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The Mass Media

This Just In – Vote “No” on Question 2

In what may be a cop-out, I am going to run a time-sensitive letter which I very recently received on the subject of voting NO on Question #2.

It is past deadline and there are too many things on my mind to filter out what I should write, but I support this letter writer’s point of view, so I am going to sneak this letter-to-the-editor into my personal spot.

Rest assured though, I will return next week, and by then I will have decided which of the major issues currently on my mind I will explore or expose.

I would like to thank Kevin Costa for submitting this last minute plea to the voters of Boston, and I thank you, gentle reader, for taking the time to contemplate his point of view.

Date: 10/28/2002

Subject: Bilingual Education

Many people believe that eliminating bilingual education will improve the teaching of English; they are wrong: the elimination of bilingual education will eliminate the best chance non-English speaking students now have to gain a command of the English language. If you want to teach people something new, it is of the utmost importance that you find out what they already know. The same principle holds true in the effective teaching of English: in order to most effectively teach the English language, one must know the native language of the student one is teaching.

Students of differing non-English native languages have to be taught different things in order to learn English: a Chinese student would have to learn how to write our Latin alphabet, a French student would not. When one teaches English, what one teaches depends on what the student already knows: to have an Italian student practice writing the alphabet independent of phonetics is a waste of time, to have a Cambodian student do so is not.

Students construct a bridge to English by making use of the materials that are at their disposal, materials to be found in the native language they already know. The teacher who knows the native language of her students as well as English, in other words, the bilingual teacher, is the most qualified to help students build such a bridge. Only the teacher who knows both languages has experience in having built such a bridge herself, having once been on one side or the other of the chasm that is to be bridged, and having successfully made it to the other side.

Please, it is of the greatest importance, vote no on Massachusetts ballot question 2.

Kevin Costa

Graduate Student

Department of Political Science

University of Massachusetts – Amherst