By Wladyslaw Sikorski
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53 Congress bore out this complex story as well. In 1967, at a San Antonio, Texas, conference to articulate the paths legislators would take to meet the educational needs of Mexican American students, Democratic congressman Henry B. Gonzalez, a longtime community leader who often distanced himself from more liberal politics, emerged as the most vocal opponent of the BEA. 54 A year after the passage of Title VII, Californian Republican senator George Murphy introduced a bilingual education and dropout prevention plan to Congress that tripled federal funding requests.
Though Gonzales and Safford could weakly agree on their shared concern about “the plight of these children,” Gonzales’s advocacy of Mexican American interests in this situation was restricted to modifying the existing IQ test, hardly echoing the bold invocations of the early framing of Title VII or of certain locally developed programs. . Q. ”75 The force of Safford’s rebuttal helps illuminate the restricted scope of the debate. His allusion to the advances Anglos might make if only they were given the same allowances as Mexican-Americans foreshadowed the discourse equating equal treatment for minorities with the disempowerment of white Americans that would characterize attacks on bilingual education throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
During the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, only Native- and African-American minority groups had been acknowledged in federal legislation. 26 In fact, the civil rights advances of the preceding years were palpable in the cultural climate in Congress. 28 Lee’s reflection suggests the exceptionalism of the historical moment in which legislators considered the question of bilingual education. ” However, a crux of the emergent opposition to such programs would be the claim that funding public school instruction in a foreign language for students of frequently dubious citizenship was anathema to American values, an argument that suggested a return to an earlier, assimilationist framework.