Hispanics 'Are of One Voice' in Support of Bilingual Education

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

The authors of a survey of the nation's three largest Hispanic groups--Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans--say they have found surprisingly high levels of support for bilingual education, provided its purpose is to teach English.

Bilingual education appears to be one of the few areas in which Latinos "are essentially of one voice,'' a report on the survey states.

And, the authors conclude, that voice appears far more supportive of bilingual education as a means of learning English than is claimed by many critics of bilingual education, who maintain that such instruction is a barrier to Hispanic youngsters' learning English.

The findings of the Latino National Political Survey, released last month, were based on responses from 1,546 Mexicans, 589 Puerto Ricans, and 682 Cubans over the age of 18 interviewed in late 1989 and early 1990; all were U.S. citizens.

Together, the three ethnic groups account for more than 80 percent of the nation's Hispanic population, which numbered 21.4 million in 1990.

In each of the groups surveyed, more than 80 percent supported bilingual education, and even larger percentages said the objective of bilingual education should be to teach students either English exclusively or both English and Spanish.

"Contrary to the claims of supporters of the 'official English' movement,'' the report says, "Latinos see bilingual education as a way to learn English, and they strongly support access to this opportunity.''

Bilingual Ed. Questioned

The report also notes that more than two-thirds of the members of each group born in the United States considered their English better than their Spanish and that a majority of the Mexican and Puerto Rican respondents said they spoke either English or a mixture of English and Spanish at home.

"These findings,'' the report says, "should counter the frequently heard assertions that Latinos are unwilling to learn English and are fighting to maintain Spanish.''

James J. Lyons, the executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education, said the survey's findings are consistent with his organization's position that most parents with Spanish-language backgrounds want their children to receive instruction they understand while also learning English.

But Linda Chavez--a prominent critic of many bilingual-education programs and a former director of U.S. English, which advocates designation of English as the nation's official language--last week asserted that many Hispanic parents have been misled into believing that their children need bilingual education to learn English.

"There is no evidence to support that bilingual education is the most effective means to teach English,'' said Ms. Chavez, whose recent book, Out of the Barrio, accuses some Hispanic leaders of promoting bilingual education for the sake of maintaining the distinct Hispanic culture that serves as their power base.

Other Views Differ

In areas other than bilingual education, the opinions of the three ethnic groups covered in the survey often diverged.

Moreover, the respondents reported little interaction with members of either of the two other ethinic groups, and their members overwhelmingly preferred to be identified in terms of their national origin, such as "Mexican-American,'' rather than as "Hispanic'' or "Latino.''

The survey also found that:

  • The majority of Puerto Ricans had taken bilingual-education courses, but the majority of Mexicans and Cubans had not, regardless of whether they were born in the United States or elsewhere.
  • More than 60 percent of foreign-born Mexicans, 40 percent of Puerto Ricans born in Puerto Rico, and 37 percent of foreign-born Cubans had no more than eight years of formal education, making them significantly less educated than their peers born here.
  • More than three-quarters of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans attended public schools, but nearly half of Cubans attended private or parochial schools for all or part of their educations.

The Latino National Political Survey was conducted under the auspices of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research; funding for the project was provided by the Ford, Rockefeller, Spencer, and Tinker foundations.

The survey's principal researchers were Rodolfo O. de la Garza, a professor of community affairs at the University of Texas at Austin; Angelo Falcon, the president of the Institute for Puerto Rican Policy in New York City; F. Chris Garcia, a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico; and John A. Garcia, an associate professor of political science at the University of Arizona.

The survey's findings are presented in "Latino Voices: Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban Perspectives on American Politics,'' copies of which are available for $29.95 each from Westview Press, 5500 Central Ave., Boulder, Colo. 80301; (303) 444-3541.

Vol. 13, Issue 06

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

To Address Chronic Absenteeism, Dig into the Data

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Keep Your Schools Safe and Responsive to Real Challenges

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

3 Unique Learner Profiles for Emerging Bilinguals

Effective Questioning Practices to Spur Thinking

Empower Reading Teachers with Proven Literacy PD

Student Engagement Lessons from 3 Successful Districts

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >