Prop. 58 Wins Most Mendacious Initiative Prize

John Seiler
Former Editorial Writer at the Orange County Register

The Proposition 58 campaign wins this year’s coveted Most Mendacious Initiative Prize. The Title and Summary were written by Attorney General Kamala Harris. She’s backed by the California Teachers Association, whose CTA/Issues PAC has contributed $1.1 million to Prop. 58.

Her words: “ENGLISH PROFICIENCY. MULTILINGUAL EDUCATION. Preserves requirement that public schools ensure students obtain English language proficiency. Requires school districts to solicit parent/community input in developing language acquisition programs. Requires instruction to ensure English acquisition as rapidly and effectively as possible. Authorizes school districts to dual-language immersion programs for both native and non-native English speakers. Fiscal impact: No notable fiscal effect on school districts or state government.”

Every word is mendacious in all the languages in which this ballot summary is printed. When voters scan the words, they see, “ENGLISH PROFICIENCY…. Preserves requirement … English language proficiency …. parent/community input …. ensure English acquisition …. Immersion programs … English speakers.”

“English” is used four times. Yet the whole aim of 58 is to repeal Proposition 227 from 1998, Ron Unz’ great English for the Children Initiative, which almost entirely banned the horrible “bilingual education” programs, in which children were badly schooled in both English and Spanish. Bilingual ed, for example, teaches students not just the Spanish language in two languages, but history, math, science and other courses.

As Unz noted, “[T]he worst part of Proposition 58 is hidden away in Section 8, which repeals all restrictions on the California Legislature to make future changes. This would allow the Legislature to reestablish mandatory Spanish-almost-only instruction in all our public schools by a simple majority vote, once again forcing all Latino children into those classes against their parents’ wishes.

Yet a 2009 analysis found, “Hispanic test scores on a range of subjects have risen since Prop. 227 became law.” Unz has more data here.

Bilingual ed especially hurt Hispanic children because other immigrant groups made sure their kids were kept out of these programs. I know a lot of Asian families, and even before 227 passed, they all made sure their kids learned English in the real “total immersion” programs, meaning the kids had to learn history, math, science, etc. in English. That’s because English is the language not only of business in the United States, but globally. When German and Chinese businessmen work out deals, the deals are in English.

Ever since the Tower of Babel, people have understood that the best way to learn a language is through “total immersion,” defined on a language site as, “Total immersion in language learning is the situation where the learner spends time in an environment operating solely in the target language.”

The federal government itself has provided funding for this pedagogical mistake through the Bilingual Education Act. Yet the Russian course I took in the U.S. Army at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey was total immersion – for 52 weeks.

The Berlitz company boasts on its website, “Berlitz Total Immersion, our most elite program, is our fastest and most effective language learning experience and is completely customized to meet your individual needs.”

A Vietnamese friend of mine escaped here with his family as “boat people” in 1975 at age 10 knowing no English, but today speaks it perfectly, with no accent at all. That’s how real total immersion works. He learned Vietnamese at home and, since the country has reduced its repressions, returns there every couple of years to visit relatives.

Nowadays, there are plentiful foreign TV and radio stations, as well as Internet sites and books in stores and libraries.

Notice also how 58’s Title and Summary includes “Immersion,” but not “total immersion.” So that’s another deception. Moreover, the claim of “No notable fiscal impact” also is laughable. As I have written before on this site, bilingual ed is a vast industry that brings higher pay for teachers, big profits to companies that produce the books and other materials and luxury junkets for all ingolved. The money to pay for this largesse is grabbed from other school programs that actually work – such as real total immersion language programs.

With the distorted Title and Summary, the 58 forces spending millions and the anti-58 folks spending, so far, nothing, it’s almost certain to pass.

The National Association for Bilingual Education advertises its 2017 Conference in Dallas next Feb. 23-25. Actual conference motto, “Leadership for Equity and Excellence through Bilingualism and Biliteracy.” We know there’s no “excellence.” As to “equity,” keeping kids from learning English properly is the opposite.

Sponsors include those who profit from bilingual ed: Okapi Educational Publishing, Benchmark Education, Velasquez Press, Lectorum Publications, etc.

The shindig will be held at the luxurious Hilton Anatole, whose website proclaims, “Hilton Anatole is an icon and a destination within itself. This Dallas hotel, conveniently located in the Design District, comprises over 45 lush acres just north of downtown Dallas. Discover an array of indoor and outdoor facilities.”

And enthuses, “Enjoy Executive level check-in, private access lounge with flat screen television, downtown view, concierge on duty, full bar, complimentary continental breakfast, and complimentary hors d’oeuvres.”

No doubt there will be a lot of champagne glasses lifted, at our expense, for the passage of Prop. 58. Let the good times roll!

Veteran California journalist John Seiler’s email is: [email protected]

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