Gin­grich: Bilin­gual Classes Teach ‘Ghetto’ Lan­guage

The Washington Post Sunday - - National News - By Kasie Hunt

For­mer House speaker Newt Gin­grich yes­ter­day de­scribed bilin­gual ed­u­ca­tion as teach­ing “the lan­guage of liv­ing in a ghetto,” and he mocked re­quire­ments that bal­lots be printed in mul­ti­ple lan­guages.

“The gov­ern­ment should quit man­dat­ing that var­i­ous doc­u­ments be printed in any one of 700 lan­guages de­pend­ing on who ran­domly shows up” to vote, Gin­grich said. The for­mer Ge­or­gia con­gress­man, who is con­sid­er­ing seek­ing the GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion in 2008, made the com­ments in a speech to the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Repub­li­can Women.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple be­lieve English should be the of­fi­cial lan­guage of the gov­ern­ment. . . . We should re­place bilin­gual ed­u­ca­tion with im­mer­sion in English so peo­ple learn the com­mon lan­guage of the coun­try and they learn the lan­guage of pros­per­ity, not the lan­guage of liv­ing in a ghetto,” Gin­grich said, draw­ing cheers from the crowd of more than 100.

“Cit­i­zen­ship re­quires pass­ing a test on Amer­i­can his­tory in English. If that’s true, then we do not have to cre­ate bal­lots in any lan­guage ex­cept English,” he said.

Peter Zamora, co-chair of the Wash­ing­ton-based His­panic Ed­u­ca­tion Coali­tion, which sup­ports bilin­gual ed­u­ca­tion, said: “The tone of his com­ments were very hate­ful. Span­ish is spo­ken by many in­di­vid­u­als who do not live in the ghetto.”

Zamora said re­search has shown “that bilin­gual ed­u­ca­tion is the best method of teach­ing English to nonEnglish speak­ers.” Span­ish speak­ers, he said, know they need to learn English. “There’s no re­sis­tance to learn­ing English, re­ally, among im­mi­grants, among na­tive-born cit­i­zens. Ev­ery­one wants to learn English be­cause it’s what you need to thrive in this coun­try.”

In the past, Gin­grich has sup­ported mak­ing English the na­tion’s of­fi­cial lan­guage. He has also said that all U.S. chil­dren should learn English and that other lan­guages should be sec­ondary in schools.

In 1995, he said that bilin­gual­ism poses “long-term dan­gers to the fab­ric of our na­tion” and that “al­low­ing bilin­gual­ism to con­tinue to grow is very dan­ger­ous.”

Bilin­gual ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams teach stu­dents read­ing, arith­metic and other ba­sic skills in their na­tive lan­guage so they do not fall be­hind while mas­ter­ing English.

In elec­tions, fed­eral law re­quires dis­tricts with large pop­u­la­tions of non-English speak­ers to print bal­lots in mul­ti­ple lan­guages.

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