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Univision's Republican Debate: What Candidates Said About Language

Congressman Ron Paul thinks it is "good and proper" to have English as the only language used for all legal matters at the national level, but that bilingualism should be permissible in schools. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, noted that he and others "fought for English immersion" in Massachusetts, referring to how Massachusetts voters approved a ballot measure against bilingual education in 2002.

Those are a couple of examples of how Republican candidates for president touched on language issues during yesterday's debate in Miami, sponsored by Univision, a Spanish-language network. Click here for a transcript. As I noted earlier on this blog, Rep. Tom Tancredo, a congressman from Colorado, didn't participate in the debate because he wanted to make a point about language: He felt it was wrong to have his remarks in English translated into Spanish. (See "Tom Tancredo Takes a Stand on Spanish Translation.")

While Rep. Paul, from Texas, said in the debate it was practical for English to be the official language of the United States, Sen. John McCain, from Arizona, didn't go that far. "I think the most practical value is to make English used by all Americans and all citizens, and all who come here," he said. He noted that he will do everything he can to help immigrants learn English.

The debate touched on a number of issues concerning education in this country, which my colleague, Alyson Klein, has written about at Campaign K-12, an Education Week blog.

The debate included a rather extensive discussion about how to combat high dropout rates among Hispanics. Congressman Duncan Hunter, from California, recalled how Jaime Escalante, a Bolivian-born math teacher, taught calculus to students in California. (Mr. Escalante's story was told in a book, Escalante: The Best Teacher in America, written by prominent education journalist Jay Mathews and also through the 1988 film, Stand and Deliver.) Mr. Hunter said schools need people who can inspire kids at a young age to "reach for the stars."

No one brought up language issues while talking about the high dropout rate among Hispanics.

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