THE DEBATE OVER BILINGUAL EDUCATION AND THE SPANISH LANGUAGE DEBATE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Taking up the issue of bilingual education in the United States in general, and in particular with reference to the increasingly large and highly differentiated Spanish-speaking community, is a project that one can liken to Don Quijote’s attack on those imaginary giants who were full of creative possibilites, but to his dismay and Sancho Panza’s, really turned out to be just some very entrenched and unmovable old mills from which the Spanish knight repeatedly bounced. The complexity of the issue lies not only in the vast quantity of material one finds dealing with all the multiple aspects of bilingual education, which has been studied from sociological, pedagogical, political, psychological and economic perspectives, but also in the very diversity which one finds among the Spanish-speaking population itself. The Hispanics or Latinos, as they are collectively known, are constituted by a plurality of groups which currently stand in different types of relation to the liberal democratic government of the US. Although undoubtedly unified by the common bondage of the Spanish language, nonetheless subgroups emerge with their own peculiar characteristics, “reflecting the very different histories these groups have faced in the United States (Kymlicka, 12). Among these one finds: Puerto Ricans who are citizens by birth and therefore not obliged to learn English, and who represent the most impoverished Latino group; Cuban exiles who have become economically and educationally strong, residing for the most part in Miami; Mexican Americans who are citizens by birth concentrated primarily in the Southwest and sharing a history of violent discrimination (particularly as concerns their use of the Spanish language); more or less dispersed groups of second, and even third generation immigrants from Latin America who, having spent a considerable number of years in the US, have undergone a considerable degree of assimilation into mainstream society; in contrast to the former, a new generation of immigrants seeking to learn the language ansd share in the values and economic benefits of belonging to the ‘American Dream’; and finally, illegal Mexican migrant workers, who even after the 1986 amnesty continue to arrive, primarily to California, in search of a better quality of life for themselves, and their families.
It is keeping in mind these complexities that one can begin to try to tackle some of the problems to which they lead. One of these concerns the possible relationship between the normative claims held, or possibly held, by the Spanish-speaking community at large as regards their language, and the corresponding and often conflicting claims to what justice requires according to the United States’ model of a liberal democracy. The latter centering, as much as possible, on the ideal of a neutral state the aim of which is the defense and fostering of the conditions for individual autonomy and equality under the law, and not the signaling out of whole linguistically distinct groups which because of this ought to be given preferential treatment over others. The crucial importance of this debate is well put by Kymlicka: “it will be interesting to see whether Hispanics develop a common identity and political agenda that transcends these differences. If they do …. then the issue of national minorities will move from the margins to the centre of American political debate” (12). As we shall see, the Hispanic situation places a challenge to the traditional view of what a liberal democracy ought to stand for in the USA..
Such a challenge demands looking at multiple questions. Some of the ones I would like to consider, however imperfectly and incompletely, are: how precisely does the increasing number and linguistic distinctness of the Spanish speaking population stand as a challenge to the historically developed perspective of what a liberal democracy stands for in the USA? Is there a tension between state neutrality and benign neglect policies, and the possibility of reaching “higher” levels of equality and freedom for minority groups which are increasingly faced with vicious circles of poverty and disempowerment? Can language, in the case of the Spanish speaking population, be seen as a fundamental unifying element which can bind the Latino population together under a common goal, while fully acknowledging the necessity and desire to willingly take part in the challenge which is the learning of the English language and the corresponding values of the society at large? In the very specific case bilingual education, should Latinos push towards a defence of the already weak programs which seek additive or enrichment bilingualism, rather than passively follow the history of old immigrant populations who have, for the most part, assimilated linguistically? Is a strong version of bilingual education morally required of the federal government, or is it simply a matter that belongs to the realm of the morally permissible, that is, as an available option but one which stems from no normative obligation? Should public schools then move towards the implementation of stronger transitional programs aimed at the forging of a monolingual community in the public sphere, while respecting the use of language in all private domains? Are Latinos not unjustly demanding something which priviledges their status, particularly in the case of newly arrived immigrants, over other immigrant groups, for instance the Chinese, who make no such demands? Are Latinos not ultimately confused as to the internal differences which mark their multifaceted presence in the US; differences which do allow some groups to receive special de facto attention —- ‘national minorities’ such as Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans—- but which make special treatment unavailable to any other Spanish-speaking subgroups, in particular immigrants who have, according to some theorists, voluntarily uprooted themselves and therefore have waived, to a great extent, the rights to preserve and foster their cultural and linguistic background at the public level? Is the liberal option that the USA has defended, a view linked directly to the ideal of a unifying melting pot, simply a form of liberalism equally valid to other stances, however imperfect themselves, which aim at a view of society as a cultural mosaic? Are these two strands equally valid at the normative level in a world in which nations have come to see themselves as highly differentiated internally, so that they have become rather ‘multination’ or ‘polyethnic’ in character?
Of course all of these are extremely complicated questions, and therefore I do not pretend to address them in full here. But they do signal to the most important avenues one can pursue if one desires to get clearer on the past, present and future situation of the Latino population within the US. In order to aid in the process of such clarification, I propose to divide this essay into five interdependent sections. In the first of these I will briefly try to situate the Latino population in terms of their demographic, economic and political presence within the US. Having done this, I will provide the reader with a skeletal history of the bilingual education initiatives during this century. The third section centers upon two heuristic models of interpretation of what is to be understood by bilingual education; the assimilationist and pluralist alternatives. The fourth section, the true heart of the paper, tries to imaginatively situate the opposing camps in a dialogical interplay in which both perspectives present their strongest defense of what I have called the historical, normative, bilingual education, democratic-majority and economic arguments. Finally, in the fifth section, I will try to briefly situate myself within the debate by tentatively pointing out what I take to be morally required at the normative level, in order to proceed to indicate some guidelines for policy making, however incomplete these may be.
B) SITUATING THE LATINO POPULATION
It sounds really impressive to say that the USA is the fourth largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. As of 1990, and one must remember that the census undercounted minority groups such as blacks and Hispanics, the Spanish-speaking population had reached an impressive 23 354 059. Of these 34% were foreign born, that is to say about 8 million (Pachon, NAC, Intro). While in 1980 Latinos only made up 6.4% of the whole population, due both to heavy immigration (more then 1/3 of all immigrants in the last decade were latinos (Stewart, 8)), and high birth rates (50% higher than other US citizens), Latinos will make up, by the year 2050, 22.5% of the US population. Latinos will become the largest minority in the country, surpassing both blacks, who by that year will make up 14.4%, and Asians who will make up 9.7%. (Pachon, Intro)
Hispanics are likewise younger than the average population. In average they are 25.8 years old, significantly under the 32.2 found at the national level. But besides this, they make up a higher percentage of those under 24. This is one of the main reasons why by the year 2000, while Latinos will make up 10% of the general population, they will at the same time make up a much higher 16% of the population aged below 24.
Territorially speaking, Latinos are quite concentrated in a few states: 89% of them live in 1 of 9 states. Mexican Americans and Mexicans, which make 62% of the whole, live primarily in Calfornia and New Mexico; Puerto Ricans 13% of the whole and primarily living in New York; and the majority of the 5% of Cubans living in South Dade county, a strong Hispanic enclave with more than 1 million. Moreover, most newly arrived Latino immigrants choose to go to states where a large Hispanic population already exists: to California 38%, to New York 14.4 percent, and finally to Texas and Florida an identical 8% (Stewart, 21).
Their educational levels are overall quite low, with a low 62% finishing high school. However this dismaying level finds incredible internal differences. For instance, while 83% of Cubans do complete their elementary and secondary studies, only 54% of Mexicans do so. Likewise at the level of college completion Latinos stand halfway below the national average, a situation which is once again marked by great intergroup differences; 24% of Cubans finishing 4 or more years of college —-only 1 percentage point below the national level—— while Mexicans trail with a troubling 8%.
And linked to these educational disadvantages, one finds that Latinos are currently either involved in lower paying jobs or suffering from high rates of unemployment. The median Hispanic annual income as of 1988 was $20 300, compared to the national average of $31 600. Once again internal differences are striking; while Cubans stand at the top of the Latino groups, gaining $27, 300 per year, Puerto Ricans remain at the bottom with only $15 200. Of Puerto Ricans, who ironically are citizens from birth, 38% live below the poverty line. It is likewise painfully revealing that 66% of the many Puerto Rican female-headed families do so too.
As regards language issues one finds that 81% of immigrants believe it ‘very important’ to speak English and 17% consider it ‘important’. Sixty percent of those between 14-17 sedom use Spanish, and after 15 years 75% of Spanish speakers are almost completely assimilated so that by the third generation most have lost their mother tongue (De la Garza, LOL, 215). However, the private use of the Spanish language among newly arrived immigrants is quite high: 70% only speak Spanish at home, while only 20% interact privately in both languages. As usual internal differences are quite disconcerting; for instance, while 81.1% of Dominicans speak Spanish at home, only 64.1% of Central Americans do so (Pachon, Table 3.39 pg 52). Of the immigrant population, 66% consider it important to learn and be enganged in English classes. (Table 3.46). Furthermore, their linguistic influence in the public media has increased rapidly: from 1970 to 1980 radio stations grew from 60 to 200, newspapers from 40 to 65, and TV stations from 12 to 167, including now two Spanish networks, Telemundo and Univision.
Finally, politically speaking, as of 1988 only 36% of those Latinos eligible to vote registered. In contrast 65% of whites and blacks did so (Pachon, intro). Moreover 33% of the whole Hispanic population are not citizens but live in the US as resident aliens, that is to say, they cannot vote or seek any kind of public office appointment. Even when programs for a bilingual electoral process are installed, take for instance the bilingual ballots required for Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans, only 6% of those eligible to use them actually do so (De la Graza, LOL, 218). This lack of participation has a clear effect on the actual degree of public representation at both the federal and state levels. Although the number of elected officials moved from 1500 in 1974, to 3300 in 1988, still, of the 535 voting members of Congress in 1989, only 10 were Hispanics; a number far short of the 37 which would be representative of the whole population. (All data from (Valdivieso, 1988), unless otherwise specified)
C) SOME ASPECTS OF THE BILINGUAL EDUCATION (BE) HISTORY
Among the multiple gains that the ethnic revival of the 1960’s brought, one finds the Bilingual Education Act (BEA) of 1968. Although linguistic minorities, particularly Spanish-speaking groups such as the discriminated Mexican Americans, received it with hope (Secada 42), it had essential limitations from the start. It was not only vague as to what was meant by ‘bilingual’, so that it could be interpreted in the most contradictory ways ——– different groups “could pretty much read into the law what they wanted, (Secada 40)——- but also its goals and resources were extremely limited; federal funding reaching only 7.5 million for 79 projects covering only 26 500 students (Weyr, 56). But more problematic still, was that its primary intent was fundamentally the anglification of Non-English speakers. The BEA did not actively aim at instatiating additive bilingualism policies (De la Garza, 216). Nevertheless, even though these shortcomings have become apparent now, it is still true that it represented the first instance in which the federal government intervened in language issues at the national level. In particular, it sought to redress the educational and linguistic discrimination suffered by one of the Spanish speaking subgroups, the Mexican Americans.
The general interpretative movement of this act has been increasingly towards the understanding of bilingualism as simply a transitional phenomenon. In other words, bilingualism is taken exclusively as a means, so far as possible, to effective English monolingualism. But this movement, at the same time, does not seek to disregard the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual; for instance, the use of the mother tongue in the private sphere. By the time the Act reached its 5th reauthorization, in 1988, it had become apparent that the hopes of additive bilingualism had suffered major blows. The federal funding which had steadily grown in the 70’s, remaining at around the level of 175 million (Weyr, 70), has to date remained at more or less the same level, reaching in 1992 the amount of 195 million. Although quantitatively superior, this figure actually represents only ½ the real dollar value of the previous decades (Stewart, 208). During the conservative Reagan government in particular, the funds directed to the program were, at one point, intended to be lowered to 94 million. Only through strong Hispanic efforts and protests was it eventually raised back to the level of 138 million (Weyr, 69). These figures, in the millions, might seem like an important federal contribution, but as one of the commentators argues: “in a 2 trillion economy a year, 1.7 (billion) spent over 17 years is a small beer indeed” (Weyr, 75).
If one compares this data to the Canadian government’s allowance to bilingual education in the year of 1990, the former’s contributions stood at 626.1 million while in the US “with ten times the population federal funds for bilingual education stand at 180 million” (Fleras, 161). Undoubtedly the conditions of both countries vary, as we shall see, but it still remains clear that the importance of the program is secondary and that, within it, increasing funds are directed towards a specific understanding of what ‘bilingualism’ entails. This redirection of the programs objectives is also exemplified by the fact that by 1988 the BEA was transformed so that 25% of it funds could be used to further transitional programs. Previously only 4% of its funds could go to programs focused on goals other than those seeking full bilingualism. These funds in turn have been applied to ESL (English as a Second Language) programs, the aim of which is to ease the transition of non-English speakers, known as LEPs, that is ‘limited English-proficiency speakers, into the English language and culture. It is indicative of this trend that emphasizes ESL over and even against bilingual programs, that the former’s federal funding levels increased from 90 million in 1985 to 114 million in 1989 (Stewart, 139).
In 1974, further legal backing to the 1968 BEA was set in place. The Supreme Court decision in the Lau vs Nichols case was meant to safeguard the equal educational rights of 1800 Chinese children who were seen to be at an educational disadvantage because of their inability to speak English. This situation was regarded as unjustly favouring some individuals over others. Currently this decision “requires (that) all school districts in the US with more than 20 limited-English students from a single language background to inform the Office of Civil Rights regarding the programs they are offering these students” (De la Garza, LOL, 215-6). However, just as in the case of the BEA, the remedies required to render such equal opportunities a reality were not clearly specified. Consequently, great flexibility was left to those school districts to engage in creative programs. (Weyr, 73).
In addition, in 1975 through the Voting Rights Act, discriminated groups such as the Mexican Americans were given the mechanisms to redress the existing unequal conditions at the level of political participation. They were given the possibility of using bilingual ballots so that entrance into the mainstream political sphere could be secured and actively fostered. As a commentator puts it, it became evident that language and political issues were deeply intertwined: “as Congress reviewed the extent to which Mexican Americans had been denied access to that political process, it became clear that a major factor contributing to that exclusion was that the electoral process was conducted completely in English” (De la Garza, LOL, 217).
During the 1980’s there was a a strong backlash, one which has continued in the 90’s with the confluence of policies, on the one hand, regarding education and language of national minority citizens, and on the other hand, the perception that immigrants, both legal and illegal, are unjustly taking advantage of services which were originally not intended for them (De la Garza, LOL, 224). This regressive movement is at the heart, as we shall see, of the shift towards transitional programs in federal funding. It is a backward motion which also finds clear expression in the growth of grass roots movements such as those of the Official English Movement whose dramatic growth is quite telling. With little initial funding it was able to grow from a small and anonymous group of 300 volunteers in 1983, to an impressive 450 000 member group in 1989. This astonishing growth has not gone unremarked by linguistic commentators who point out that the reamrkable characteristic of this movement: “has been their high degree of success in the face of almost universal opposition by politicians, public figures and the media” (Adams, 107). In 1984, for instance, this movement mustered the political force necessary to pass proposition ‘O’ in California, the proposition which set itself against the use of bilingual ballots. Two years later they were central in passing Proposition 63, with a majority of 73% voters declaring that English be made the official language of California. This amendment to the state constitution, which was brought about by the initial signature of 1 100 000 concerned citizens (the second largest in California (Diamond 116)), states that “the legislature and officials of the State of California shall take all steps necessary to insure that the role of English as the common language of the State of California is preserved and enhanced. The legislature shall make no law which diminishes or ignores the role of English as the common language of the State of California” (Ruiz, 20). This move, which follows the Meyer v.s. Nebraska decision of 1923 in which the federal government upheld the right of states to make English their official language, nonetheless cannot stand in the way of guaranteeing complementary second language services for minority ethnic groups (De la Garza, 211-12). This tendency, which finds in California its clearest expression, is one which has led 18 other states, to date, to declare English their official language (Stewart, 164).
D) 2 HEURISTIC MODELS OF INTERPRETATION
In an article which situates the discussion over bilingual education within the political context of the USA, Secada and Lightfoot offer two heuristic categories which represent the ideal poles around which the debate centers. On one of the extremes lie what they call the cultural and linguistic pluralists, and on the other, the advocates of assimilation into the English language and culture. These two perspectives, as we shall see, do not simply represent two views on the nature of the education of national minorities and immigrant populations. More importantly, they stand for what are, more often than not, conflicting views of what a liberal democratic state stands for. Both perceive the important symbolic function language has as identifying force. But they differ as to the number of languages that ought to fill that primordial political space. In doing so they cannot but stand in tension as to what the ‘we’ who constitutes the legitimate members of a given community ought to look like. Although it is true that no state can remain neutral with regards to the use of language within its borders, there certainly exist multiple ways of comprehending the always changing relationships between dominant languages and minority ones.
At the most conservative end of the spectrum one finds those whose banner is that of the ideal of complete assimilation. They do recognize the normative importance of rectifying historical inequalities which have taken place in the process of mainstreaming. This is why, although always with a view to learning the language of the majority, they believe certain aids ought to be provided both to those discriminated against and to those who, although having been accepted within the boundaries, have no knowledge of the dominant language. For them in consequence, every individual that arrives to the USA, and particularly children, has a right under the constitution to be treated fairly under the law. This means that each and every individual must be given the necessary resources to overcome “handicaps” which interfere with the goal of equal opportunity. But the aim of such aid is not, by any means, to foster the claims of a particular group over another, instead it is founded upon a clear understanding of the necessity to protect individual liberties and autonomy.
From this perspective language comes to be considered fundamentally as a problem that must be overcome. The legal mechanisms are therefore set in place to assure that this problematic sphere can be dealt with. Accordingly, Non-English speakers are seen as somehow lacking in ultimate self-sufficiency. This can be clearly inferred from the category developed to signal them out, the category of “Limited English Proficiency” (LEP) person. The way to redress the problem is not to seek the parallel maintenance of two (or more) languages, but rather to seek positive assimilation as fast as can be possibly done, without counterveining the law. Under this perspective ESL programs would pave the way to overcoming such linguistic limitations. Public education in particular, though it may use the native language as a means, sets itself the unique goal of creating a uniform citizenry bonded by a common language, namely, the English language. Advocates of this position will not attempt to eliminate, as was the case in the previous assimilationist models, the freedom of individuals and groups to use their language in the private sphere; at work, at home, in church. If linguistic minorities so wish, to they can do everything in their hands to preserve their language; but seeking federal intervention is particularly unfair if the beneficiary is only one group among many who are faced with the same disadvantages.
On the other extreme, one finds the ideal of the cultural and linguistic pluralists who claim that although linguistic disadvantages are surely a problem for the disadvantaged, nevertheless the value of language moves beyond the categories of ‘problem’ and ‘right’. Language is fundamentally, and much more positively, a resource which enriches the cultural framework of any given community. In this sense the flourishing of languages goes hand in hand with the flourishing of social possibilities and new forms of idenification. In the particular situation of the USA, such advocates do not by any means seek to overturn the importance of English by frustratingly seeking to remain monolingual in their own language. But they do critically regard as problematic a perspective who is blind to the possibilities of additive bilingualism among minority groups who are increasingly playing a demographic, political, and economic role in society as a whole. Varying degrees of bilingualism can be attempted, but only in strong additive programs lies the true overcoming of minority parents’ —–and their children’s—— economic, social and political disadvantages.
The actual interplay between these two heuristic models throughout the history of the BEA in the USA has been, as we have pointed out, one of increasingly moving towards the assimilationist camp: “during each reauthorization of the (BEA) funding program, the proponents of assimilationist goals have dictated the terms of the debate and hence, they have dictated the ultimate terms of the accommodation” (Secada, 42). However, the fact that linguistic policy has gone in this direction, does not imply that the direction cannot be challenged. Having laid down in outline the two positions amongst which the debate takes place, in the following section I propose to develop the basic schematic arguments around which such a challenge, from the part of the Latino population in particular, would take place.
E) A DIALOGICAL DEBATE BETWEEN TWO INTERLOCUTORS
One way of seeking to clarify what is at stake between those who aim at establishing assimilationist linguistic policies in the US, and those who see in the Latino fight for enrichment bilingualism an important challenge to the status quo, is to imagine a dialogue between two defenders of each perspective. Although a product of fiction, perhaps in their imaginary debate we can start to see more clearly why and where specific tensions between both positions lie. In creating this dialogue I will be moving away from extreme positions such as that of some radical Hispanics who claim that “(they) won’t assimilate and (they) can’t” (L. Chavez, intro), and away from those of prominent political figures such as ex-President Reagan who in 1981 argued: “It is absolutely wrong and against American concepts to have a bilingual education program that is now openly, admittedly dedicated to preserving students’ native language and never getting them adequate in English so they can go out in the job market and participate“ (Cummins, PoP, pg 187). These extreme positions stand in obvious tension, but from their struggle one would utterly fail to advance towards a healthier kind of dialogue.
For the assimilationist camp, John/Mary will speak, for the Latino position, the corresponding Juan/María duet. (Under conditions of full bilingualism the Latino position would be wholly written in Spanish, but as that is not possible in present circumstances, one has to assume that both Juan and María are quite fluent English speakers) I will center the conversation between them around five different, yet deeply interrelated arguments. These are what I have called, for lack of better terms: i) the historical argument, ii) the normative argument, iii) the bilingual education argument, iv) the democratic or majority argument, and finally, and v) the very tentatively developed economic argument. These arguments are neither intended to be the only ones that one ought to consider, nor to be fully developed. They stand instead as a first approximation between what at times have been two quite hostile counterpositions. Their claims, at least to me, seem to stand in a puzzling relation; this is so for each has, I think, quite a lot argumentative strength.
I) THE HISTORICAL ARGUMENT
John/Mary: Since its founding the US has been characterized by being a de facto monolingual nation. Although the framers of the constitution did not make English official, they did so precisely because they understood that such a measure might create internal confrontations. They were very pragmatic and wise policy makers who “understood the nation’s future need of immigrants, and perhaps they concluded that establishing an official language would suggest that some groups would be less welcome than others. Their actions indicate that they also recognized the benefits that would accrue from a common language” (De la Garza, LOL, 211). Up to now, the US has not had to make English the de jure official language because the previous waves of immigrants have understood that assimilation was to the benefit of the democratic functioning and well being of the whole political community.
Take for instance the strong communities of Germans who towards the turn of the century were even allowed to develop their own school system. At the time they made up 4% of the population and were allowed, even encouraged, to teach around 600 000 children in an additive bilingual environment. (Remembering the Dream, 103). However even this remarkable attempt failed to forge a strong linguistic minority. This, despite the fact that Germans received federal funding. The fact that things went this way “suggests that bilingual public schools may have aided the process of assimilation” (Pastora, 92). Of course one can hear German in states such as Pennsylvania, but my point is that these old immigrant populations have seen the benefits of assimilating fully into the mainstream English-speaking society. All previous generations of immigrants have followed a predictable course of adaptation. There has always been first generation entrenchment and second generation bilingualism; but finally the third generation becomes “essentially anglophone and culturally assimilated” (Edwards, 278). It is a slow process, a painful one perhaps, but one which has marked the history of migration to the USA. This is why I fail to understand what is so special about your Latino situation? Why could you ever be seen as distinct from all previous, and contemporary groups of immigrants who have not actively sought any special help in maintaining their own culture and language?
Juan/Maria: I hope I can clarify, at least in outline, some of your doubts. First of all it seems to me that your reading of the linguistic history of the US is quite benign. It does in fact forget the high costs of assimilation for different groups; particularly national minorities such as the Native Indians and Spanish speaking sub-groups such as the Mexican Americans. It is no wonder then to find articles strikingly entitled “Language policy in the US: a history of cultural genocide”; articles in which the troubling imposition of English over other languages is vividly documented. (Hernandez-Chavez, 141). In the 1950’s, for example, Mexican Americans were even forced to “kneel on upturned bottle caps ….. to hold bricks on outstretched hands in the schoolyard or to put their nose in a chalk circle drawn on a blackboard. And this would happen in Texan towns that were 98 percent Spanish-speaking” (Weyr, 52). It is likewise no chance affair, I believe, that New Mexico only became a state after having been partitioned, a decision later on resulting in the Hispanic population becoming a minority outnumbered by increasing number of settlers. (Chavez, )
Of course one cannot change the past. However, among us Spanish-speakers today you can still find the repercussions of such actions in the present situation of Mexican Americans. Moreover, among us there are yet other distinct sub-groups. I am speaking of the Puerto Ricans whom you yourselves recognize stand in a privileged situation. Because of their being by birth Spanish-speaking citizens they have, for instance, the option of not learning the English language. Special electorate material is likewise required in their case.
Likewise in the case of Cubans you held some type of preferential treatment due to the political nature of their arrival to the mainland. In their case, even prior to the enaction of the Bilingual Education Act, there were efforts to set up strong enrichment bilingual programs due to the fact that Cubans saw themselves as exiles, not as migrants. Take for instance the program funded by the Ford Corporation in 1963. The resulting program “was considered a success and provided a model for later efforts. Unlike later government funded programs, the Dade county program was oriented towards enrichment instead of remediation” (Casanova, 169). That Cubans are doing well in comparison to other Latino subgroups might have something to do with this welcoming attention that was once given to them.
Furthermore, just to reply to the German example you gave. The new wave of immigrants which is falsely thought to be flooding the USA (although the foreign born population in 1990 was the highest at 21.2 millon, it is not the highest percentage of foreign born residents as a proportion of total population; being only 8.5% as compared to 14.8% in 1890 (Stewart, 20)), is not identical to the previous European wave. This is so because there was and continues to be a steady stream of Latino immigrants to the same communities and cities throughout the US (Pastora 93). This is in part due to the proximity of their native homelands. Moreover, the sheer number of Latinos has made the USA the fourth largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. Because of the fact that they have sought to concentrate themselves in few states —-89% in 1 of 9 states—– and the fact that they have exceedingly high birth rates, their presence seems to challenge the previous process of assimilation. (see Section B ‘Situating the Latino Poulation’). You ought always to remember that by the year 2050, 22.5% of the US population will be of Latino origin. Latinos represent a major historical challenge.
II) TWO VIEWS OF LIBERALISM
John/Mary: We recognize that injustices have been committed. But therein lies the greatness of the USA, it has continuously sought to do away with such highly objectionable situations. But it does so by protecting the individual rights and freedoms of each citizen and resident alien who has been born in, or legally allowed into, this country. Take for instance the legislation concerning bilingual education. Both the Bilingual Education Act of 1968, and the 1974 Lau v.s. Nichols Supreme Court decision, were set in place precisely to redress these unjust realities. And just to remind you, the Lau case involved, not Hispanics, but rather “Chinese parents in San Francisnco (who) argued that failure to give some 1800 Chinese-speaking students extra language instruction denied them access to equal education and thus violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment” (Weyr, 58). It is true they lost twice in the local courts, but this was finally corrected at the national level.
Both pieces of legislation were set in place, not to favor any particular group —- though Mexican Americans were the primary beneficiaries of the BEA (de la Garza, LOL, 216)—– but to guarantee the rights of all those who found themselves at a disadvantage with respect to the English-speaking majority. The aim of these pieces of legislation was definitely not to encourage special claims from any singular immigrant group which somehow saw itself as distinct from all others. We have taken specific care to deal with the Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans, but new Latino immigrants are not thereby priviledged in any way.
Juan/Maria: Somehow I cannot but feel that by signaling to the internal differences among us Spanish-speakers you are following that famous strategy of conquer and divide. It is the same one you so clearly exemplified at the national level through the partition of states such as New Mexico.
But be that as it may, we are in total agreement as to the particularities which characterize your relation to Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans. That is definitely to their advantage, and what is to theirs is to ours too. But what you do not seem to understand is that, just as your older immigrant populations have found in English a unifying element, we find in Spanish, enriched by the always desired acquisition of English, the very conditions for our communal identification. It is true that some political analysts have interpreted the current debate as one in which “language is not the issue” (de la Garza, LOL). However they have done so, according to us, by sidestepping the very core element of the debate, namely the increasing central role of the Spanish-language in the US.
I perceive certain fear in your part as to the disrupting element which lies in such a claim; perhaps you fear that this language minority will one day end up becoming so strong that it will seek secession. The reality of a future Quebec seems to haunt you. These fears are grounded, some argue lucidly, in your history. According to Will Kymlicka, the liberal tradition which guides your policy making is one in which special minority treatments are regarded with suspicion. This is so, he tells us, not only because of the the desegregation model you endorsed following the Civil Rights Movement of blacks in the South, but also because of a misinterpretation of the objectives of the ethnic revival of the 1960’s and 70’s. The latter you perceived as the seed of a movement the aim of which was territorial separation through the creation of monolingual enclaves; particularly of a Spanish-speaking nature. For Kymlicka “the increasing politicization of immigrant groups profoundly unsettled the American liberals, for it affected the most basic assumptions and self-conceptions of American political culture” (Kymlicka 52). (And, one might add, today more than ever continues to unsettle you).
Your response to these diverse demands involved adopting a policy of benign neglect, a policy grounded in the ideal of the neutrality of the state. As you know this policy holds not only that minorities do not have any special rights to claim, but moreover that any such claiming can lead to a dangerous destabilization of the very conditions of social cohesion and bonding required to unite a society under commonly held banners. Kymlicka, you might be interested in knowing, even goes on to formulate diverse types of group differentiated rights for both national minorities and polyethnic groups.
However, the central element we want take over from him is that of the the role of language in defining what he calls a societal culture; that is the context of meaningful choice for an individual, in our case within a liberal democracy. As he puts it: “to understand the meaning of a social practice therefore requires, understanding the shared vocabulary ——i.e. understanding the language and the history which constitute this vocabulary, whether or not a course of action has any significance for us depends on whether, and how, our language renders vivid to us the point of that activity…… understanding those cultural narratives is a precondition of making intelligent judgments about how to live our lives” (72). Of course, being himself from a country with a high immigrant population, Kymlicka draws a very clear line between the rights of national minorities such as Mexican Americans and any new wave of immigrants. In the latter case, though he is ambiguous at times, he nevertheless claims that they have voluntarily uprooted themselves and therefore relinquished the right to seek to foster the societal culture from which they come.
But in our case something unique occurs. We are brought together by our native language regardless of our being immigrants or native born citizens. Internal differences persist, but this is also the case of all the diverse groups which you want to unite under the banner of the English language. And let me remind you, we are not seeking to become like an independent Quebec, I can assure you of that. We understand that as part of our duties (except for Puerto Ricans who nevertheless should be wise enough to realize the value of bilingualism) lies the learning of English if we want to become full citizens of the USA. However we are not about to let our native language simply drift into invisibility as has occurred to other immigrant groups. And we know that strong positive bilingual experiences are found in countries such as Switzerland, Finland, Canada and Australia. Ours is not a utopian dream.
John/Mary: Since you seem to mention Canada so much, I would first like to remind you that their bilingual programs are grounded historically in the —often quite tense—- coexistence of two founding nations. That is definitely not the case here.
But leaving this aside, we too have our own theorists. Take for instance the difference Walzer makes between two forms of liberalism: liberalism 1 and liberalism 2.. The first is committed in the strongest way to the protection of individual rights within the ideal framework of a neutral state, that is one without cultural, linguistic or religious projects, one with “no collective goal beyond personal freedom and physical security” (Walzer, Commentary, 99-103). This is the type of model Spanish speaking immigrants have come to join once they voluntarily decided to migrate here. In contrast to this first model, Walzer believes that something like what you are advocating, though not very clearly, is what characterizes liberalism 2. This is a model in which ideally “there is a state committed to the survival and flourishing of a particular nation culture or religion or of a (limited) set of nations, cultures and religions” (ibid), while ar the same time safeguarding the basic individual rights of its members. Quebec offers a model for such a perspective of what a liberal democracy ought to be like. And that is fine. However for us, here and now, the appropriate form and the one which ensures the highest equality freedom and justice for all is precisely the former. As Walzer points out “here the singular union claims to distinguish itself from all the plural unions, refusing to endorse or support their ways of life or to take an active interest in their social reproduction or to allow any one of them to seize state power, even locally” (101).
Now, of course this is only an ideal. But myths are part of the political fabric of any society. But as I argued above, though we do not deny the existence of discrimination, we deal with it in a very different way. Trying to deal with such injustices following the second model would go against the very nature of the liberal democratic model for which we stand. As Nathan Glazer puts it: “Our problem is that we are not a federation of peoples (like Canada or the Soviet Union) but of states, and our ethnic groups are already too dispersed, mixed, assimilated, integratred to permit without confusion a policy that separates out some for special treatment. But if we try to, then many other groups will join the queue, or try to, and the hope of a larger fraternity of all Americans will have to be abandoned” (quoted by Kymlicka, 56). Hispanics like you are not only the first in trying to set up the first long lasting queue, but somehow believe to have the right to be first in line.
Juan/Maria: I think that what you are expressing is captured quite well in a Spanish idiom which says: “les da uno la mano y le cogen hasta el codo”. I will translate it as best as I can, though perhaps you will miss some of its Latino flavor. It means something like this: “you give them a hand and they even take your elbow”. This idiomatic expression is used when you help somebody and they go on shamelessly to abuse your kindness.
As regards your reference to Glazer I will remind you what he once wrote on bilingual education: “because I teach about these matters to students who are either enthusiastic about such policies or critical the way they consider the overly timid or limited way in which they are being followed, I have also had to ask myself whether my skepticism is well based, and I have had at least to question my views” (Glazer, Pluralism and Ethnicity, 55) The openness found in this article, written in 1980, is precisely what has been lost in the whole debate. We feel it is you who have secured an already over-secure enclave.
Moreover, I tend to believe that the extreme inequalities which haunt the majority of the Spanish-speaking population will not go away unless direct measures are taken to deal with their specially challenging situation. Only by moving beyond benign neglect, and counting upon our active participation in the process, will the possibility of overcoming the circle of poverty most of us find ourselves in become a reality. According to us language is not simply a problem to be addressed, nor a right to be demanded. Language, if for once you cease to define it in negative terms, is fundamentally a resource (Ruiz, 18). It is not only an economic resource which is there to be appropriated to the benefit of the productivity of a nation (think of Nafta and the increasing search for a Latin American Market). It is not simply a positive asset in terms of the requirements of national security either (Ruiz, ) (Secada, ). It is fundamentally a resource in a sense that goes beyond its utility; it provides a given community with the skeletal framework of its, always changing, identity. Furthermore it provides a communicative channel for those willing to ease the tensions and disadvantages between Majority and minority groups. Some, like Marshall, have even argued from an ecological perspective, that the concern for minority languages lies in that they can be viewed as endangered species. Their positive acceptance and flourishing involves according to him: i) a higher quality of human life (stronger sense of identity and belonging), ii) a benefit in terms of the whole political body due to the lowering of potential conflicts and active search of a dialogue such as ours, and finally iii) a real advance towards the healthy conditions of our children’s future. Children both from majority and minority groups which are given not only a sense of security and well-being, but also the tools required to open up new possibilities which create a deeper and more challenging diversity than that which follows from your ideal of a melting pot (Marshall, 1989).
III) BILINGUAL EDUCATION
John/Mary: What you are saying seems rather optimistic, at times even poetic. But, if I remember correctly, a sympathetic Canadian Ukranian had, among other things, the following to say to Mashall: “Now, one could really get carried away with that point, but I will try to restrain myself. However lovely the thought may be, does anyone who is serious believe it…. “the entire world needs the diversity of ethnolinguistic entities for its own salvation…..” Really! Who says so? …… Davd Marshall? But how important are they in the eyes of the mighty?” (Comments, Lupul, 304).
I might admit that what you are saying seems to touch some deep chord inside me, but let’s face it, in the case of Hispanics it is absolutely clear that any attempt to establish enrichment bilingual programs has utterly failed. As Linda Chavez, ex-president of ‘U.S. English’ movement and author of Out of the Barrio tells us, it is precisely because the programs do not work that Hispanics, and children in particular, lose their self-esteem and sense of self-worth. There have been various governmental reports which clearly show how bilingual programs have failed. Take for instance the influential AIR report (Ammerican Institute for Research) which sampled 286 classrooms in all 38 Spanish/English programs for more than 4 years. Its findings are very critical of the kind of programs you would advocate. Among the findings these researchers highlighted were: 1) Hispanics are not more likely to keep up in subjects such as math or social studies than those in intensive English courses, 2) little impact on their self-esteem was achieved, 3) around 66% of the students who were already proficient in English still remained in bilingual programs (L. Chavez, 19).
A second governmental report from the Department of Education, the Baker and Kramer report, also concluded that: “many studies that had claimed promising results for biligual education were so flawed that they provided little useful information. Of the acceptable studies … eleven showed positive outcomes in teaching transitional bilingual education programs, fifteen showed no difference and 5 actually suggested a negative effect on English acquisition” (Chavez 26-27). And if this is not enough, it seems as though Latino parents, much like Asian parents, do not want their children to focus too much attention in the maintenance of their native language. This is why for 82% of Cuban parents, as well as 78% of those who are Mexican, opposed the teaching of Spanish if it stood in the way of the learning of English (Chavez, 29). It is also clear that immigrants anxiously see in the learning of the English language the first step towards breaking the cycle of poverty in which some of them find themselves (Stewart, 170).
Juan/Maria: It is amazing to see how when people look at reality they seem to find precisely what they looking for. Of course, if one sees language simply as a problem to be resolved, a handicap to be ‘cured’, then the evaluation of programs will be taken only in terms of the learning of English, without taking into consideration other unquestionable benefits such as the lowering of the level of school drop out, which is so troublingly high among the increasingly numerous Latino youth (Casanova, 170). Furthermore, in the reports you allude to there was no taking into account of the environmental conditions within which the children being taught lived. It is because of reasons like these that the Baker report is widely agreed to have had such terrible limitations that “it would not be published in any serious peer-reviewed journal”. However the commentator continues “it did fit the antibilingual political agenda” (Hakuta, 207). Under the very limited and handicaped perspective of ‘language-as-a-problem’ you hold, then obviously any release from the language which stands in the way of a problem-less atmosphere comes to be seen even as a source of liberation and self-fulfillment. It is because of this that the discussion is already decided from the start in favor of transitional/assimilationist programs. As Ruiz, —–a steadfast defender of a tripartite understanding of language in terms of problem, right and underlying these, resource ——— puts it: “the question has already been decided; if the programs are accepted at all, they are to the extent that they are effective as transitions” (Ruiz, 8) The very notion of “transitional bilingualism” is a contradiction in terms, it implies a transition to a full-fledged monolingualism, not to any real biliteracy.
But furthermore a Canadian researcher on bilingual education at the education department of the prestigious University of Toronto gives us more troubling information to reflect upon. He too, like us, finds that the position which sees in the Latino demands for enrichment bilingual education a premeditated plan to reach Spanish monolingualism in enclaves ready to secede, would be laughable “if such arguments were not taken seriously by so many North Americans” (Cummins, 183). In his article entitled ‘The Politics of Paranoia’ (1992), he claims, to begin, that neither the political critics nor the media are truly informed about the abundant positive data surrounding the value of bilingualism. This is particularly appalling, he argues, due to the fact that it is an area where policy decisions affect so many individuals and families (Cummins, 184).
But he even goes on to argue, almost subversively, that there is a deliberate process of disinformation set up so as to eliminate the success of any positive findings regarding bilingualism. Although abundant data shows the benefits of bilingual education, he believes that there is a policy set to counteract the threat of good examples. This is done, according to him, by: i) limiting the framework of discourse, b) denying or distorting empirically documented counterexamples and iii) ignoring logical inconsistencies in the position held. Take for instance the fact that clear evidence has been found which contradicts one of the fundamental assimilationists claims, namely that there is a direct relationship between the amount of instruction in English and achievement in English. A logical inconsistency which he points to, is that of a policy which seeks to actively eliminate a groups’ native language, in order to set all its efforts —which are not that great either (de la Garza, LOL, 224)—– on trying to teach those very same languages at the high school and university level. (198).
V) THE DEMOCRATIC ARGUMENT
John/Mary: Before I proceed I will only add here that, as far as I am concerned, there is no logical inconsistency in defending foreign language teaching, while simultaneously not advocating Spanish maintenance. This is so because, as de la Garza points out, teaching all children different languages is unobjectionable both politically and educationally. However focusing only on Spanish emphasizes “only one language in ways that are educationally acceptable but ethically untenable and politically explosive” (LOL, 224). But leaving this point aside, I will refer you to one uncontroversial piece of data. Take for instance the case of Proposition 63 in California, a proposition which sought to amend that State’s Constitution so “that no activity or policy be created by the state government which diminishes the satuts of the Engish language” (Ruiz, 20) (Diamond, 107). This piece of legislation passed in 1986 with a resounding majority, 73% of voters in favor. The very growth of the movement which sought, and eventually got, its implementation is impressive; it grew from 300 volunteer members and one office in 1983, to 450 000 in 1989 (Diamond 111). For the amendment to be even considered more than 650 000 signatures were needed; the group was able to get almost twice as many, 1 100 000. The voting itself was the second largest in the State’s history. And as you know 19 states have already passed similar legislation; among them Florida and Colorado which passed similar legal protections in the 80’s with equally resounding victories; 84 and 60% of acceptance respectively (Diamond 116). Now, one would think that Latinos in particular would have voted against such legislation, which at least symbolically affects their attempts to seek full bilingual education. However, in the analysis of the voting pattern by Dyste, one finds to one’s surprise that a majority of 53% the Hispanic vote was in favor of such legislation; while only 37% voted against it.(Dyste, 145). Now if this does not clearly show you how Hispanics feel about your attempt to seek bilingualism, then I do not know what will. The ‘will of the people’ seems to be clear.
Juan/Maria: Well, if one looks at the way the voting was carried out one ought to remember that 43% of Hispanics had not even heard of the proposition. Moreover most of those who voted against it were liberal voters (54%), the highly educated (46%), and the Asian population (46%) (Dyste 145). It seems to me that there is not only a problem of disinformation, but also at the local and national level a problem of political underepresentation. This is made worse still by the fact that a high percentage of immigrants have not sought to become politically active citizens, but have rather chosen to remain as resident aliens unable to vote. Take for instance the data found for the presidential campaign of 1988: “only about 36% of the Hispanics of voting age regristered to vote while about 65% of black and white Americans registered ….. However, about one-third of Hispanics are ineligible to vote because they are not citizens. Of those eligible to vote, 54 percent were registered for the ….. elections”. (Valdivieso, 12; see also ‘Section B) Situating the Latino population’) In Los Angeles, for instance, the information gathered in 1990 showed that a striking 69% were not elligible to vote; levels in other cities varied from another high of 55.5%, in Miami to a low of 11.7% of New York where most Puerto Rican citizens live. (de la Garza, Barrio Ballots, table 1.1) I can assure you that this will slowly change due to the efforts of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), which has conducted campaigns to encourage Hispanic legal residents to become citizens and to involve more women in the political process. (Valdivieso, 14). And you must prepare yourselves for the political implications of such growth. Perhaps the ‘will of the people’ changes as the identity and multiple allegiances of ‘the people’ do.
VI) COSTS OF BILINGUAL EDUCATION
John/Mary: Again, let me remind you that we are not challenging your fundamental right to keep using and fomenting the use of your language in private spheres such as your homes, your churches, and even your community centers. But the costs for such maintenance can only follow from the private sphere, not from a duty on the part of the public federal funds to which all tax-payers contribute. I am no economist, but the problem, I believe, is as follows.
It is true that the federal government has de facto recognized the particularities of groups such as Mexican Americans, and disadvantaged non-English speaking immigrants. But if you desire to further empower your linguistic heritage, you must assume the costs of so doing, and not provide an added burden to the whole community which either has already assimilated, or is well in the process of so doing. Some of us have even argued for instance that, as part of the immigrant contract, “it seems plausible to ask someone to contribute 5% of one year’s income for the right to come here to take a job or to bring a relative into the country”. (Soro, 111) This way in the 1992 fiscal year alone, with around 1 000 000 citizens eligible for such a tax, the total revenues would have reached the 1 billion mark. If you assume part of the costs, and take advantage of our help in learning the language, then surely the current immigrant situation will be ameliorated. As for illegal immigrants, mostly of Spanish-speaking origin, state governments had to spend around 5.4 billion in 1990 on their welfare; 2.1 billion alone going to education programs (Stewart, 204). This situation cannot, in the least, foster good relations between both parties
Likewise Increasing criticism has been waived regarding the self-serving purpose of a bureaucracy of Hispanic elite members who cling to their jobs (Chavez, 36). Worse yet, these bureaucrats follow a double agenda the aim of which is to pretend to seek bilingualism while actually fostering Spanish monolingualism. They know all too well “that public financial support for bilingual education would evaoprate if it were presented as a way to preserve the language and culture of a single ethnic group” (Chavez, 37).
Juan/Maria: Fortunately I am no economist either. However, it is evident that in the case of illegal immigrants there is little we can do to prevent their entry. But in the case of legal immigrants at least, we can tell you that no one really knows how much their educational costs are (Stewart 203). Nonetheless it is clear that the federal expenses on language policy have not been a national priority; reaching only 195 million by 1992. This amount representing only one-half the real value of those almost identical digits in the 70’ and 80’s. (see section C). And as you know, after the fifth reauthorization of the BEA, 25% of the federal funds are now directly going to programs focusing on transitional language education. Previously only 4% of these funds could go to programs other than enrichment bilingual ones (Stewart 208). So in reality about 150 million are going to addititive bilingual programs, a minute percentage if one takes into account the fact that the national GNP is in the level of the trillions. ( see Section C for comparative funds in Canada). The funds spent on adult ESL programs, which one would expect to be much higher, actually stood at 113 million in 1990 (Stewart , 139). No wonder you find waiting lists of 40 000 and 25 000 immigrants for ESL instruction in cities like Los Angeles and New York. (de la Garza, LOL, 223) Even the “Emergency Immigrant Education Act”, created to finance the crisis of school districts in high immigration areas, has remained steady at 30 million per year. But again the real value has gone from $86 per student in 84-85 to 62 in 89-90. As Stewart puts it “mere pittance in relation to needs” (Stewart).
Moreover, as he goes on to point out, it is precisely the federal government, the one so intent on finding a unifying linguistic bond between its citizens, precisely the entity which shifts the costs of education to the states and local communities. It allows entrance of immigrants, but does not assume the responsibilities of a government which recognizes that it is a nation built on these immigrants. This shift of burdens to localities is “unfair and shortsighted” (Stewart 210). Whenever congressmen from Texas, Florida and California have attempted to address the conditions for the health and education infrastructure of the high immigration populations they have to deal with, their propositions are “soundly defeated because of lack of representation of the districts affected. (Stewart, 213).
But the most important economic argument for education goes as follows. The education of the whole population, and here I would like to remind you of the extremely disadvantaged position of most Spanish-speakers, is an investment on the future of a nation. For the most part immigrants do not cause a negative cash flow to taxpayers. However education is the exception because those who seek to benefit from it are the more disadvantaged (Stewart 213, 14). Given that in 2050 Latinos will represent 22.5% of the US population it is crucially important to remember that: “a narrow or short-term view of educational expenditures, however, ignores the investment dimension of education. Immediate financial return should not be the measure that is applied in these instances. Few acions are more costly to society than failure to provide appropriate educational opportunities for all of society’s members. Dollars invested in education for immigrants and their children now will be repaid many times in the future” (Stewart 214). We Latino’s, as opposed to other immigrant groups, have made specific remarks as to what the nature of such long-term educational process ought to be like.
John/Mary: There is still much to be said about this highly complex issue. But perhaps now together we can look at what can be done under the present circumstances; reminding ourselves of the dictum ‘ought implies can’.
Juan/Maria: Me parece una buena idea …….., I mean, that sounds like a good idea.
F) SOME TENTATIVE CONSIDERATIONS AS TO WHAT OUGHT TO, AND WHAT CAN, BE DONE
Having heard these two conflicting perspectives, I would now like to conclude this already too extensive essay by briefly focusing on two interrelated matters. On the one hand, I will take up some of the issues present at the level of principle, that is to say, issues regarding what I consider to be morally just in this particularly complex case. In order to do so I will retake some of the arguments explicited in the previous section. Having looked at what is required at the normative level, I will conclude by referring the reader to some general policy guidelines which deal directly with the possibilities of implementing what has been taken to be morally required. Although both questions, the normative and the practical, would receive a very different answer, depending on whether the duet John/Mary or of Juan/María answered them, I will focus only on the Spanish-speaking couple towards whom the scale of justice, in my view, tends to tilt most heavily.
As was seen in the ‘theoretical argument’ above, there existed two broad forms of liberalism both of which secured individual rights and personal autonomy, but one of which sought to do so by acknowledging that neutrality is a limited tool as regards disadvantaged minorities, i.e., Liberalism 2. Its opponents argued that under the present conditions, it is Liberalism 1, i.e., the one founded upon the theory of benign neglect, the one most suited to the actual US political situation. But this traditional understanding, which is not true itself to the complexities of the history of liberalism itself (Kymlicka, Chapter 3), has survived and become all the more entrenched, I believe, because of the fact that no alternatives models can be considered under its presuppositions. If neutrality is the unique ideal to be actively sought, then any attempt to fight for group differences is, from the start, seen as suspicious, as demanding something that is “truly” un-liberal. The history of the ethnic revival in general, and that of bilingual education in particular, clearly portray how, after a certain openness was reached, a backlash ensued precisely when stronger emphasis on minority issues became too difficult to deal theoretically with the model which has traditionally been seen as the most suitable for the “here and now”. However, as we argued above, the history upon which this tradition has come to cement itself, can be read quite differently from the point of view of disadvantaged minorities and discriminated immigrant populations.
In the case of bilingual education the traditional theoretical framework clearly disallows any new modes of self-understanding. The wide emphasis on transitional programs is grounded precisely in this neutrality perspective which can allow only one language to flourish in the public sphere. Whatever the unquestionable benefits of bilingualism, its active presence is seen as disrupting the liberal model which has underpinned the claims to justice of traditional groups in the USA. ESL programs are constantly preferred because they assure that a common language will counteract any special considerations, and allegedly really provide a social cohesion which would otherwise be lacking. Fortunately, if all goes well, according to this view, the handicapped non-English speakers will finally leave his/her societal network, and by the third generation will have become fully integrated into the system.
But what I have been trying to argue for, clearly requires those who blindly follow this model, to assume a much more critical attitude towards a postion which fails to undertake initiatives because from the start they are seen as dangerous and problematic. Besides, when such lack of openness actually follows a period of gains, one tends to believe that the model is primarily trying not only to secure itself, although it is already quite secure, but also to disallow alternative models of understanding the reality in which multiple participants face each other.
Ideally, given the numerous presence of Latino’s ——due to high birth rates and continuous migration——- the Spanish language ought to be regarded as the most important challenge to this perspective. This is not to say that Spanish ought to replace English in the public realm, but rather that, normatively speaking, full enrichment bilingualism should become a fundamental goal in those areas where Spanish and English have come to play a crucial role. The benefits of such courageous undertaking clearly outweigh the initial difficulties one would run into as regards their actual implementation. But in order to be able to do so the sharp line drawn by theorists between, on the one hand, national minorities, and on the other, immigrant populations, must be made much more flexible than is currently supposed to be. Latinos are the prime example of a situation where such an extreme differentiation suspiciously seems to aim at safeguarding the status quo rather than dealing with the actual claims of justice. If we are to seriously take the role language plays in the identity of a given community, like the USA takes seriously the role of English, then Spanish will increasingly become an equally important identifying force. All efforts must be placed to avoid a parallel existence between both by building multiple intersections between them. The primary ways in which such interaction can occur include, not simply the provision of bilingual emergency services, nor that of bilingual ballots to make the electoral possibilites more just, but primarily by seeking to educate the younger generations, those in elementary and high school as to the value of a bilingual citizenry. Moreover, normatively speaking, the fact that Latino’s are demanding such recognition ought not to be seen as unjustly priviledging them over other immigrant groups. All other immigrant groups, who like Hispanics desire to face the challenge of not loosing their language by seeking to change the way language is regarded within Liberalism 1, are more than welcome to do so. But clearly it is Hispanics, due to their particualr situation, who have in their hands the greatest possibility of bringing about such a change, one which involves a reconsideration of what for, and for who, a liberal democracy stands.
However, from the very outset I compared such political project to that of Don Quijote’s attack on those old mills, deeply entrenched and proudly standing, who fail to recognize the symptoms of their own decline. At least Don Quijote, though he took a great beating, was imaginative enough to see in these already rundown structures, gigantic possibilities. But that this seems not be so in our present case, is due not only to the difficulties alluded to in trying to change how Liberalism 1 perceives itself, but likewise because of the lack of cohesiveness within the Latino population itself. It stands divided, not only by internal differences, members preferring to be Cuban or Mexican, rather than Latinos united by the common force of their language, but also because of the great class differences newly arrived immigrants bring with them from their home countries in Latin America. If the Latino struggle is to succeed, its members must come to realize that in their language lies the most important possibility of safeguarding their distinctness, and that of eventually, through a long process, redefining their, and the majority’s identity. However, that this is far from being so, can even be inferred by one of the articles which gives the most realistic policies to develop. It is entitled: “Latinos and the Official English Debate in the United States: LANGUAGE IS NOT THE ISSUE”. Although it is an article written in 1988, that is to say, when the ethnic revival backlash had reached its peak, it nevertheless is quite sobering as regards the possiblity of actual change in the realm of practical affairs and political wisdom.
Its author, De la Garza, constantly differentiates between the claims of resident aliens and citizens ——-which goes to the heart of the problem of the political inactivity of Latino’s—— as well as the claims of Spanish speaking immigrants and Spanish speaking national minorities, a division which runs counter to the centrality of language argued for above. According to him English should continue to be the national language of the USA, but without its being declared official. This both because making it official at the national level would increase tensions and because at the present moment it seems unnecessary. Moreover, the federal government ought to remain neutral on language issues for any purposes other those of elections or related political issues. This would allow minority groups to privately enhance their languages in their schools, and to use them freely in realms of recreation, church, and at work. But this neutrality would be partly set off by placing much more emphasis on the duty on the part of the state to guarantee educational help to those who do not know any, or sufficient, English. (This duty, for instance, would deal with the increasing waiting lists of immigrants wishing to learn the language but being unable to do so because of lack of federal interest). Neutrality would likewise allow Latinos to develop their own Spanish-speaking community centers, and all other such centers for the use of their language, but not really with a view to stable bilingualism. This because of the socio-linguistic process (the third generation has historically become monolingual), and the actual state of Spanish maintenance (a high interest in learning English over Spanish).
Thirdly, according to de la Garza, governmental agencies would continue to promote English at the national level with two central exceptions. At the level of public schools, although programs would be conducted in English, promoting of the learning of other foreign languages, and aiding non-English speakers, would remain priorities. For de la Garza, as was pointed in dialogue, there is no contradiction between the giving up of minority languages and eventual foreign language learning, because not giving up one’s language implies being unjustly privileged. In order to aid those who are disadvantaged becasue of their lack of knowledge of English special programs, mostly ESL oriented, would be set in place with local flexibility and variation. The second exception would be that of the Puerto Ricans, and other national minorities, who have an autonomous and distinct identity and consequently do not have to learn English. These subgroups already have some kind of de facto special treatment, but one which under the current condtions, is difficult to extend to other groups.
The fourth consideration de la Garza takes into account is that of a permanent anti-discrimination policy to be advocated by the federal governement. Againt this is a policy which flows perfectly from the neutrality perspective the aim of which is not to tolerate “actions by any public agencies that in any way undermine, attack or discriminate against the use of languages other than English by individuals in their private activities” (De la Garza, 226). Finally, all electoral activities should be conducted in English so that the important difference between resident aliens and citizens is maintained. While the former have access to all fundamental rights and at the same time not being obliged to English, the latter alone enjoying the possibility of active political participation within the publicly developed democratic institutions. However, even here two exceptions would still hold. On the one hand that of Puerto Ricans, who are under no obligation to vote in, or learn, the English language (though they would be quite unwise if the did not), and on the other the Mexican Americans who in a somewhat different vein have asked for the use of such material in order to redress imbalances to a point of “normalcy”, to the point where integration is made possible.
But besides these very weak, but realistic demands, put forward by de la Garza, Latino’s must engage in other activities which alone will ensure that these small demands can one day become much greater. The different Latino groups must keep the already existing bilingual program flexibility in order to pursue the best course of action within specific local situations at both the state and community level. By safeguarding this flexibility the conditions can be created through creative implementations for the growth of intercommunicative channels between school boards, the community as a whole and Latino parents and their children. The public school would become a forum for the voicing of the different positions by way of dialogical encounters such as that presented in this paper. For instance, although at the normative level full bilingualism is an ideal goal to be sought, perhaps seeking it under the present economic circumstances might actually be detrimental to a given Spanish speaking sub-group who is in need of urgently acquiring some language skills as soon as possible. Politically speaking sometimes the urgent must be faced prior to addressing the most important. But this would imply, nevertheless, that more and particularly more federal, but also state sources, ought to be directed to language programs; whether they be ESL or BE. Although practically speaking it seems certain that most funds will go towards ESL oriented programs, Latino’s must actively seek to organize themselves politically and rally upon the common banner of bilingualism as a goal. Perhaps their private efforts can follow in the steps of a Quebecois “quiet revolution”, but certainly one whose aim is not that of separation, but one, from the start, guided by the desire for mutual recognition. Naturalization of resident alien becomes a priority, as well as women’s active particpation, for majority decisions will continue to determine the content, extent and course of future linguistic projects within the USA. Only by actively empowering the growing Latino youth will Spanish-speakers eventually be able to enter their claims, with greater force, into the democratic process. But if one day they do succeed, perhaps for the first time in the United States’ history will it truly become much more ‘American’ than it actually is.
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