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Week of 22 March 2002 · Vol. V, No. 27


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Teaching English. Proposition 227, a landmark piece of legislation enacted in 1998 by California voters, requires schools to place children with limited English proficiency into sheltered English language immersion programs. The goal was to replace bilingual education, instruction in a student's native language, with a short-term, intensive program taught only in English -- an approach considered by many educators to be much more effective.

Four years later, according to a recent study by Christine Rossell, a CAS professor of political science, it appears that both the letter and the spirit of Proposition 227 has been undermined by subsequent actions of the California State Board of Education and school districts. In practice, school districts have reinterpreted the law to mean that at least 30 percent of instruction in a sheltered English immersion classroom can be in a student's native tongue, and in San Diego this includes native tongue literacy. They have also redefined the section limiting students to one year in a sheltered English immersion program to mandate "a minimum of one year." Effectively, says Rossell, the school districts have reinstituted bilingual education, and reinstated the possibility that students can be kept in these programs for their entire school career. She also finds that whereas Proposition 227 allows parents alone to request bilingual education programs for their children, school departments have allowed principals and teachers to initiate this alternative. The result is that 15 percent of elementary school English learners are still enrolled in programs called bilingual education, and that number might be even higher if the sheltered English immersion programs that include substantial amounts of native tongue literacy were counted as bilingual education.

In addition, as Rossell points out, "Many school district administrators do not understand what structured English immersion is and they believe that if the language of instruction is English, they are in compliance with Proposition 227. As a result there are numerous English Learners currently in mainstream classrooms, not the sheltered classrooms envisioned in Proposition 227."

The full text of Rossell's report, prepared with funding by the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California, is available at

Neverland: the dark side. Lost boys who won't grow up may play at war in J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, but in the real world lost boys make up the deadliest of today's terrorist cadres, according to Caryl Rivers, a professor of journalism at the College of Communication. Rivers has studied reports about some of the most violent political, religious, and social movements in our time. From Afghanistan and Pakistan to Cambodia and China, her examination reveals that young boys are the perpetrators of some of the most brutal acts in recent memory.

"The Taliban are hardly unique," she writes in the Boston Globe. "In the 1970s, boys barely out of their teens marched urban dwellers from the cities of Cambodia out to the countryside, where two million of them labored until they died or were murdered by the Khmer Rouge." Similarly, members of Mao's Red Guard, the vanguard of the 1960s Cultural Revolution in China, were primarily teenagers.

Rivers concludes that a volatile combination of factors -- chaos, instability, joblessness -- leaves young men open to manipulation by elders with a violent agenda, particularly if they represent a fundamentalist religion or a messianic ideology. In parts of the Middle East, all-male fundamentalist schools educate boys to believe that women are alien, the source
of sin, and a temptation to male virtue. These boys leave their villages for cities, where they are frustrated by a lack of jobs and are confronted by unveiled women who are educated, work, and are unafraid to speak out.

Without the life experience to temper their impulses, this fuels their rage, making them vulnerable to extremist movements. According to Rivers, the Taliban's extreme brutality toward women is just one example of this process at work.

And, she says, barring a huge change in economic and social conditions in much of the world, we have seen only the beginning of this phenomenon. "In the Arab world, 50 percent of the population is under 25 -- much of it composed of restless, angry, alienated, unemployable young men."
Rivers' article appeared in the February 24 issue of the Globe.

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


22 March 2002
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