Evaluation of Irma N. Guadarrama’s Article – Realizing Democratic Ideals . . .


English 101

21 Nov. 2002

Bilingual education has been a controversial issue for over 25 years since the government became involved in 1968. That year President Lyndon Johnson signed Title IIV of the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) which encouraged schools to establish bilingual education programs. The main debate has been in the political arena between liberals and conservatives and usually stems from where the financial responsibility should lie and how much native language LEP (limited English proficient) students should retain. Because bilingual education is such a heated issue, it is not difficult to find articles on this topic. In fact, I have found that there is an abundance of written opinions on either side, for bilingual education or against, to support whichever opinion you may acknowledge as your own.

At a 1995 conference in Washington, DC, several experts gathered to discuss bilingual education in depth. The speeches given at the conference were compiled into a book, The Failure of Bilingual Education, and cover many different topics relating to bilingual education. Irma N. Guadarrama, a professor of bilingual education at the University of Texas at Houston, was one of the featured speakers. She was a bilingual education teacher for many years in the public school system in Texas and also has a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas, Austin. In her speech, “Realizing Democratic Ideals with Bilingual Education”, Guadarrama attempts to relate bilingual education to democracy. Although the beginning of her article was confusing and difficult to understand, I thought that the majority of


Irma’s paper did an excellent job arguing her opinion and counter arguing the opposing opinion in her five main points.

The first couple of pages in Guadarrama’s article attempted to explain why she believes bilingual education is directly related to democracy. It is difficult for me to describe exactly what she was trying to say because I was so thoroughly confused by her words. She made statements such as, “bilingual education . . . also mirrors democracy in action”, and “we must address . . . it’s political justification in playing an essential role in our democratic society.” (41) Never in her introductory paragraphs did she fully explain what she meant by these statements or give any support that helped to clarify what she was saying. In paragraph five, I was completely baffled by her words. She seemed to be trying to define some terms such as cultural democracy, which she said is “freedom of self-expression”, and cultural conformity, which to her was “sacrificing one’s own culture”. She then went on to compare her definitions to other’s opinions, with cultural democracy meaning, “an irresponsible construct that contradicts democratic ideas”, and cultural conformity as “containment within boarders of another’s culture, in which self-expression is inhibited.” (41) I have no idea what she was talking about. She expressed herself with large, obscure vocabulary to sound more intelligent but instead came off as pompous. I found that each paragraph in the first two pages of Guadarrama’s article were very confusing and, instead of appealing to the general public, were written only for other arrogant professors to comprehend.

In contrast to the confusing nature of the start of Guadarrama’s speech, I thought that the second part was very well organized and used suitable arguing and counter arguing methods. She broke down each subject by number and proceeded to discuss each topic in depth. Her first point of discussion was on the research done on bilingual education. She used the counter arguing techniques of acknowledging and refuting perfectly to show the weakness in the


opposing argument. She stated that, “opponents of bilingual education still rely on research findings as the main weapon in their efforts to disclaim its legitimacy. However,” she continued, “neither supporters nor opponents of bilingual education are satisfied with the results of the effectiveness of bilingual education research” (42-43). She then went on to sight specific studies such as Bilingual Education Reform in Massachusetts by Rossell and Baker, and Forked Tongue: The politics of Bilingual Education by Rosalie Porter, that opponents of bilingual education tend to use as support for their opinion. To refute Rossell and Baker’s study, Guadarrama stated