Conservatives really do seem to think the source of the problems everyone has is because they’re basically not like the white, protestant, rich conservatives. Therefore, poor people are lazy, minority cultures can fix all their problems by assimiliating, learning to speak spanish is bad, etc., etc.
They are fundamentally right that assimilation over the long term is a good idea, but that will happen all by itself no matter what anyone does so making it a political issue is just a way of subtly playing on racist tendencies to fire up the voter base.
They don’t just play on racist tendencies either - the whole diatribe on there in favor of having “Under God” as part of our Pledge of Allegiance makes me sad. But since it’s the only thing standing between us and the “atheistic tyranny” of the Communist world, I guess I’d better get on board.
I don’t agree with everything that Newt says on this topic, But your quote above is something of a mischaracterization of his position. His argument is not that learning to speak Spanish is bad, but rather that not learning to speak English is bad.
He’s not calling for a ban on teaching Spanish; his point is that bilingual education does a poor job at teaching English. And it’s not an meritless point–a lot of students do come out of bilingual education with underdeveloped English skills. Since any language instructor will tell you that immersion is the best way, by far and bar none, to learn a foreign language, that’s not really surprising.
I have to confess that while I believe teaching both is perfectly fine, I feel the emphasis should be on English as the clear major language in this country. It’s not just because English is technically the official language of the US, but let’s face it, it’s basically the common language of the world for better or worse.
Official or not, it is the first (and in many cases, only) language for the majority of people in the US. I think you can make a reasonable case that schools have an obligation to ensure that students have a high degree of English literacy, and also that bilingual teaching is probably not the best way to ensure that (even if it has other unrelated benefits).
It can reasonably be argued that the large scale spanish-language immigration (legal and illegal) of the last few decades is different from previous waves of immigration, because of the scale of it (such a high percentage of immigrants speaking one non-English language), and because of it’s geographic concentration in certain areas.
Moreover, I don’t think that with previous waves of Irish/German/Italian/Etc. immigration, that the students were partially taught in their native languages (at least, to any wide degree).
Combining the size and concentration of this immigrant wave, with the decreased emphasis on English in the classroom (i.e. teaching some kids in their native language for half the day rather than not at all in the day in the past), there is a real possibility that it will take longer for Hispanic immigrants to fully integrate into America’s English-language driven culture than it has taken previous immigrants.
Worst case, this could lead to a Quebec-like situation where Spanish becomes (and remains) the de-facto primary language for certain areas indefinitely. If so, this is probably bad for America, and possibly bad for those who live in such areas and speak mainly/only Spanish (less economic/social integration with the rest of the country).
I don’t know enough of the details to have a truly informed opinion one way or another, but I certainly think it’s an issue open to real debate, and not just some facade for immigrant-bashing. As with most issues, there are some yahoos on both sides, and it’s possible that some advocates on either side are in it more for political points than anything else.
From what I’ve seen of Newt, I think he’s a good idea guy who brings backburner issues to the fore with interesting analyses. But for various reasons, he’s not a particularly appealing mass-market political figure (i.e. house speaker or would-be president).
Jason’s post described exactly the code words Newt sends out to the wingnut base with stuff like this. You know, the guys that will pick the Republican nominee for President. They agree the sentiments voiced in Jason’s post word-for-word. Newt can’t of course come out and say those things so he disguises it with stuff like this. It’s kind of like George Allen, with the noose in his office and “macaca” and all that - I don’t think he is racist, but he certainly had no problem with some Virginians thinking he is.
Is it, like, so hard to have schools that teach in Spanish and schools that teach in English? Why does it have to be either or? That’s what we do here anyway, there are schools that teach exclusively in English with optional secondary classes in Arabic and French, and vice versa.
This is true. However, when people are talking about the Mexicans, I’ve met many Mexicans whom I would consider assimilated and who still hold fast to their own culture and beliefs. Some of them even don’t speak English in the home! Shocking!
The same goes for Israelis, Indians, Chinese, Pakistanis, Africans … and more. I’ve had friends from a lot of cultures that are practically poster children for what I would consider examples of people who are assimilated and still retain their own culture and beliefs.
Different peoples’ definitions mean YMMV, obviously. If you consider part of your culture the right to beat your wife, then I have no sympathy for your inability to hold fast to your culture while trying to assimilate.