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Time To Make Language Costs Fall On Immigrants
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July 19, 2002, 05:00 AM
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Whoever said that the road to hell was paved with good intentions must have had California public education in mind.

With another school year just around the corner, teachers are huddling to discuss the latest "solutions" to hideously low reading and math scores. Year after year, the education elites haul out some grand-sounding mumbo-jumbo to make it look like it is on top of things. A recent, but now discarded, teaching philosophy was "Integrated Thematic Learning" which endorsed "brain-based learning." This is the kind of drivel that comes out of a California Department of Education top-heavy with bureaucrats who have never set foot into a classroom.

No one is allowed to talk about what has really screwed up California schools: too many non-English speaking students, whose non-English speaking parents do not hold learning in very high regard.

To rub salt in our wounds, those same parents consistently and overwhelmingly refuse to take advantage of the multiple opportunities (paid for by you and me) to improve their lot and the fortunes of their children, too.

Let us today consider the excellent—on paper— Community-Based English Tutoring (C.B.E.T.) program.

When California voters approved Proposition 227 in 1998, they also created C.B.E.T.  The authorization to fund C.B.E.T. was buried deep in the fine print of the controversial program that ended bilingual education in K-12 classrooms.

C.B.E.T. provides English language instruction to any adult learner if that adult will sign a pledge that he will help his child speak English at home. The adult can also bring his school-age child to class with him for special tutoring.

Here is how it works: the adult student goes to E.S.L. class. There, he receives English lessons under the supervision of a credentialed, full-time teacher.

In the meantime, his child goes to another classroom, supervised by another credentialed instructor. The child is tutored one-on-one in reading, math or any other discipline. Or the child can do his homework with the guidance and encouragement of the teacher.

This is a classic win-win situation. The adults need to learn English and their children need academic intervention. They are mostly at the low end of the academic spectrum. And, of course, the classes are free.

The Lodi Adult School, with our share of the $50 million annual C.B.E.T. budget, has purchased new computers and textbooks and has hired bilingual teaching aides to make the class as inviting as possible.

All we need is students.

You may think that the adults would attend if only for the benefit of their children. But you`re wrong.

As with all of the other E.S.L. classes, only a few straggle in. The C.B.E.T. class starts at 2:30, when the children are dismissed and the parents are on campus to pick them up. Class ends at 5:30 in plenty of time for the family to have dinner together.

We ask only a few hours each week. But it appears we are expecting too much.

And who exactly are we expecting to learn English?  Many are long-time U.S. residents. who are taking advantage of the public schools for their children and social services for themselves. These are the folks who demand an amnesty.

The vast majority of the people who need to come to class, but do not, will end up living longer in the U.S. than their native country. English is the language of success. Don`t they want to succeed?

And where are these non-working, non-English speaking parents? By their own admission, they are across the street from the school watching novelas.

My C.B.E.T. class at the Clairmont School is in one of the poorest and most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in north Stockton. The school`s enrollment is 50% Asian and 25% Hispanic. We could fill the room ten times over with non-English speakers. Instead, it is one-quarter full on a good day.

The Adult School offers more than ten other sections of C.B.E.T. classes. Most are poorly attended.

The refusal of non-English speakers to attend C.B.E.T. classes where the red carpet is laid out for them is inexcusable. I can think of nothing else the Adult School could do to make the class more inviting.

As I have written before, the plain fact is that there is little interest in learning English among this generation of non-English speakers.

I like the idea the Dutch have come up with to cope with people who don`t want to learn their language. In June the B.B.C. reported that the Netherlands was considering charging $1,500 for immigrants to take a mandatory language class. The money would be refunded upon successful completion of the class.

I`ve been an E.S.L. instructor for 15 years. I`m tired of being left at the altar.

Let immigrants fork over the dough at their port of entry into the U.S.

A $1,500 deposit, refundable when they master the language of this country,  is chump change for people who claim to be so eager to start a better life in America.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.