Language controversy a 2-way street, amigos
Feb. 17, 2006
The language controversy thus far in Southeast Valley and Arizona schools has
been over the federal requirement to teach English to Spanish-speaking students,
who are usually here illegally, and that such programs be financed by Arizona
taxpayers, who are not usually here illegally.
While this federal mandate confuses people who still imagine a difference
between legal and illegal, Gov. Napolitano and I understand it perfectly. Since
the kids are here to stay, it behooves us to educate them properly. Why? Because
an educated non-citizen makes a much better American than an uneducated
While that theory confuses people who still imagine a difference between a
citizen and a non-citizen, Gov. Napolitano and I understand it perfectly. In
fact, not only am I in favor of teaching English to Spanish speakers, I think we
need another required program to teach Spanish to English speakers.
Frankly, it is getting harder and harder for English-only speakers to get along
in this state. I have an example:
Last week I was startled to hear the buzz and roar of gas-operated Weedeaters
and mowers as an energetic yard crew went to work on my lawn and foliage. I
don't have a yard crew.
My next-door neighbor has a yard crew, but I do not.
I ran outside, too late to stop a line of decorative bushes from being
drastically reduced in size.
"¡Alto!" I shouted at the crew, which obviously had not had the benefit of
federally mandated English.
I later learned I should have shouted "Pare," since "alto" is only for stop
signs, but I was under a lot of pressure and my bushes were disappearing fast.
Still, they seemed to get the message, and the crew stopped in mid-trim and
mid-lawn-cutting and eyed me expectantly.
"No aqui," I said, pointing down at my grass.
I then trotted to my neighbor's yard and pointed at his grass.
"¡Aqui!" I said. "Aqui es bueno."
They chuckled and moved to the correct location, leaving my lawn half cut and my
bushes only half destroyed.
It was fortunate for me that I was fluent in Spanish, having earned solid
D-minuses in the language in college some 40 years ago. But what if I were not
bilingual? And what if, instead of a yard crew, these guys had been roofers or
I could have wound up with a pink house and a bill for several thousand dollars.
By all means, teach the kids from Mexico to speak English. But if we're all
going to get along, and we need to, the kids born in America had better learn
Jim Berlin, a Mesa resident, is a retired lieutenant from the Phoenix Police
Department and a former syndicated columnist.