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Students at a Czech summer school in Granger in 1914. photo: Institute of Texan Cultures at the Univ. of Texas at San Antonio rural Comal County, along the southeastern coastal plains, and in Victoria and Gillespie counties, among others. Czech schools were also numerous and in the southeastern town of Panna Maria, the oldest Polish settlement in the United States, a Polish school existed until the 1920s. But animosity among the ethnic communities ran high. “I don’t regard the 19th century as a utopian bilingual time,” Blanton said in a recent interview. “That bilingual tradition was growing on awfully rocky soil, and it was subject to all kinds of hostile people and hostile ideas. It was only a matter of time until it was eradicated.” At this point the history of language in Texas takes an interesting turn. The conventional view of American history attributes the outlawing of bilingual education to the rise of assimilationist ideologies in the early 20th century and the xenophobia inspired by World War I. But it was modern educators devoted to progress who finally did in bilingual education. The bilingual schools had long been a public headache for education officials, who complained about the Czech and German schools as much as the Spanish ones. As Blanton characterizes the views of the time, “too many local liberties retarded ‘progress’ and could only be circumvented through righteous regulation by trained experts.” Starting in the 1880s, those experts imposed educational reforms such as standard curricula, teacher certification, and top-down school administrationall of which spelled the death of bilingual classrooms and community schools. But what kind of teaching went on in those schools, and was their demise a good thing? “There’s not a lot of evidence about the community schools,” Blanton says. “The thing that most characterizes the instruction in these community schools, if I had to use one word, I’d call it experimental. If I had to use another word, I’d have to call it amateur.” But he doesn’t use that word in a negative light. Community schools were about “people doing the best they can.” For instance, at a German school in Comal County, one teacher taught in English from Monday until mid-day Wednesday. The other teacher taught in German for the rest of the week, not because such a schedule was based in any educational theory, but because that’s what the teachers knew how to do. At another school in Bellville, the German teacher taught English as if it were a classical language like Latin, asking students to translate sentences from German to English and back. This teaching was haphazard and unprofessional. Yet as Blanton argues, most public education in the 19th century was haphazard and unprofessional; communities clung to their bilingual schools, which managed to produce people who were successful members of a society that was mostly agrarian. And, it’s important to note, thoroughly American. The new, modern, English-only curriculum appealed to those who feared urban immigrant ghettoes and thought continued on page 29 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 30, 2006