly current research shows that this is not the case.

The research findings of Ramirez also have implications for the drop-out claim that Hayakawa has presented.  If, as representatives of their constituents, these politicians are looking out for the well-being of their minority groups, let them give heed to the conclusions of Ramirez; “their [late-exit immersion students] growth in these academic skills; atypical of discouraged youth … provides support for the efficiency of providing language development in facilitating the acquisition of English language skills” (qtd in del Valle 223).  If the drop-out rate of any group is to decrease, a good place to start is to eradicate the feelings of alienation and discouragement that exist; late-exit immersion programs have a primary role in that.

Many other things have been said by Hayakawa and Shumway, but their argument, in these specific essays, lives or dies on the implication that unification of the nation is brought by linguistic means and that bilingualism is a failure, using the educational domain as the primary example.  If these claims have any validity, they do not rest on the arguments Hayakawa and Shumway themselves espouse.

References

Crawford, James, ed. 1992.  Language loyalties: a source book on the official English controversy.  Chicago; University of Chicago.

Crystal, David.  2000.  Language Death.  United Kingdom: Cambridge.

Hayakawa, S. I.  1992.  “The Case for Official English.”  Crawford 94-100.

Nunberg, Geoffrey.  1992.  “The Official English Movement: Reimagining America”.  Crawford.

Shumway, Norman.  1992.  “Preserve the Primacy of English.” Crawford 121-4.

Valle, Sandra Del.  2003.  Language Rights and the Law in the United States.  New York:     Multilingual Matters.  Print.