Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bilingual Education at a Crossroads? A Divided NABE meets in San Jose; Board Further Discredits Itself by Inviting Anti-Bilingual Ed Keynote Speaker

With fresh wounds from its ouster of Executive Director Jim Crawford last year, the National Association for Bilingual Education [NABE] Board further discredited itself with the mind-boggling decision to honor an anti-bilingual education columnist as their 'keynote' speaker for NABE's 36th Annual Conference in San Jose, CA beginning today.
Because of this I had mixed feelings when I was asked to speak on a panel for the conference on Friday with longtime UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies and educational justice scholar Ling-Chi Wang on multilingualism in San Francisco schools for the conference. I decided to attend but to do what I can to be supportive of those at the gathering who will hold the NABE leadership accountable and continue our work, whether in NABE, or our statewide or regional groups to support English Learners and educational justice for all students and communities. I first met Crawford some 10 years ago when he came to visit my organization, the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights, and other grassroots immigrants rights groups in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1998 to learn about our advocacy and organizing approaches in the heat of our battle against millionaire Ron Unz's Prop 227 attacks on bilingual education in CA.

The farce of NABE's Board's choice of San Diego Union columnist Ruben Navarette, an outspoken critic of bilingual education and former media consultant to Ron Unz, as one of their keynote speakers was made worse by NABE board members' apparent attempted coverup of their action of inviting him. See Stephen Krashen and Jim Crawford's summary of the NABE mess and the backtracking and denials by NABE officials on the matter. From Krashen and Crawford:

Navarrette, a syndicated columnist, has built his career by attacking bilingual education. He started out in the 1990s as a media consultant for Ron Unz, the sponsor of anti-bilingual initiatives adopted in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts. Navarrette went on to work for various newspapers but never forgot his English-only roots. Writing in support of Unz's ballot measures, he denounced bilingual classrooms as "linguistic prisons" where children don't learn English but are trapped, against their parents' wishes, by a school bureaucracy that's "addicted to the additional funding provided for bilingual students." (Several of his major works, including "Bilingual Programs Failing" and "It's Time To Dismantle Bilingual Education," can be accessed at Unz's English for the Children web site.) He has also specialized in journalistic assaults on Hispanic leaders, civil-rights advocates, "racist" liberals, and supporters of public education. Not surprisingly, Navarrette has been a big booster of the No Child Left Behind Act. But above all, he has distinguished himself as an enemy of everything NABE stands for -- or, at least, used to stand for -- and as a hero to anti-bilingual crusaders everywhere.
Very embarrassing for the existing NABE leadership.
For more on the future of bilingual education see Crawford's excellent analysis from last Fall -The Decline of Bilingual Education: How To Reverse a Troubling Trend?
He argues for the need to unite advocates for English learners, Bilingual Education and 2-way Immersion programs with teachers, parents and students fighting for authentic assessments and against high stakes testing.

[We must] rally parents against the excesses of high-stakes testing and punitive
accountability schemes – excesses that affect large numbers of students, not just ELLs. ...Yet advocates for bilingual education must avoid the trap of concentrating their efforts on perfecting a misguided accountability system. No Child Left Behind espouses the cruel fiction that ELLs can meet the same levels of proficiency as their English-speaking peers before acquiring English, a standard of progress that dooms all ELL programs, bilingual and otherwise, to failure. The law stresses outputs (i.e., standardized test scores) alone while ignoring inputs such as effective program designs, qualified teachers, professional development, appropriate materials, and other resources. ...

There’s no escaping the reality that, as long as high-stakes testing continues to drive American education policy, the trend toward all-English programs will continue to accelerate.

See also info on Crawfords current efforts with the newly formed advocacy organization - The Institute for Language and Education Policy.

1 comment:

Duane Campell said...

Thanks Eric,
This led me to some important information.
Duane Campbell