Bilingual Miseducation

Glenn Garvin's brilliant piece exposing the lies and corruption of bilingual education ("Loco, Completamente Loco," January) made me wonder how compulsory bilingual education programs could possibly survive scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The Equal Protection Clause provides that when government treats people differently based on their race or national origin, it has the burden to show that the program is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest. Narrowly tailored? Forcing kids with Hispanic surnames to endure a majority of their instruction in a foreign language? And compelling state interest? Where no reliable evidence suggests that kids benefit from a segregated pattern of teaching? It is clear to me that compelled bilingual education, aside from depriving them of a good education, violates those kids' constitutional rights.

Evan E. Gilbert
San Jose, CA

Glenn Garvin's excellent article makes powerful and insightful arguments about the problems caused by ineffective "bilingual education" programs. Learning English at a young age is important because it enables children to learn English bet-ter. Researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Cornell University Medical College last summer published important new findings indicating that within language-sensitive regions of the brain, second languages learned in adulthood are actually stored in different areas than native languages. Second languages acquired at a younger age show little or no separation from native languages. This implies that the brain treats a second language learned early more like a native language.

This research complements a large body of other scientific evidence. Professor Patricia Kuhl of the University of Washington, participating last April in a White House conference on early childhood development hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton, presented stunning new research showing how children can acquire a second language quite easily during their preschool years. "So if we're going to expose children to second languages, it's best to do it early," she concluded.

Don Soifer
Program Director
Alexis de Tocqueville Institution
Arlington, VA

While bilingual education of the type cited by Glenn Garvin is a disservice to Spanish-speaking parents and children alike, the real outrage is the bureaucratic arrogance that has perpetrated it against parental will. As a veteran of the Inter-American Magnet School, a bilingual K-8 project in Chicago, I can offer anecdotal evidence for the assertion that not all attempts at bilingual education are marred by such arrogant incompetence. Aside from charter schools, magnets are the closest thing to school choice lower-income parents have. Thus, Inter-American developed within a framework of parental choice, resulting in a program where each student is taught an equal amount of time in English and in Spanish.

Students who spoke only English when they started kindergarten were grade-level proficient in Spanish by the time of their graduation, and vice versa. More important, each and every student who attended Inter-American was there because her parents wanted her to be there. And in contrast to the heart- wrenching tales told by Garvin, any child whose parents were unsatisfied had every right to move her to a different school. And that has made all the difference.

Kevin B. O'Reilly

I appreciate Glenn Garvin's quoting me and the nice photo in the January issue. However, the caption under the photo gives the impression that I currently teach Armenian kids, which is not the case. The kids seated with me in the photo are Hispanic kids from my current class, and they were puzzled by the caption.

Doug Lasken

Rocky Regulations

Brian Doherty's article "Stoned in Santa Barbara" (January) tells truth. The county's huge and expanding bureaucracy has surrounded itself with volumes of regulatory interpretations to the point of incomprehensibility. A staff of county attorneys totaling about 100 advise the churlish cretins of the Planning and Development Department as to how far they can go in abusing the taxpayers. If they don't like your project, it may never see the light of day. If they can't stop it by the tactics Doherty describes so graphically, they call in their allies from the Citizens' Planning Association, an organization headquartered in Santa Barbara which tries to shadow-govern the Board of Supervisors. Any project that doesn't meet their criteria gets short shrift. If they can't stop it at the board level, they call on the EnvironmentalDefense Center, a pro bono firm of attorneys who then sue the county. This process effectively delayed the Hyatt hotel project for some 12 years, and after multiple lawsuits the state Supreme Court told the EDC to cease and desist. Hyatt's financing has long since vanished, and the hotel may not be built.

The Board of Supervisors can't oversee the bureaucrats because they hide behind the volumes of regulations; they can't discipline them because of civil service protections and employee unions. So the abuse continues ad infinitum and ad nauseam. The Antolinis should sue the county under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment!

Benjamin P. Hawkins
Santa Maria, CA

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