A cultural debate has begun in Pennsylvania. On September 14th, the House Committee on State Government held a hearing to consider legislation that would make English the official language of the Keystone State. ProEnglish was one of the groups that testified in favor of the bills, H.B. 361 and H.B. 888.
These two bills have been the focal point of countless news articles, most of which have concentrated on denigrating the idea of an official language law. Pundits hostile to official English frequently claim the policy is insensitive to immigrants or just downright “racist,” even though studies clearly show that those who lack English language ability earn, on average, less than half the salaries of those who are fluent in English. This lopsided logic always gives me pause, but not because claims have any merit, but because advocates of assimilation and official English never retaliate with similarly inflammatory rhetoric, yet the “racism” charge continues to be thrown our way.
There is nothing wrong with talking about the financial impact of the growing English Learner population on Pennsylvania citizens, but we have to remember that this is a cultural battle, not merely a fiscal debate. We know from past studies that those who speak English at home are almost twenty times more likely to self-identify as “Americans” as opposed to those who have little or no English ability. This trend really irks our multiculturalist opponents who resent the exceptionalism of the traditional, assimilated America.
You see, the multiculturalists who oppose English laws are not really concerned about the well-being of English Language Learners (ELLs); if they were, they would support the bills and encourage ELLs to learn English to the best of their ability. Rather, their intention is to slander and discredit official English laws in an effort to fundamentally change the identity and cultural makeup of the American landscape, where the languages spoken and the values held differ depending on the region of the state (or country) so that fewer immigrants self-identify as “Americans.”
Perhaps we should start to call our opponents what they really are. They are certainly not “pro-immigrant,”as they love to refer to themselves, but more accurately “linguistic segregationists.” After all, they are the champions of bilingual education in schools, where English Learner children are taught in their native languages, removed from their English fluent peers. They are the champions of Arizona public school teachers who in 2010 sued former Arizona schools superintendent, now Attorney General Tom Horne and the State Board of Education for enforcing a new law prohibiting classes that advocate ethnic solidarity and promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.
So, the next time you read an op-ed or newspaper column attacking official English legislation, remember that it is not just the official English proposal that is under attack, but the long tradition that is the American “melting pot.” It’s time that we, the official English advocates and the many millions of Americans who support our efforts, start calling out the multiculturalists for what they really are—hell bent on destroying the unified,assimilated America that so many generations before us have known.
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