- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2000

Responses to article on immigrants not learning English

A recent Washington Times article claims "Learning English not a priority for immigrants in U.S." (May 30) In fact, research shows that immigrants of today generally make English their sole or primary language a full generation earlier than their predecessors around the turn of the century.

The article contains several other distortions of truth, but I would like to correct misinformation regarding bilingual education. The article claims that in bilingual programs, students study all subjects except English in their native language and avoid being immersed in English. This is false. In fact, bilingual programs generally strive for a 50-50 balance between English and the other language as media of content instruction.

Furthermore, research demonstrates that bilingual programs are more effective in helping students learn English and achieve academically than English immersion programs. The recent English immersion experiment in California bears this out. For example, of 3,500 non-English-speaking children in the English immersion program in Orange County schools in 1997, only six became proficient enough in English to be put into mainstream classes. Research shows that students in immersion programs also will fall behind academically. Bilingual education avoids this because students learn content in the language they understand while learning English.

JOHN E. PETROVIC

Research professional

Center for Bilingual Education and Research

Arizona State University

Tempe, Ariz.

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Steven Moore, immigration analyst at Cato Institute, made an excellent point in "Learning English not a priority for immigrants in U.S." when he said, "It's absurd for government to be incurring all these added costs due to the fact that some don't know [English]."

While the Supreme Court rightly determined that people cannot be denied services just because they speak a foreign language, it did not say with whom the burden of translation ultimately rests. Clearly, the burden is on the individual, because the alternative is crazy. How is the government, using our tax dollars, supposed to pay to deliver services to the lazy minority who won't learn English? Imagine highway signs with 300 different translations or a department of motor vehicles with a staff of 300 translators.

Most government agencies already cater to the most commonly spoken languages in the country English and Spanish. Individuals who don't speak English or Spanish are not denied services, they just can't articulate their requests. It's like ordering food in Dutch in a restaurant with a wait staff that speaks only Japanese. You aren't denied service, but you probably won't get any food, either.

MICHAEL S. VAN ALSBURG

Arlington

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Regarding the article "Learning English not a priority for immigrants in U.S.," discussing the large number of languages being spoken in the United States, Jacqueline Byers of the National Association of Counties says the sheer number of immigrants in America forces us to change our attitude toward insistence upon English. I would turn that around: The sheer number of native born and immigrant Americans who do speak English should be enough of a political force to insist upon English being our language.

I am in favor of immigration. America is made up of immigrants, and immigrants provide the vital leavening that makes American society dynamic on so many levels. Still, we need ties that bind us into one nation, one people. One of these ties is the speaking of English. (The other is a thorough understanding of the Declaration of Independence; many native Americans need to brush up on this part.) We must do whatever proves necessary to ensure that people who come here are fluent in English.

I would suggest a change in our immigration laws. Categories and quotas should be done away with. We should allow in law-abiding persons, but let us also insist that before their arrival they be fluent in written and spoken English. What better way for a prospective American to prove his worthiness to join our wonderful nation than to have him learn our language before he gets here?

MARK EDWARD NOONAN

Las Vegas

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The article "Learning English not a priority for immigrants in U.S." dismisses the 500-year role of Spanish in California with a single statement: "[B]efore America's westward expansion, Spanish dominated in the Southwest."

English has only been in California for 150 years. As a bilingual gringo, I enjoy speaking both languages in this beautiful state, where most of the location names are Spanish. As a professional writer who publishes in both languages, I can tell you that Spanish is far more useful for expressing emotion.

As for the xenophobic contention that "there is a lingering American conviction that every American should speak English because it is the vital force that binds the nation's diverse population," here in California we believe tolerance, not English, is the "vital force" that binds us together.

RAYMOND CUSHING

Sacramento, Calif.

Jesse James is buried in Missouri, not Texas

The escape theorists are on the loose once again, as per the story on the Texas exhumation of J. Frank Dalton, who claimed to be Jesse James ("Suspected Jesse James exhumed," May 31).

As the project director of the 1995 exhumation in Kearney, Mo., of the remains of the person historically reputed to be James, I am exceedingly skeptical of the legitimacy of the current exhumation. The exhumation I directed proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the person buried in Kearney's Mount Olivet Cemetery under a Jesse James-inscribed headstone was, in point of scientific fact, the real and authentic James.

My team was composed of prominent scientists in the disciplines of physical anthropology, molecular biology, firearms analysis, forensic odontology, forensic pathology, forensic microscopy and document examination. The totality of their analyses either positively excluded Dalton as James or conclusively proved that the remains in the Mount Olivet Cemetery were indeed those of James.

The examination of two of four teeth from the Kearney grave site provided the compelling mitochondrial DNA link between the remains in that grave and the known descendants of James' sister, Susan Lavinia. Moreover, hair from James' original grave was obtained from the James Farm Historical Site and proved to have the same mitochondrial DNA as that from the teeth exhumed from James' second burial place at Mount Olivet Cemetery, making the proof of the connection to James' death in 1882 even more conclusive.

In addition, known handwriting samples from Dalton and James were compared with the firm and unequivocal result that they were found to be markedly different, excluding Dalton from being James.

As scientists, our team members and myself would welcome any re-evaluation of our tests and conclusions by equally competent scientists who have shelved their biases in this regard. That is the standard method for scientific replication and validation. However, the used car dealer leading the exhumation effort in Granbury, Texas, has made no effort to contact me or my team members to seek a second scientific opinion on our results.

The escape theorists have struck out every time they have claimed a notable individual escaped a terminal event. Not Lee Harvey Oswald; nor John Wilkes Booth; nor Anastasia, the daughter of Czar Nicholas II; nor the Dauphin, the child of Marie Antoinette; nor Billy the Kid; nor numerous others escaped the deaths that history records they suffered.

Who is next on the agenda of the escape theorists Elvis Presley? Maybe not, because there continue to be as many sightings of a still-living Elvis in as many faraway places as there were of Jesse James after his death in 1882.

Notable people die like everyone else, but the myths surrounding many of their deaths live on to confound both logic and science.

JAMES E. STARRS

Professor of forensic sciences

George Washington University

Washington

Article was Wright on

In the past several years, scads of stories have been written about Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighey House, now in its third life at Woodlawn Plantation, but in your May 25 feature ("A house with the Wright look"), The Times became the first to reveal the heart of this creation's magic in the lead and then go on to a version of a fresh and imaginative rendering. My compliments to the reporter. The photographer complemented the story with great skill. My compliments to him as well.

LOREN POPE

Alexandria

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