Book Review of "Forked Tongue" by Rosalie Porter

By Kathryne Bricker
Volume 1, Number 2 (Winter 1990-1991)
Issue theme: "Uses and misuses of history in the debate over immigration reform"

Written from the heart by someone who experienced firsthand the trials and rewards of adopting a new language with a new land, this is a must-read for an insider's perspective on bilingual education. Rosalie Porter, who struggled to learn English while raised in an Italian home, has dedicated her professional life to helping others master the English language. Experiences gained as bilingual teacher, then Director of Bilingual and English As a Second Language programs in Newton, Massachusetts, combined with her exhaustive study of educational theory and research, language-learning in other nations, and her analysis of the political debate, make this book a powerful weapon in the hands of people concerned about the future quality of our democratic nation.

For, as this debate illustrates, education is both that important and tied to politics. Government officials have long recognized that education has a political end that of forming ideal citizens. Statesmen of old, said Aristotle, have taken very great care about making citizens have a certain character. Dr. Porter reminds us anew In America, nationhood is based not on race or ethnic or tribal identity, but on a set of beliefs about liberty, equality, and individual rights.

Yet, politics has penetrated the practice of bilingual education in the reverse direction, harming both the students and our society. Here's just one example of the damage inflicted on Limited English Proficient students In 1986 the Boston School Department revealed that several hundred students (who) had been in bilingual classrooms for seven years...still had not learned enough English to be enrolled in a class taught in English.

Instead of statesmen, the dominant figures now are self-interested professional ethnics

About the author

Kathryn Bricker, Former Executive Director of U.S.ENGLISH reviews a book about bilingual education which challenges the politics as well as the educational soundness of bilingual programs in the public schools.