Official English

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Mon Jun 4 17:04:47 UTC 2001

Just for the record, the name is Ron Unz; he's a California businessman who
successfully promoted the adoption of Official English and the abolition of
bilingual education in California and is now lobbying for similar
legislation all across the country, state by state.

Provision for federal funding of ESL classes, for adults as well as
children, would be very nice, but I have little hope that it will
happen.  Reagan cut funding for B.E. first in the 1980s, and compensatory
funding for ESL did not follow.  While it is true that sometimes ESL alone
can prepare children for schooling in English, esp. in the early grades, in
other cases B.E. works better, in that it allows kids to advance
academically while getting English; when they're forced into English-only
classes, esp. in middle and high school, they fall behind academically
because their ESL classes can't keep up with the demands of the mainstream
classes.  Such support may take as few as 3 years or as much as 7 years,
depending on social background, family support, etc.  The point of ESL and
B.E. is simply to help kids over the hump.  And by the way, all families
want this for their children, even if they never have the chance, or take
the opportunity, for themselves.

The problem with Official English laws is that they give gov'ts (federal,
state, or local) an excuse not to provide these supports, much less support
in terms of courtroom translation, bureaucratic interpretation and
dual-language printing of forms (including ballots), etc.  California has
already dropped many such provisions, again on the grounds that it no
longer HAS to offer them.  No nation or government HAS to provide such
support, but decent societies DO.

At 09:54 AM 6/4/01 -0400, you wrote:
>Dennis P commented:
> >>
>[re my comments] are straight from the misinformation generated by Mr. Utz
>and others.
>No bilingual education program in
>the US ignored the pervasive need for English in this country and no
>children, even those whose native language was treated as a resource
>rather than a burden, were being done a disservice. Frank's
>information is eventually from those whose goals, in my opinion, are
>racist and xenophobic, and I will stand by that as much as I am sure
>that Frank is no racist or xenophobe himself. That persons who are
>not familiar with the tradition and facts of US bilingual education
>have been taken in by them (through an honest interest in the welfare
>of our younger citizens) is understandable, . . .
>First, I don't know who Mr. Utz is.  My comments were my own observations
>reacting to the recent ADS thread.
>As for "No bilingual education program in the US ignored . . ." that seems
>so broad a generalization that on its face it would seem very difficult to
>justify.  There is evidence of some students in quite advanced grades (into
>high school) who are not fluent in English despite such programs.
>I also would not agree with the statement that I have been "taken in".  My
>views are my own, based on my take on the situation.  It is a reasoned
>position.  It is incorrect for my personal views to be characterized as
>"inherited" from some other person or group when no evidence of this exists,
>and certainly Dennis (whom I have never met or talked to) could not have
>known such about my views.
>I agree with Dennis that this discussion is relevant to the list, as it is
>language-related, even if it is a matter, too, of public policy.
>Again, my point is that there are other ways to view the "official English"
>effort than to say that it is purely an effort of racists and xenophobes,
>which I certainly am not.  I do strongly believe that all Americans,
>immigrant or otherwise, should be encouraged to become proficient in English
>if they are not, and that such a goal would be a good use of  federal
>funding (granted, a different point, and not part of the bill as it was
>So once again, I see no harm in such legislation, provided that the sponsors
>of it also agree to support adequate federal funding for ESL education when
>needed.  In other words, help people to achieve this goal, which is, I
>believe, for their own good and that of the country.  I say this with all
>respect to other languages and cultures, which individuals and families can
>and do use and cultivate in their homes and neighborhoods -- all to the
>Frank Abate
>(of Italian and Polish heritage; two of my three grandparents were

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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