Arguments for and Against Proclaiming English the Sole Official Language
Few issues are as emotionally charged as the current debate over immigration in America. It is a question that has been fired with a new sense of urgency in light of the tragic events of September 11th.
Acts of terror, and the fear of further acts of terror, has created a climate in which foreigners are suspect. Native-born Americans find themselves looking over their shoulders, eyeing with suspicion those who look different or speak with a strange accent. However, there is also another side to this argument. All Americans are descended from people who were once immigrants. Even the ancient inhabitants of this land once crossed over from Asia, and in recent centuries, millions have come here from Europe, Africa, Latin America, and all parts of the world. We are a nation of immigrants and each of these immigrant groups has made its contributions, positive and negative, to the American scene. But, one major question rears its head every time further immigration is discussed, and it is the question of to what extent should immigrants be permitted to preserve their own language and customs once they have come to the United States? Should we be a nation of one language or of many? It is a tough argument, and there are strident voices on both sides. Prominent among those opposed to free immigration and linguistic diversity is Pat Buchanan, the long-time politician, and former presidential candidate. While on the opposite side of the fence is Ben Wattenberg, an author, columnist, political advisor, and expert on demographics. The two men went head to head in the March 2002 issue of American Enterprise Online.
At the heart of Buchanan's argument, one discussed at length in his recent book, The Death of the West, is the idea that the industrialized world - The United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel - are being overrun figuratively and literally by population explosion in the Third World. Basing his conclusions on United Nations demographic projections, Buchanan states that by the year 2050 the world's population will consist mostly of Non-Whites, the majority of whom will reside in Third World nations. This he explains is the result of the enormous birthrate of those countries and peoples, "peoples" being the operative word. For according to Pat Buchanan, Non-Whites - Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics - have a significantly higher birthrate than Whites regardless of the country in which they live. (Drudge, 2002) The population of California, the nation's most populous state, is now more Non-White than White, this change being attributable to both the higher birthrate of Mexican-Americans, and also the huge influx of Mexicans into the state who, like their American-born counterparts, also have a higher birthrate than Whites. At 8.4 million, he states further that the foreign-born population of California alone is equal to the entire population of the state of New Jersey. (Drudge, 2002) And it is this huge foreign-born population that is the chief source of California's energy and education woes.
The cost of bilingual education programs is outrageous. In 1968, the first year that bilingual education programs were executed, the cost was 7.5 million dollars. Since then, the United States has spent more than 400 million dollars each year on bilingual education programs." (Porter, 1998)
Clearly, Pat Buchanan envisions a war of the races, a war that is to be won or lost on the battlefields of birth. The fact that the birthrate is below replacement level in virtually all of Europe, as well as in Japan, means that the nations of Europe will need to import one billion foreign workers by 2050. Why? Only with such a tremendous infusion of workers can Europe hope to maintain the tax base necessary to ensure the continued existence of the cradle-to-grave welfare state. By 2050 says Buchanan, one-third of all Europeans will be over the age of sixty, and fully ten percent will be more than eighty-years-old. (Drudge, 2002) As a result of this floodtide of Third World immigration Western culture and civilization will eventually disappear. The West will become the first civilization in history to will itself out of existence, the victim of the left-wing liberal stranglehold on Western thought and expression. Secular Humanism, scoffed at only thirty years ago, has produced a culture that denigrates its own history and turns its own icons into demons. Western women value their public lives more than they value their responsibilities to their families. They do not bear enough children to maintain the population. It is already declining in some European countries and in Japan, and soon the decline will grow worse. The highly fertile immigrant populations are already planning their take-over. Mexicans in California have an entire agenda of bilingualism, welfare for illegal aliens, and even the return of the Southwestern states to Mexican control. Radical Mexican student groups have organizations on hundreds of college campuses, the sole aim of which is to destroy American culture and society and replace it with a Hispanic one. Language is fundamental to the way we think and communicate with each other. Change your language and you have changed your culture. If this unbridled pandering to ethnic minorities, to the extent of even instituting education and government in their languages, the West is doomed.
In contrast, Ben Wattenberg believes that in large-scale immigration the benefits outweigh the ills. Rather than being detrimental to the future survival of America and its civilization, immigration will actually make the United States stronger. Wattenberg makes his case by using the very same figures as Buchanan. The declining birthrate in Europe and Japan means that by 2050, Westerners will make up only one-eighth of the world's population, as compared to one-third in 1950. (American Enterprise, 2002)
The birthrate among native-born Americans is slightly below replacement rate, but with immigration, the American population continues to increase. Wattenberg projects that with continued immigration at least present levels, the population of the United States would reach nearly 400 million by 2050. He states categorically that a large population is necessary to maintain global political and cultural dominance. More people mean more taxpayers. More tax money means more aircraft carriers, and more immigrants mean more people to man them. Immigrants perform many essential jobs, manual positions despised by the native-born citizens of the industrialized countries. As he aptly states, "Who will empty the bedpans in Italy's retirement homes?" (American Enterprise, 2002) Immigrant labor has long been essential to the performance of these and other similar tasks. In addition, Wattenberg emphasizes the positive contributions of prior immigrants to American society. He observes that in the past, immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe were viewed in much the same way as Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics are viewed today. Scientists of the time even argued that persons from places other than Northwestern Europe were members of inferior races. They created a strict hierarchy of people in which Northwestern Europeans - Englishmen, Germans, Scandinavians - were ranked above other Europeans, and in fact above all other peoples, the intelligence and abilities of Blacks and Asians being scarcely worth mentioning. (American Enterprise, 2002)
Yet, he is quick to point out that all of these immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe became fully assimilated into American society, and today, most Americans believe that it was a good thing that these groups came to America. (American Enterprise, 2002) They all learned English and they and their children became as American as those first immigrants who had come from the British Isles two centuries before. Not only are today's attitudes toward Mexicans, Filipinos, and others the same as American attitudes toward foreigners in 1900, but so too is the progress of these immigrant groups. Like their predecessors, they also become absorbed into American society. Large numbers of second and third generation Latinos cannot even speak Spanish. A Latina advises her children to learn English because "Spanish is the language of busboys." (American Enterprise, 2002) Mexicans, along with Filipinos, Chinese, Khmers, etc. are no different from any other immigrant groups when it comes to wanting their children to succeed. Numerous studies support the idea that bilingual education is nowhere near as costly as opponents maintain. In addition, state these proponents of bilingualism, there is no evidence that total immersion in English-speaking classes actually promotes greater proficiency in the language.
No rational observer would claim that high schools have a '75% failure rate' because only 25% of their students graduate each year. Likewise with English acquisition. Setting a one-year standard is equally arbitrary. LEP children often do pick up conversational skills quickly (a.k.a. playground English). But research has shown that it takes them far longer to acquire the academic English they need to succeed in school - typically 4 to 7 years if enrolled in an effective bilingual program; 7 to 10 years in an English-only program." (Crawford, 1997)
Full immersion only hampers the ability of foreign-born children to learn the educated…