Bilingual vs. English-only education

Your Aug. 25 editorial "English-only classrooms" was correct in noting that many factors were involved in producing higher test scores in California, and that we cannot firmly conclude that dropping bilingual education was the cause. These factors include other improvements in teaching, but also include factors that have nothing to do with real progress, such as teaching to the test.

One can, for example, artificially increase the English-language test scores of students with limited English proficiency by flunking them and giving them the same test the next year. One can also selectively publicize test scores of districts that appear to conform to one's point of view.

The only valid way to avoid these problems and to rigorously investigate the effect of bilingual education is to conduct scientific studies that control for confounding factors. In these studies, groups are compared that differ only with respect to the use of the first language in instruction.

Many such studies have been done, and the results consistently show that children in properly organized bilingual programs acquire as much English as children in all-English programs, and usually more.

Stephen Krashen Los Angeles

Public land is best for environment

Regarding your Aug. 24 article "The tragedy of the commons revisited": The headline should have read "The tragedy of the dollar sign."

Readers need only observe the photograph of imperiled rainforest habitat on the page opposite the article as evidence why private-property rights will never guarantee the conservation of natural resources. Public values such as clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat are not easily measured commodities, and they will never compete with mining, logging, and development on private lands. The logged-over private timberlands of the Pacific Northwest are a tragic example of how short-term profit supercedes conservation needs on private lands.

Publicly owned lands have saved millions of acres of open space from development and provided critical habitat for wildlife. Public lands might have their problems, but they certainly beat the alternative.

Eric Cole and Madeleine Vander Heyden Jackson, Wyo.

Hiroshima misconception, clarified

Helena Cobban's opinion piece on Hiroshima ("Looking at Hiroshima: tough, touching," Aug. 23) contains one widespread misconception. The children's memorial in Peace Park was inspired by Sadako Sasaki, who in 1955 succumbed to radiation-induced leukemia. She folded about 1500 origami cranes before she died, not 644.

The campaign to build a children's monument grew not from a desire to finish 1000 cranes for Sadako, but rather to remember her courageous struggle to survive the long-term effects of the bombing.

An author of children's fiction took some license for the sake of the storytelling and because her book was based on a true story, it has been taken as historical fact.

Carol Hall Columbia, S.C.

Getting tobacco farmers to switch crops

Regarding your Aug. 22 article " 'Goodbye' tobacco, 'hello' cukes and corn." Here's a variation: Ask every tobacco farmer who receives a subsidy to provide his average annual tobacco income (including subsidy) for the past five years and make him an offer he can't refuse. Grow another crop -- food or fiber, for a five-year period and the government will pay you the difference, if any, between what you make from such crop(s) and what, on average, you would have made, had you stayed with tobacco.

Clarence Dilts Placerville, Calif.

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Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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