English-Language Learners

Hiring of Bilingual-Ed. Critic Protested

By James Crawford — April 01, 1987 2 min read
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A Mexican-American member of the Congress last week protested the Education Department’s hiring of R.E. “Rusty’’ Butler, a consultant who has accused Hispanics of favoring secession from the United States and has linked bilingual education to international terrorism.

Representative Bill Richardson, Democrat of New Mexico, called on Secretary of Education William J. Bennett to fire Mr. Butler, who has worked in the office of postsecondary education since late February.

“What distinguishes Mr. Butler’s [charges] from the anti-bilingual-education writings of other Education Department employees,’' Mr. Richardson said, “is [his] demagogic attack on the loyalty of Hispanic Americans and [his] slanderous linkage between terrorism, communism, and bilingual education.’'

In a 1985 monograph published by the Council for Inter-American Security, Mr. Butler wrote: “Dutch criminal psychologist Dick Mulder has said that ‘there is a danger that the language situation could feed and guide terrorism in the U.S.’ Therefore, bilingual education and the ideal of Aztlan [the American Southwest] as a potential Hispanic homeland has national-security implications.’'

On March 12, Mr. Butler appeared in a debate at Georgetown University, arguing in favor of a constitutional amendment to make English the official language of the United States. Although Mr. Butler’s role in the event was principally to advise his former employer, Senator Steve Symms of Idaho, he also defended the proposal against criticisms from the audience.

Citing this incident, Mr. Richardson questioned the department’s stated neutrality on the “English-only’’ movement. He also criticized the department’s hiring of a writer associated with U.S. English, a group advocating passage of the English-language amendment, to review bilingual teacher-training materials.

The project, which is being conducted by Gary R. Imhoff, may violate a law against censorship of educational materials, Mr. Richardson said. (See Education Week, Jan. 28, 1987.)

In a letter of response, Secretary Bennett reiterated that “neither the department nor I take a position on proposals to make English our official language.’'

He defended the review of curricular materials, but added the department is reviewing whether to continue the study begun by Mr. Imhoff.

He added that Mr. Butler’s assigned duties “relate solely to student financial-assistance programs.’'

“He is not in any way involved in bilingual-education policymaking, operations, or related activities,’' the Secretary said, adding that the Council on Inter-American Security report “was a purely personal research project which will have no influence on the bilingual-education activities of this department.’'

He denied that Mr. Butler had made “any statements against bilingual education or in support of language-restrictive policies’’ during the Georgetown debate. “Notwithstanding these facts, I have reiterated that ... he will not be participating in any future conferences where this issue is a primary topic of discussion.’'

Mr. Butler last week declined to comment on Mr. Richardson’s charges, saying, “I’m not at liberty to speak on bilingual education.’'

A version of this article appeared in the April 01, 1987 edition of Education Week as Hiring of Bilingual-Ed. Critic Protested

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