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Bilingual Education and the Hispanic Vote

Education reform has been in the shadows of the economy and foreign wars during this presidential campaign, but, according to Bruce Fuller, University of California, Berkley education and public policy professor and New York Times blogger, education is the key to attracting the Hispanic Vote. More specifically, how the candidates handle the issue of transitional bilingual classrooms, a language-learning technique Fuller advocates, could have a large impact on the outcome of this election.

Barack Obama supports transitional bilingual education, where students transition to English by building on their knowledge of their native language. Fuller supports Obama’s position saying, “Transitional classrooms, as Mr. Obama puts forward, offer a pragmatic alternative [to English immersion].” He writes that it is also the method favored by researchers with the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth and a Bush administration review. By contrast, John McCain advocates English immersion.

Fuller argues that transitional bilingual education can help close the “huge gaps in achievement levels of Hispanic versus (non-Hispanic) white children,” an important goal, he claims, since, “the nation’s economic future depends especially on the human capital of young Hispanics.” Fuller sees Obama’s support for bilingual education as one that could benefit the candidate by encouraging a “robust” Hispanic voter turnout. “If elected,” writes Fuller, “his press for a more integrated and literate workforce will benefit us all.”

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