Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, March 23, 2007

Anti-English Barking Moonbats Take Flight

Why would anyone wish to create a linguistic apartheid?

Very few issues expose the perversity of this country’s cultural left wing more vividly than the debate over English as the official language of the land. The surest way to evoke their hyperventilating, name-calling and threats is to advocate English as the official language.
It worked again last week when Washington State University’s College Republicans stood on the mall and advocated a law that would make English fluency a prerequisite for citizenship. Sure enough, the barking moonbats rose to the chum, accusing the Republicans of all the usual clichés that they keep in their unimaginative intellectual quiver.
It is frankly indefensible that anyone would wish to condemn a fellow human being to poverty by linguistically isolating him from the economic mainstream. Alarm bells were sounded earlier this week when it was reported that 36% of Washington, D.C. adults were functionally illiterate. Functional illiteracy is characterized by an inability to fill out a job application or understand a bus schedule – sort of like Paris Hilton.
A long time has passed since Washington D.C. was a hotbed of letters. But recently the problem has dramatically worsened. Most of the sudden surge in illiteracy is attributed, not to the new Congressional majority, but to the high percentage of non-English speaking immigrants who make up a large percentage of the residents. The district’s coffers reportedly lost $106 million dollars in taxes last year because so many jobs were left unfilled due to a shortage of qualified job applicants.
That loss only counts reduced city government income, which would represent only a fraction of the money that businesses lost. Certainly the revenues lost to businesses that cannot grow because there are not enough English speakers to fill their payrolls must hurt and would be expected to ripple all throughout the economy.
And then there is all the welfare and other support that must be provided to those who cannot support themselves because they cannot participate in the economy. The losses suffered to Washington D.C. certainly must be several times that $106 million dollar value.
The last thing that this country needs is a permanent underclass. Part of this country’s vibrancy is contributed by the vertical social mobility that our economy should encourage. Everybody should be able to dream of a better life. Nearly all of America’s millionaires are first generation. And yet the ideology that credits itself as the reservoir of compassion advocates policies that encourage the perpetuation of a permanent underclass.
Anyone who doubts that language skills dictate your future should take a trip to Chicago sometime. The city’s downtown hotels are staffed largely by immigrants. And what one will notice quickly is that the immigrants who speak English hold the management positions. The maids and other low paying positions are held by those with only poor English skills. And in Chicago, there is not a single language of the underclass. While Spanish speakers make up a large proportion of the underclass, there are a number of immigrants from eastern European countries whose poor English skills limit their opportunities. The underclass is identifiable not by the language it does speak, but by the language it doesn’t speak. The management class is distinguished by the language that it does speak. Skin color does not predict success with nearly the same reliability.
It’s a curious irony that when one ventures near the Mexican border town of Los Algodones, a large percentage of the signage on the California side of the border is in Spanish. And many of the people you’ll meet speak only Spanish. But cross the border and the signage is in English and every business in Los Algodones is staffed by people quite fluent in English. And the Mexican side of the border certainly appears more prosperous than the US side.
I have nothing against Spanish or any other language. I have invested a great deal of money and effort improving my Spanish language skills. But I would not trade my fluency in English for any other language.
Not long ago, there was a debate over bilingual education. Bilingual education supposedly permitted non-English speaking schoolchildren to learn math and science in their native language. It was abolished and the result was that the target clientele learned English and math better.
And you can bet that the English will spare them from a career of making beds at Motel 6.

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