Calif. election & bilingual education

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Thu Jun 4 19:18:58 PDT 1998

Though my mother's English was spotty, she taught me how to read before kindergarten (which I attended in California). We spoke Hindi in the home. I tested as gifted, but was not allowed into the gifted classes when we lived in Torrance, and Concord, CA--my years of elementary education. In third grade, I was sentenced in humiliating fashion to a remedial class due to my accent and supposed cursive problems along with problem white kids and "other" Mexican kids--this was before the myth of the Asian model minority had been invented. I was called a beaner--which my parents thought was a reference to our vegetarian diet--and socially isolated. At that point, my parents never spoke another word of Hindi to me.

Yes, "foreign" parents may want their children out of bilingual education but only because simply accented or idiomatically scewy speech often registers as backward speech in the mind of racists. Yes,parents often want their children's English to be purged of their own accent and affect (unfortunately I don't have Bourdieu's Language and Symbolic Power with me). Of course, the only sensible thing in California and the Southwest generally would be to require everyone to be bilingual in Spanish and English.

It is also true that bilingual education can be a cover for tracking. Where black children are put in special education (I believe over 50% in Oakland!) Mexican kids are put in bilingual education--a separate and unequal school within a school. But the abolition of bilingual education will only have the effect of channeling working class immigrant kids into special ed or already overcrowded classrooms or simply inducing them to drop out. There is no reason to believe that the abolition of bilingual ed will create integrated classrooms.

Unz's campaign is predicated on the idea that poverty can only be explained by the characteristics of the poor: if not their genes, then their language skills must be the problem.

But why the attempt to bring Chicano kids into standard (i.e, Anglo) English, presumably integrated classrooms, and the reverse attempt to take Black kids out of standard English classrooms into special black only Ebonics sessions taught by jive ass Fruit of the Loony Islam maniacs?

For all of you still in California, please give my kind regards to Gov. Peter. Thanks, Rakesh

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