"SO MANY ARE DESPERATE TO LEARN ENGLISH"
THE SAN JUAN STAR, VIEWPOINT, MONDAY, OCTOBER 6, 1997, PAGE 69.
Life is certainly full of ironies, and in Puerto Rico we constantly witness a procession of them. Such is the case, for example, of some Puerto Ricans renouncing their U.S. citizenship (insisting on a Puerto Rican citizenship that has no juridical value), while thousands of people from other countries, many of whom risk their lives to reach U.S. soil, become U.S. citizens every year. And this is so because, despite all its flaws, the U.S. offers its citizens the best the world can devise, making U.S. citizenship the most coveted in the world today.
U.S. citizenship embodies the natural heritage of a nation that in fact is the most democratic, powerful and generous in the world, one which offers its citizens a way of life unknown in many so-called independent and sovereign nations. It is a way of life that offers its citizens freedom to pray as they wish, to think as free people who have the strength to work, minds to plan, hearts to love and who enjoy freedom of expression, as was the case of the October 1st march in San Juan of those who oppose the sale of the Puerto Rico Telephone Company. These are all part of the glorious legacy of the United States, as I have often highlighted in this space.
There is another case of irony in Puerto Rico. While some political sectors, charged with a false sense of nationalism and a pervasive anti-U.S. sentiment, fight to deprive our children of the opportunity to learn English in our public schools, immigrant Mexican families in Los Angeles, Calif., are desperate to have their children learn English and are fighting the authorities to let their children do so in public schools. In a recent article in the New York Times, Reverend Alice Callaghan, an Episcopal minister and director of a family community center in Los Angeles, revealed that in 1985 a poor Mexican family came to Los Angeles to work in the garment districts sweatshop. In 1996, they pulled their three children out of school for nearly two weeks until the school agreed to let them take classes in English rather than Spanish.
According to Rev. Callaghan, "seventy other poor immigrant families joined this school boycott in February 1996, insisting that their children be allowed out of the citys bilingual program, which did not teach English to children from Spanish-speaking homes until they learned how to read and write in Spanish. In the end, the parents prevailed. Yet, throughout California and elsewhere in the country, many Hispanic parents are worried that bilingual education programs are keeping their children from learning English. These children live in Spanish-speaking homes, play in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods and study in Spanish-speaking classrooms. Most parents who participated in the school boycott last year toil in garment district sweatshops, others wait on tables, clean downtown offices or sell fruit or tamales on street corners. All struggle on an average monthly income of $800. Education is their only hope for a better future for their children. The first step is learning English."
The above confirms the following remarks of our great patriot, José Celso Barbosa, on the importance of teaching children, especially poor children, while in primary grades:
It is also pertinent to mention what the late Sen. Dennis Chávez (D-New Mexico) said about the importance of learning English:
I said it before and say it again. Lets be on the alert and ready to neutralize the chronic, strident, nationalistic rhetoric against the teaching of English in Puerto Rico of those self-proclaimed champions of our culture and self-appointed guardian angels of our island.