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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Should English Be Our National Language?

Newt Gingrich was in typically effusive form Saturday night during another "debate" between the usual suspects seeking the 2012 Republican nomination for president. As it has been in recent months, this particular session shed little light on the nuances of the candidates' actual policy positions, both foreign and domestic. There are simply too many pols on stage at this point. We would learn more if there were, say, just three, or maybe four. Gingrich, though, did toss out several provocative thoughts. One of them involved the English language. It was his opinion that English ought to be made the national tongue of the U.S. What a concept. Some of us had been under the impression _ mistakenly, apparently _ that English really was our common language. We have been wrong. Prevailing custom and political correctness, along with a series of unfortunate court decisions, have chipped away at that premise over time. That's unfortunate. A common language is essential to bind any collection of people together into a single, cohesive entity. Moves to erode that simple notion have been ongoing. This has been especially damaging for a place like San Mateo County, and California generally, which has seen a huge influx of new immigrants and their children. Without a firm facility in English, they are handicapped in a variety of different and important ways, not the least of which are educational and economic. Failure to demand early literacy in English hamstrings not just immigrants but the society at large. If nothing else, it makes following political campaigns and the important issues being discussed nearly impossible. Gingrich, love him or loathe him, at least had the inclination to bring up the subject on national TV. Whether anyone was paying attention at that point is another matter.

1 comment:

  1. I don't have a problem with making English the national language, requiring that government business be done in English, and forcing immigrants to learn the language if they don't know it already. But there should also be a requirement that natural English-speaking children be fluent in some other language by the time they finish high school. Seems like it should be Spanish -- or it could be Chinese.