Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/news/opinions/columns/articles/0328maceachern28.html

Nice work, Tom, here's your . . . oops, never mind
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 28, 2004
Doug MacEachern columnist

Imagine, for a moment, that you are an elected official of the great state of Arizona. Oh, let's say, superintendent of public instruction.

Now suppose the president of some prestigious-sounding, Washington, D.C.-based foundation calls you up and says, "Mr. Superintendent, we're having a little soiree in your state next month, and we'd like to take that opportunity to present you with an award for your valuable work on behalf of children." Or something very much like that. Wouldn't that be nice?

But, then, something happens.

The foundation president calls again. This time he's not so magnanimous-sounding. He coughs. He stutters. Then, finally, he says: "Say . . . about that little award. We're not going to be able to give it to you. You don't mind, do you? We'd still like you to show up at our event and say a few words, though."

Mr. Foundation President then makes it plainly evident that he has come under some serious pressure since word got out about the planned award. He has, in fact, been hectored silly by people in Arizona who really don't like you, the superintendent. I mean they really, really don't like you. So much so that they would stoop to something as venal, petulant and adolescent as mounting a pressure campaign to keep you from receiving a little award.

So, then. What would you do? What would you say? Perhaps something like, "Why, Mr. Foundation President, I would be delighted to speak at your event. I don't mind at all that you've decided I'm unworthy of your little honorific. Let's all be friends." Is that what you'd say?

Well, in candor, I wouldn't. I can turn the other cheek, but I'm not going to let somebody twist my head like a corkscrew. If the Washington, D.C.-based foundation president was so lax or inept that he had no idea that my policies might transgress some of his friends, that's his problem. It's no excuse for doing something so unconscionably rude as to take back an award.

And then to compound it by suggesting something so boneheadedly inelegant as to ask me to speak at his event anyway? Do the words "big-time diss" come to mind? They do to me.

And, apparently, they came to the mind of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne.

Frank Lopez, president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation, informed Horne earlier this year that the foundation intended to honor his work on behalf of the education of Hispanic kids at "Feria Educativa," a March 5-6 event at the University of Arizona. Then, just before the event, Lopez took back the award. But asked Horne to show up anyway.

Well, Horne did not show up. Rather, he noted - quite accurately, it would appear - that the foundation succumbed to "pressure from extremists." He called the extremists "crusaders for academic mediocrity" and the foundation that crumbled before them "not worthy of respect." A bit tart, I suppose. But hardly out of line.

In fact, I would add still another observation or two about those crusaders for academic mediocrity. They're cowardly. And sneaky. And petty.

The issue that so enflamed the crusaders was Horne's no-nonsense implementation of Proposition 203, the state law adopted overwhelmingly in 2000 to instruct foreign-language speakers in a "sheltered immersion" program rather than let them wallow in that academic mediocrity known as bilingual ed.

It's the same law, basically, that is now helping to produce skyrocketing English fluency rates among school kids in California.

Back in Washington, Lopez won't say who muscled him into such rude behavior. But his "diss" of Horne certainly thrilled people at the colleges of education at Arizona's state universities, where resistance to the immersion law is unwavering.

A researcher at Arizona State University's Education Policy Research Laboratory wrote an e-mail to Lopez praising him for rescinding Horne's award. Wayne E. Wright, an ed-school doctoral candidate who has written extensively on the genius of that academic mediocrity known as bilingual ed, wrote: "Like many of my colleagues here in AZ, I was abhorred to learn of the proposed honor, and am relieved the situation has been rectified."

Wright insists he has "no idea" who hardballed Lopez, and claims he never communicated with the foundation president expect in the single e-mail, which was sent after the fact - the e-mail to this total stranger that he signed, "Wayne." As to all those "colleagues," well, he just has no idea who they are.

They must have been masked crusaders.

Reach MacEachern at doug.macechern@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8883.

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