Lindon Williams and Rep. Tony Polumbo. ./ Bob Hauge, ally of DNC member Billie Carr’s, has been elected chairman of the once-mighty Harris County Democrats, whose peak membership of 8,000 has slipped to 800. Hauge’s group plan to reorganize the progressive precinctbased organization into neighborhood chapters, each one covering five or ten precincts. “I plan to make the organization the issue,” Hauge says. With so many single-focus organizations pulling many ways, he will stress the point that the only way for progressives to have clout in politics is to have a strong organization. Two-Language Education Judge Justice vs. The State battle, it is also a complicated subject. The obligation of society is widely acknowledged today to offer compensatory assistance to Spanish-speaking children whose forebears were subjected to systematic prejudice and exploitation. However, this has not been accepted long. Indeed, it was only in its 1974 landmark decision in Lau v. Nichols \(a case brought on behalf of children of the Supreme Court recognized the right of non English speaking children to special help in the public schools. The call for bilingual education goes further, however. Bilingual instruction is a particular methodology involving continuous teaching, in separate classes, in the child’s dominant tongue, of most subject matter and the English language. This approach has the advantage of allowing the children to keep pace with their English-speaking peers in the subject matter being taught, preventing the development of a learning gap that many will never overcome. Also, bilingual students are taught reading and writing and other language skills in both English and their native language, thus taking advantage of a skills resource that would otherwise be lost. Not least, proponents say, bilingual education enhances the children’s view of themselves and their cultural background. In the rhetoric engendered by the controversy, reference is made to two kinds of bilingual approaches. “Maintenance” programs place heaviest emphasis on the preservation of the child’s cultural heritage and are designed to allow the student to remain in the bilingual program for all his public school years. “Transition” programs are planned so the child will achieve a degree of English competency sufficient for him or her to compete effectively in all-English classes as quickly as is consistent with the pur poses set forth in the preceding paragraph. Critical components in the transition program are the “exit criteria” according to which it is decided when the child is ready to leave the bilingual group for mainstream classes. The existing Texas bilingual program for children in the primary grades uses scores on standardized achievement tests to determine when a student shall exit. Setting the criteria too high may mean that many children will remain indefinitely in the “transition” program. If the exit criteria are too low the goals of the program are defeated by releasing the children to all-English classes before they are ready. All bilingual advocates encountered by this writer avowed that they are committed to the transition approach. This is hardly surprising since the maintenance concept is open to the most frequently-heard charge of the bilingual education critics, namely, that the system will result in a dual-language U.S.A. an outcome that makes many persons who have cast an eye on our Canadian neighbor shudder. Bilingual education is distinguished from English as a second language English-speaking children are “immersed” in all-English classes for the better part of the day and also receive some measure of English instruction, possibly accompanied by other forms of remedial work. The advantage of ESL, its proponents say, is that it teaches English faster and better. Furthermore, it is cheaper and more versatile, lending itself more easily to situations where there are small numbers of non-Englishspeaking students or multiple language groups. Some educators who prefer bilingual education for the elementary grades believe ESL is better-suited to needs of students at the secondary level. The Situation Activity in the Texas bilingual controversy has been occurring on at least three different fronts and the action has been fast, making it difficult for news readers to get a good perspective on the unfolding events. In Austin the bilingual battle is being spearheaded by Senator Carlos Truan, who began his law-making career in 1969 by mounting a successful effort to overturn the state law under which MeXican-American children were subject to punishment for speaking in Spanish on school grounds \(the law, a relic of World War I anti-German hysteria, was originally aimed at Hill Country resithe author of the bill, now in the legislative mill, that would double the number of children receiving bilingual education in Texas by extending it through the twelfth grade. The existing program makes it mandatory for school districts to offer bilingual education from kindergarten through the third grade and provides additional funding to districts that carry it forward through the fourth and fifth. The Truan bill would also raise the state’s per-student contribution to school districts for bilingual education. Truan says that every Mexican-American legislator backs Truan’s bill, reflecting the strong preference for the bilingual approach among the state’s Hispanic leaders and organizations. The attitude of many of Truan’s nonHispanic colleagues is decidedly hostile to more .bilingual education. On March 25, the Senate education committee rebuffed, by a 5-4 vote, a Truan effort to report his bill for floor action, delivering it instead to the questionable care of a subcommittee. The companion bill in the House is getting a chilly response from that chamber’s public education committee, among whose eleven members it reportedly has only two supporters. If hopes for expanded bilingual teaching in Texas rested on the Truan bill alone, prospects for movement in 1981 would be bleak. This year, however, the bilingual movement in Texas has an im THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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