Montreal, October 27, 2001  /  No 91  
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Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario. He can be reached at
by Harry Valentine
          Over the past twelve months, alarm bells have been ringing about the increased use of English in the Montreal area, along with a decline in the use of French. Even in the traditionally French-speaking and separatist east end, the use of English is reported by alarmed Parti Québécois sources (who were quoted in the news media), as increasing. The long-term forecast indicates a continuing decline in the use of French with an increase in the use of English. This is happening despite compulsory French language education in Quebec government run schools.
Anglo Exposure 
          Historically, children born to French-only speaking families spoke only French all the way into adulthood, unless they were taught compulsory English at a school. However, some independent research has revealed that children born to couples who speak only French at home will actually acquire the skill to speak English before they are of school going age. The culprit for achieving this has done so quite successfully for over twenty years... and right under the noses of the Quebec Education department and of the Culture department. 
          The names of the two main culprits who achieved this remarkable deed are Bert and Ernie. The names of Bert and Ernie were provided to me by a gentleman whose parents spoke only French in their home when he was young, which was over 20 years ago. He explained to me that Bert and Ernie were the only exposure he and his young brother had to the English language and that without them, he said he doubted if he and his brother would have been able to acquire of English. 
          Based on this revelation, I decided to do some independent research of my own. I found out that the two brothers were raised in a francophone village. The town citizens actually drove out English-speaking people (they were not welcome) and even actively discouraged Anglophones from living there. But this did not stop the two little brothers from being exposed to the rudiments of the English language, thanks to Bert and Ernie. I discovered that many of the francophone friends of the two brothers received similar introductions to the English language, beginning during their pre-kindergarten years. Further research revealed that this occured in parts of Quebec as well as in parts of Eastern Ontario in small towns where only French was spoken. 
          The story kept repeating that without Bert and Ernie, pre-kindergarten francophone children may never have acquired the rudiments or the basic skill in the English language. The Quebec departments of Education and Culture, as well as the protectors of the French language in small francophone towns in Eastern Ontario, seemed unaware of what was going on. That is, as much as they tried to restrict the use of the English language, young children acquired background in the language right under there noses, courtesy of Bert and Ernie. Every weekday, when maman was cleaning the home, les enfants were being entertained in front of the television by Bert and Ernie, the two main characters of the popular Sesame Street children's program, who were also teaching basic English. 
     « The Quebec Government has achieved with its language laws what America's social welfare programs achieved in the ghettos, that is, almost the exact opposite of what had originally been intended. »
          Now Bert and Ernie have been joined by a few cohorts, whose mission it is to give children a more secure grounding in the reading of English, in the home. The cohort is the central character in the phonic reading program, which is now available at commercial outlets in computer CD or VCR formats. Parents who want their children to acquire a command of English can now do so at home and without being bothered by any government half-wit. There are now educational CD programs for home computers which can teach practically any subject children may wish to learn, or which parents may wish to expose their children to. And it all began with the valuable service Bert and Ernie have provided to young children for over 20 years. 
Long-term failure 
          The Quebec Government's approach in trying to preserve the French language by forcing its use through language laws and compulsory education policies has proven to be a long-term failure in the greater Montreal area. The policies to preserve the use of French in Quebec have had as much success as American government welfare programs had in promoting peace and harmony in the inner city ghettos. One of America's leading African-American intellectuals commented that "the Ku-Klux-Klan could never have undermined the fabric and integrity of Black American society as has resulted from America's welfare programs...!" The Quebec Government has achieved with its language laws what America's social welfare programs achieved in the ghettos, that is, almost the exact opposite of what had originally been intended. 
          Foreign language instruction in government schools, whether in Quebec, Ontario or even in parts of the United States, has been a dismal failure. Even reading instruction in government schools has come under fire, especially after the phonic method was banned from schools and replaced with the compulsory "look-say" method. Critiques of public school methods appeared in books with titles like Why Johnny can't read and its sequel, Why Johnny still can't read and a companion book in the same series, Why Johnny can't parler. 
          No government official is ready to accept that the reading programs and the language instruction programs most favoured by the government's advisors are second-rate and third-rate programs which are practically guaranteed to produce failure. On the other hand, the privately run programs, the ones which are outside the control of government educational lunatics, are the same ones which are having the highest success rates... like Bert and Ernie's introduction to the English language on Sesame Street. It already has a proven track record of success in francophone-only families living in French-only communities. Shouldn't we draw some conclusions from that? 
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