Anybody who comes to our country wanting to stay should be willing to learn our language. To come to the United States, accept its hospitality and its privileges but continue to speak some other language is like a man keeping his first wife’s picture in his second wife’s bedroom. Do you know that we have a lot of public schoolteachers in Chicago who cannot speak English? So-called “bilingual education” in our schools has become a $400-million exercise in cultural chauvinism. Instead of helping minorities learn English, it is helping minorities remain minorities—unabsorbed, unable to speak the language of their adopted country. There are second- and third-generation Mexicans in the United States who are still strangers in a strange land; they remain Latin in their customs and their speech, thus disadvantaging themselves. No wonder many can’t get good jobs and frequently remain permanently on welfare. Senator S.I. Hayakawa (R.-Calif.) believes that using our schools to preserve a minority language “results in an almost deliberate neglect of the first duty of any immigrant—to learn the language of his chosen country.” Chicago public schools have 22,000 students learning in 16 other languages! And the Chicago School Board just accepted another $2.4 million of your federal tax money to perpetuate the program. And the board is under a federal government mandate to expand the program. Earlier generations of immigrant-Americans—many of them poverty-stricken Europeans—undistracted by bilingual programs, promptly learned to speak and write English. They assimilated themselves and melted into the melting pot, enhancing it with their cultural gifts and strengthening it with their undivided allegiance. Whereas the now generation of immigrants, tending to resist homogenization, tend to remain hyphenated Americans. However well-intentioned bilingual teaching may be, it tends to inhibit a command of English; it retards full citizenship and restricts opportunities. For our government to support this retardation is unconscionable. This is not to say that anybody’s ethnicity should be neutered. It is crosspollination which has enriched us all. But a friend of mine, a man of accomplishment and means, remembers that “If I were still back in Poland I would still be living in half a house, with livestock in the other half, without even an outhouse. I am so grateful for the limitless chance to better myself and my family, I just cannot imagine any immigrant not wanting to be ‘all-American.’ ”
Paul Harvey wrote this in 1978, thirty-three years ago. Relevant then, even more so now.