Letters to the Editor

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By Democracy Readers

Language Barrier

Peter Schuck misconstrues my call for promoting bilingualism among immigrant children as “unequivocal support for bilingual education” [“Speaking of Tongues,” Issue #5]. Instead, I share his concern that bilingual programs have disserved English-language learners (ELLs). But this failure is not inherent in bilingual methods of instruction. It is the result of hostile administration, inadequate resource allocation, and a limited supply of qualified teachers.

Research indicates that well-designed bilingual programs best promote long-term achievement, cognitive development, and English-language literacy. Of course, resource constraints will always require some schools to opt for less expensive English immersion classes. But these constraints do not justify dismissing the bilingual vision, much less banning the use of native languages in instruction. Such bans, which already have been approved in several states, preclude the experimentation and parental choice essential to quality education—values Schuck himself endorses with his voucher proposal.

Many parents and school officials, in fact, have recognized bilingualism’s benefits by adopting dual-language programs (more than 300 nationwide, according to one estimate). As these experiments recognize, the United States can ill afford not to make bilingualism a policy priority. Our social cohesion depends on it. And if we remain an English-only society while the rest of the world continues to master our language in addition to their own, we will be the ones left behind.

Cristina Rodríguez
Associate Professor of Law
New York University School of Law
New York, N.Y.

Polemics and Policy

I read Shadi Hamid’s “Parting the Veil” [Issue #5] with both interest and dismay. Hamid asserts that the United States does not “engage with moderate Islamist parties” and is seeking to curb “the power and appeal of Islamist groups.” This argument depends almost entirely on the Egyptian case (and to a lesser extent, on Hamas). But the full record of U.S. cooperation with Islamist parties shows that these cases are more the exception than the rule. In Morocco, Jordan, Algeria, and Yemen, not to mention Iraq and Turkey, American NGOs and officials have indeed engaged with Islamist parties. In Yemen, they have played a key role in fostering the very “cross-ideological cooperation” that Hamid calls for.

Although these facts surely complicate his argument, Hamid should have taken them into consideration. He has the duty to move beyond polemics; unfortunately, in the most recent issue of your journal, he failed to do so.

Daniel Brumberg
Associate Professor and Co-Director, Democracy & Governance Studies Program
Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.

Shadi Hamid replies:

Daniel Brumberg is correct to point out that the United States has engaged with mainstream Islamist parties in Morocco, Yemen, and elsewhere. But the limited engagement with Islamists to which he refers does not change the basic fact that U.S. policymakers have, since the Algerian debacle of 1991, been far from enthusiastic about democracy in the Middle East due to their fear of Islamists coming to power through elections. Morocco and Yemen are less important cases, because our vital strategic interests are not engaged there. The examples of Egypt and Jordan, which I focus on in my article, are more instructive when trying to understand the thrust of U.S. policy. They are two of our closest allies in the region, receive billions in aid, and have attempted to take on regional leadership roles. Our unwillingness to put any pressure on them is indicative of the continued dilemma of wanting democracy but fearing the possible outcomes.

In any case, Brumberg appears to have missed the point of my article. I am not advocating that the United States schedule occasional meetings with Islamist leaders in a few countries here and there. We have already done that. The problem is a lack of a strategic posture, an overarching narrative, a real effort to integrate our approach to political Islam within the context of the broader effort to fight extremism and terrorism.

Shadi Hamid
Research Director
Project on Middle East Democracy
Washington, D.C.

Teachers Taking Charge

“America’s Teaching Crisis,” [Issue #5] by Jason Kamras and Andrew Rotherham, echoes some excellent points being made with increasing frequency throughout the educational community. The authors’ call for a “New Deal” for teachers appears similar to Linda Darling-Hammond’s recent suggestion for a “Marshall Plan” for education. Several of Kamras and Rotherham’s suggestions, such as changing teacher compensation, expanding career options, improving mentoring, and recruitment and retention, match those in the “Performance-Pay for Teachers” report recently published by the Center for Teaching Quality of North Carolina, authored by myself and 17 other teachers across the country.

While there are some points in the article with which I disagree—the emphasis on higher verbal SAT scores; the push for more elite colleges for teacher candidates, without acknowledging how that would exacerbate the shortage of minority teachers—I am encouraged to hear so many of the same constructive ideas coming from different corners within the educational community. I hope these conversations signal the beginning of a sustained movement among teachers to take charge of our own profession.

Renee Moore
2001 Mississippi Teacher of the Year
Moorhead, Miss.

Democracy Readers who would like to submit a letter to the editor can do so by emailing dajoi@democracyjournal.org.

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