Bloomberg unleashes an ad blitz en español? Then time to hit the pavement!
These past ten days of 16-20 hour days of work to get this here site up and running were brutal. Now that I am rested, it's time to get this baby all fired up. First up? A topic dear to my heart : bilinguism in New York.
Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said this is the first citywide campaign to begin its television ads in a language other than English.
"Others may write off the Latino vote or take it for granted, but Mike Bloomberg is putting the people and the resources in place to be able to ask all New Yorkers for their votes," Sheekey said.
Old-time wedge politics at its best; but will it work? The article says that Bloomberg has tutors coaching him in the language --what I am assuming is that he is working on stump speeches in Spanish and being corrected in pronunciation.
Which is probably the one thing that will at least earn him the respect of Spanish-speaking voters. The message that is being put out there is that he is working hard, trying his best to communicate with his Spanish-speaking constituency. How should a Democrat capitalize on this? : On the fact he did not do it during the other four years of his campaign.
It also means that my biggest dissapointment so far in this race, Freddy Ferrer, is still a contender. What's the best thing he could do right now?
He needs to hit the pavement. Not in the Latino community but in all the other bilingual communities in New York City. Even, and more pressingly, the African (aka : Amadou Diallo's) community.
And he needs to do this fast.
Bloomberg has a good record of serving the bilingual education community. At a time when people are screaming over the top of their lungs that English-only (aka: whole English-language immersion) is the only answer to proper education; Bloomber went against the grain and actually reinstated some of the funding NYC bilingual education programs lost under Giuliani. His logic :
Second language learners have the capacity to see the world from more than one perspective and to represent our City in a demanding world through exercising different styles and abilities. Along with this letter, I am enclosing two graphs that show commercial trade between New York, Florida, and the Dominican Republic. Note that in both graphs Florida performs much better than New York. This does not make sense, particularly since 60% of the Dominican people residing in the United States live in New York State and 90% of these are concentrated in New York City. It is likely that Florida will have the same leading commercial role with all Latin American countries. The preponderance of Florida has to do with the fact that Cubans, heavily concentrated in
Miami, are known for being fluent in Spanish and English. Thus, Miami has become the U.S. epicenter for commercial trade with Latin America.
Ending this disparity should become a long-term economic policy. It will be beneficial for our City and will provide a wealth of opportunities for employment and social mobility for our people. Contrary to other U.S. cities, New York City reflects a wide diversity of people from Latin America. The sons and daughters of these people are currently sitting in our classrooms and we have a real chance to make them effective ambassadors to their countries of origin and the world.
I was raised in Puerto Rico and am not only fully bilingual but can speak Portuguese and French rather comfortably --and I understand Italian and Catalan as well. (Note to my readers : I used to be a Latin American linterature & languages professor.) One of my first jobs coming out of college was as a bilingual History teacher at a high-risk high school in Brooklyn. Do I need to say it was one of the most life-altering experiences of my life?
I'd never seen so much hidden poverty. I'd never seen so much illeteracy. At the school I was teaching a vast majority Latin American students were functionally illiterate in Spanish and fully illiterate in English. These where kids in 10th, 11th, 12th grade. Bilingual education is needed but as it stands right now it does not work. You cannot expect kids who are illiterate in their native language to be able to gain full literacy in English under the duress of pseduo-pedagogically cogent state and federal standards.
The whole educational system needs to be thought out of the frigging political and cultural box. So what do candidates like Ferrer need to do?
- Stop whining about Bloomberg spending money on early ads.
- Stop being a fundraising courtisan and start working directly with their constituents.
- Hit the pavement and sit down and listen to the ocean of families being served by bilingual education programs. Sit down and listen to their rants and raves.
- Take the next two months --the last month of the school year and the first one of the summer break-- and listen to what not just parents but kids need to say about their bilingual education programs.
- Make sure some of those conversations are recorded and podcasted. And do not turn them into political ads.
- Let the people speak to you; with their own voice and their own words. And speak back with your own words and your own voice --political consultants and campaign managers be damned.
In other words, get real, be humble and above all, listen.