Newt Gingrich campaigns for officialization of English
dzo at bisharat.net
Wed Mar 21 15:27:06 UTC 2007
Why is it that when I read this I think of the Indian boarding schools in
the US and Canada (make them speak English!). Or a recent story out of
Uganda mentioning parents beating their kids for speaking a local language
(make them speak English!). Or dismantling bilingual ed in favor of
English-only immersion (make them speak English!). As if you need to force
If the desire was simply to promote English in the US, there might be
lessons to be learned overseas, where the English is the rage. In truth,
however, the underlying reality may be more the desire for people *not* to
speak Spanish (per the lady at a demonstration in Denver: "You need to speak
English all the time!"). There is a name for that kind of attitude.
The proposal for "official English" seems more likely to transform English
into a "common *dis*unifying element" in a way that it never was before,
even in the bad-old days of the boarding schools. Certainly it politicizes
Serious question: Is there any multinational analysis of effects of
"officialization" of a language in diverse countries? (I realize there have
been various country-specific studies, but has anyone drawn conclusions
about the effects of adopting official languages across countries?)
Make English Our Official Language
By Newt Gingrich, Michael Ciamarra Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Mobile Press-Register Publication Date: March 11, 2007
English has never been the only language in America. However, it has been
and should remain our primary language and the official language of our
government at all levels. Alabama showed the way in 1990 by adopting
English as its official language. Historically, immigrants have been a
source of ingenuity and prosperity for this country. The vast majority of
Americans can trace their heritage to a distant land, and many maintain a
strong affection for the home of their ancestors or their birth country.
American civilization is the most successful in all of human history for a
reason. Our rule of law rests on the firm foundation of our cultural
values, one of which is a common language.
Traditions pass from generation to generation within ethnic groups to
create a tapestry of diversity that covers and enriches our nation. We
should continue to strongly encourage legal immigrants to become citizens,
but it is important that those seeking citizenship embrace American values
and the culture which bind us together. In order to preserve that bond, a
common language is imperative. In the United States the language of
success is English, even while we have a robust and enriching tradition of
people speaking different languages within their ethnic communities.
Speaking and understanding English is a basic requisite to succeeding in
the United States. It also provides the basis for American cultural unity.
The debate over how to address continued illegal immigration to this
country and the presence of millions of people living here illegally
continues unabated across the nation. In Alabama, as in many states, there
is little doubt that immigration will be a major issue in the current
session of the Alabama Legislature. Some people would have you believe
that anti-immigrant or racist sentiments are driving the debate. But this
isn't true. Surely there are pockets of vitriolic anti-immigrant sentiment
in this country, as there always have been. But most Americans readily
accept their neighbors who are Latino or Asian or other backgrounds,
because they are American. What lies beneath the immigration controversy
today is twofold.
First, the failure of large numbers of immigrants to assimilate into our
culture is leading many to fear that we are experiencing the
disintegration of American cultural values. American civilization is the
most successful in all of human history for a reason. Our rule of law
rests on the firm foundation of our cultural values, one of which is a
common language. If assimilation weakens, our foundation will weaken.
Second, Americans are concerned by the ever-increasing numbers of
immigrants who are here illegally. While we work to make English language
not only the official language of government but also as our unifying
common language, we should ensure that any comprehensive immigration
reform includes a commitment to promote citizenship and ensure a solid
understanding of the Founding Fathers and the core values of American
Specific citizenship reform measures for new legal immigrants should:
Replace bilingual education with intensive English instruction to help new
Americans assimilate into our civilization, thus preserving our culture.
Return ballots to English language format, focus on English language
literacy as a prerequisite of citizenship, and insist that dual citizens
vote only in the United States and give up voting in their birth nation.
These principles were understood and accepted throughout history, which
enabled us to absorb millions of immigrants and their children into the
American way of life.
Rescind Executive Order 13166 requiring multilingualism in federal
Require an American history test written in English for any legal
immigrant who wishes to become a citizen and meets all qualification
Enforce the Oath of Allegiance by making its understanding and affirmation
part of the citizenship test.
Focus federal funds on teaching American history and the principles of
American civilization, and create specific programs to emphasize American
heroes, including military heroes.
Provide in-depth English language and American history and civics training
for new immigrants through a national program modeled after the highly
successful "Ulpan Studies" program in Israel.
This would develop practical skills necessary to actively participate in
everyday American life and American productivity. New Americans have
always enriched our nation, and for American civilization to succeed, we
must maintain and strengthen America's civic culture. We must do much more
to help new legal immigrants who want to embrace American values and
culture by helping them to attain citizenship and assimilate easily into
our culture. As we work toward reforming immigration policies, especially
citizenship reform measures, we must never lose sight of the self-evident
truths affirmed at the founding of our great nation. We are all created
equal--citizen and non-citizen alike--and we are all endowed by our
Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness.
For these truths to have meaning, we must recognize that every person has
an inherent human dignity that must be respected. These truths morally
bind us to create a workable immigration solution founded upon a system of
patriotic integration with our language--the English language--as the
common unifying element.
Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at AEI. Michael Ciamarra is the vice
president of the Alabama Policy Institute.
See Related article by Mark Falcoff on an official language
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