Oregon: Crawford argues hate drives Measure 58 (which seeks to eliminate bilingual education in Oregon)

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Oct 20 21:32:56 UTC 2008

Speaker argues hate drives Measure 58

It's the dawn of a new century, but does Bill Sizemore know which one?

James Crawford has his doubts.

Crawford spoke at Oregon State University on Saturday night to
participants in the Linguistic Association of the Southwest's 37th
annual national convention. He said Sizemore might be more comfortable
in 1908. That was when a wave of resentment started building toward
German-speaking immigrants. World War I brought anti-German hostility
to a boiling point, Crawford said. Laws were passed banning the
speaking of German in public places, including classrooms. Crawford,
the president of the Institute for Language and Education Policy in
Maryland, sees grim parallels with Oregon's upcoming election.
Sizemore habitually spearheads ballot measures. This year, his targets
include bilingual education.

He argues teaching students with limited English skills in their own
languages discourages them from learning the country's dominant
language. It also devalues the English language, he says — inching
America closer to a bilingual society. Sizemore's first argument is
ridiculous, Crawford said. "All research shows that Hispanic
immigrants are learning English more rapidly than other immigrant
groups," he said. Although Sizemore's arguments are old, said
Crawford, the measure itself is radical and unprecedented.

Measure 58 seeks more than elimination of bilingual education in
Oregon, he said. It sets specific time limits on how long students can
receive any help with language barriers. The limit is a year for
kindergarteners through fourth-graders, a year and a half for fifth-
through eighth-graders and two years for students through high school.
"This is such a radical concept that it hasn't been proposed in any
other state," Crawford said.

He said there's something new — and disturbing — about the current
movement against bilingual education. "It's no accident that the main
supporters of these measures are anti-immigrant groups," he said.
Crawford said these are the same people who want to make English the
"official" language of the United States. That's new. "There's never
been a movement to make English the official language," he said. "This
is more than a difference over how kids learn language. It's not about
the language. It's about the language speakers." Lawmakers in
California, Massachusetts and Arizona have curtailed bilingual
education but without strict timelines. Enough flexibility exists to
give students the help they need, Crawford said.

Crawford said Sizemore will probably end up defending his measure in
court. He's been there before. In 2000, Sizemore successfully led the
passage of Measure 7, requiring state government to reimburse
landowners when regulations reduce the value of their property. It
took two more incarnations of the measure before Sizemore found one
that passed legal muster. This time, said Crawford, Sizemore will find
himself flying in the face of Lau vs. Nichols, a 1974 U.S. Supreme
Court case. Justice ruled unanimously that schools have a legal
responsibility to help students with limited English skills.

Bilingual education already faces serious threats, Crawford said.
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, students are required to take
high-stakes tests in English. As a result, he said, students are
pushed prematurely into English-only classrooms. Then again, Crawford
said, No Child Left Behind is about to be left behind itself.
"Congress has gotten the message that the law is pretty unpopular."
Measure 58 poses the biggest danger, Crawford said, representing an
alarming shift in how people view immigrants. Especially in Oregon.
Oregon has been a national leader in bilingual education, Crawford
said. Oregon Senate Joint Resolution 16, passed in 1989, recognizes
the need to promote diverse language for all students.

Now all that is in jeopardy, Crawford said. "Oregon is ground zero in
terms of restrictive language policies," he said. "This is a very
serious situation you're in." Both presidential candidates support
bilingual education. "We should have every child speaking more than
one language," said Barack Obama. John McCain said Americans should
avoid assaults on each other's heritage and language. "Do we want a
policy of language restrictionism?" he asked. Unfortunately, said
Crawford, McCain posed the question in 1988 when he was a much more
passionate and outspoken opponent of anti-immigrant groups. Crawford
remembers meeting with McCain. "It was clear these groups really
ticked him off," he said.

McCain has since softened his rhetoric against anti-immigrant forces,
Crawford said. "Perhaps he needs to approach Jose the plumber to take
a serious look at this issue."

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