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Blake Fleetwood

Blake Fleetwood

Posted: April 2, 2007 12:41 AM

I Am Hispanic and Am Not Offended


The gotcha crowd, with the MSM fanning the flames, scored another victim when a headline in an AP story, and numerous reports on CNN, accused Newt Gingrich of calling Spanish a Ghetto language. CNN trotted out a Hispanic spokesperson who charged that Gingrich was "insulting" and should apologize to all Hispanics.

I came to this country as a four year old on a boat named the Santa Maria from Santiago, Chile, not knowing any English. When I kept speaking Spanish after our arrival, my mother, a research scientist from Chile, got worried.

From that point on she would constantly talk to me in English, because she later said that she had read a study that showed that young children speaking two languages become confused or stutter, and never really master either language as well as children who stick to one language.

I am not sure that I believe this.

Last night I had dinner with an English Canadian doctor who said that more recent studies indicate that children who grow up bilingual use more parts of their brain and are more creative than those who are monolingual, which is why she was sending her three daughters to a school that featured French immersion. Some of the friends I grew up with in New York City were sent to the Lycee Francais for the same reason.

I am not a great fan of Newt Gingrich, but he is certainly more intelligent and well read than any of the other Republican, potential presidential nominees. He is also a hypocrite for attacking Bill Clinton's behavior while he was getting oral sex from his congressional aide.

But, of course, the AP story on bilingual education threw in the gratuitous last line, "Reports of extramarital affairs have dogged him for years as a result of two messy divorces."

The MSM never misses a chance to throw in the salacious comment. Will every story about Bill Clinton, even if it's about Somalia or Iraq, end with the comment of what he got from Monica?

A quick review of the science of bilingualism versus bilingual education shows that they are two very different things.

Joseph M. Guzman, a visiting assistant professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, reviewed a number of studies regarding bilingual education:

"The best performance is found among students from Spanish-speaking households who make a rapid transition to English, either through English as a Second Language programs or through English immersion. The clear indication is that any positive returns owing to bilingual instruction are outweighed by the associated costs of delaying transition to English."

On the values of bilingualism, studies by Stephen Bochner in 1996 and Babu Nandita in 1984 confirmed the beneficial effects of knowing two languages. In four studies involving 496 above-average students aged 14 to 16, Bochner found that bilingual subjects were found to exhibit superior learning strategies after controlling for social factors, gender, language proficiency, intelligence, scholastic achievement, and educational opportunities. Nandita identified indirect cognitive benefits among average children, which revealed that bilingual children employed more advanced cognitive and linguistic strategies to resolve such ambiguities than did monolingual children.

But in this case, Gingrich is getting a bad rap. It's another case of a presidential candidate daring to speak the truth, or an interesting idea, and the MSM calling it a gaffe.

Gingrich never said that Spanish is a ghetto language. What he said was that bilingual education leads to Spanglish and holds back emigrants by quarantining them in low performance classes. As the Supreme Court held in 1954, rejecting segregated schools -- Brown v. Board of Education -- Separate Can Never Be Equal.

Bilingualism is a wonderful thing. But bilingual education for young poor Spanish kids is child abuse.

Before the age of six, children can quickly pick up another language. What we are talking about are poor children, who are going to suffer and be crippled all their lives, if they don't learn English quickly. English immersion is the only way.

It worked for me as a four year old.

jfleetwood@aol.com





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