Monday, February 25, 2002
RIORDAN FOR GOVERNOR. Okay, I don't usually do political endorsements, but here 'goes. Rick Riordan could be the best thing to happen to the California statehouse in a good long time. The GOP doesn't trust him because, well, he's not much of a party man. But I don't see why that should bother me. They also distrust him because he is basically liberal on the "social issues" - guns, abortion, gay rights, etc. I'm mushy-middle on most of these, but that's not the point; does anyone seriously think that a strongly pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-gay-rights candidate is going to get elected to state-wide office in California?
What I see in Riordan is a guy who brought LA together after a period of violent divisions that culminated in the 1992 riots, who nurtured the business community of a chronically underperforming urban area, and who his critics and supporters alike agree is his own man. But more important than all of these, he has taken a strong stand on what is probably the most important "social" issue in California today: ending bi-lingual education.
Riordan - the liberal Republican - is the only GOP candidate red-blooded enough to call bi-lingual ed, "downright evil." And that's exactly what it is. Bi-lingual education - which typically has lower standards than English education, and is typically forced on students without their parents' consent - is the closest thing we have today to legal segregation in the schools, and is fully as pernicious as racial segregation was in the Jim Crow South. Further, I would argue that one primary purpose of having a public education system at all is to educate our racially and culturally diverse - and increasingly foreign-born - population in American civic culture, to bind the next generation of Americans to all previous generations to whom they frequently have no blood relation. That's certainly what the Progressives who championed public education early in the 20th century were after. Bi-lingual education is a knife in the chest of that vision, and has, along with other dubious educational initiatives of the last 30 years, fatally undermined popular support for public education. Post-September 11th, it is unconscionable that any public institution - particularly the schools - be promoting a political program that seeks to divide America culturally, as bi-lingual education does.
There is a general consensus that bi-lingual education has been a disaster for children, and since Proposition 227 was passed California children who have moved from bi-lingual to immersion classes have shown remarkable gains. At this point, I suspect there are no reputable supporters of bi-lingual education in existence. The support comes mostly from activist groups, media moguls and politicians who depend on cultural division for their livelihood, teacher's unions who are defending the jobs of bi-lingual ed teachers (who are generally less-qualified than other teachers), and bureaucrats for whom support of the existing system is much cheaper and easier than the challenge of actually teaching immigrant children English. It's a bad policy without strong public support and with potentially strong public opposition. Nonetheless, and in spite of the overwhelming passage of Proposition 227, Governor Davis has recently moved to eviscerate the promising educational reforms that had been embarked upon, and no other GOP candidate has had the guts to tell the truth and call him on it.
It has been enormously refreshing to have a President willing to call evildoers what they are, and put real muscle behind his talk. It will be as refreshing to have a governor in California who speaks the same truth to the corrupt power seeking to undermine the will of the voters and the education of that state's children. If he wins, who knows? Maybe we could even get rid of this pernicious system here in New York.
Here's a link to Ron Unz's website's recent post about Riordan and bi-lingual ed. There's a lot more, obviously, about the fight against bi-lingual education on the site, and lots of info on the treacherous behavior of California's State Board of Education on this issue. I encourage all readers to spend some time at his site.