Debate team talks Proposition 58

Library Room L-109 was transformed into a debate hall Wednesday night as the Los Medanos debate team set out to argue the pros and cons of California’s Proposition 58, a ballot initiative that would repeal the 18 year-old Proposition 228 and allow schools to adopt bilingual curriculum models.
“There are a lot of propositions on the ballot … it gets very confusing, very fast,” said debate coach Marie Arcidiacono in her introduction. “This is something that happens in bureaucracy, there is that vagueness of language and then we wonder later — what happened?”
The debate was held in the British Parliamentary style, which has two teams of four competing against each other, with each team taking turns making their argument and refuting the opposition’s.
The contest kicked off with the affirmative team’s prime minister, Hosnia Hasani. The affirmative team’s argument was centered on the importance of diversity and inclusivity. Hasani illustrated the importance of communication with a personal anecdote from her job. A deaf man came in, his notepad ready for a protracted written interaction. Instead, Hasani said, she surprised him with her ASL.
“He lit up, he was so happy to have someone he could communicate with,” said Hasani.
Opposition Prime Minister Tim Sellers introduced his team’s contention, which stated that Prop 225 did away with an ineffective bilingual education model and increased test scores of California students, sometimes by measures of 100 to 200 percent. Hispanic students, free from this broken system, benefitted the most, argued Sellers.
“The valedictorians at my high school as far back as I can remember were all Hispanic, now they’re at Stanford, and I’m not,” Sellers joked.
Affirmative deputy Diana Cobian argued that a bilingual education creates a more robust brain than a monolingual one, and doubled down on her team’s diversity argument.
“It [Prop 58] will bring about an educational system that shows students to utilize their differences to their advantage,” said Cobian.
Cobian cited the social isolation felt by students who are unable to communicate with their peers due to a language barrier. But opposition speaker Randy Utz countered that the current English-immersion program is the solution to language barriers, not the proposed bilingual plan.
“English is the business norm worldwide,” said Utz. “There are a billion speakers worldwide, and only 365 million are native speakers.”
Utz argued that the problem isn’t one of curriculum models, but of socioeconomics. Immigrant families are more likely to be living below the poverty line, where the highest dropout rates exist.
Brooke Samson said the immersion into other cultures would help students avoid cultural biases.
“Racism and bigotry isn’t something you’re born with, it’s something you learn,” said Samson.
Samson also cited the limber neuroplasticity of young children, likening their developing brains to a fresh sponge, capable of soaking up vast amounts of knowledge — and if that happens to be a second language, those children could go on to reap financial benefits in their future career, she said.
Opposition speaker Julio Campos contended that the current high school requirement that has students take two years of a foreign language is sufficient, and that a bilingual program could have California schools fall down a slippery slope toward segregation by language proficiency.
Arianna Berumen retorted that the high school requirement isn’t sufficient.
“Simply knowing ‘Donde estas la banos?’ isn’t good enough,” said Berumen. “Our culture is held back by monolingualism.
Kyle Marshall wrapped the debate up by reiterating the opposition’s argument that 58 would simply create students who have rudimentary knowledge of English and Spanish instead of students who are proficient in either.
Though seven of the eight debaters were arguing in front of an audience for their first time, both teams provided compelling points, leaving the audience perhaps no more decided on the complicated issue.
“It was hard to pick a side. I think being able to speak two languages is really important,” said Margarita Orozco. “But it’s hard to tell if [58] is the right way to go.”