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Republicans See English as the "Official Language"

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The platform for the Republican National Convention, which opened this week in St. Paul, Minn., considers English to be the "official language" of this country. But apparently an earlier draft of the platform used softer language, stating that English is the "common" and "accepted" language, according to a Fox News reporter (hat tip to Latina Lista). The Fox News reporter says delegates from North Carolina and Colorado wanted the stronger language.

Here's what the platform says about language policy in this country:

One sign of our unity is our English language. For newcomers, it has always been the fastest route to prosperity in America. English empowers. We support English as the official language in our nation, while welcoming the ethnic diversity in the United States and the territories, including language. Immigrants should be encouraged to learn English. English is the accepted language of business, commerce, and legal proceedings, and it is essential as a unifying cultural force. It is also important, as part of cultural integration, that our schools provide better education in U.S. history and civics for all children, thereby fostering a commitment to our national motto, E Pluribus Unum.

That call for schools to provide more U.S. history and civics seems to come right out of a report by the Bradley Foundation released this year. But interestingly, the Republicans chose to state cultural "integration" as a goal, not cultural "assimilation." The latter word is the one I've seen favored by some political conservatives.

In addition, the Republican platform contains the following sentences, which I believe are meant to apply to English-language learners:

To ensure that all students will have access to the mainstream of American life, we support the English First approach and oppose divisive programs that limit students' future potential. All students must be literate in English, our common language, to participate in the promise of America.

Frankly, I've never heard of the "English First approach." I'm thinking that it is new lingo for "English-only." When I learn more about this, I'll let you know. See Campaign K-12 for more about what the Republican platform says about education.

The platform of the Democratic National Committee, by the way, supports transitional bilingual education.

10 Comments

I work in a K-12 district. I've been here for seven years. I've been a teacher (previous district), a coordinator for EL services, an AP, a Principal, and a Director; and now, tired and frustrated, a Coordinator again (teacher on special assignment as I first started when I first came here.)

It is all about the politics; no thanks to the politicians.

When someone who truly understands looks at the EL issue, they know we are not dealing with newcomers as the driving force behind our so-called academic dysfunction. The true misfortune strikes at the very hearts of those EL students born here, or who have lived here most of their lives; they who can speak English (BICS); they who can talk up a storm or tell you off in an instant; they who are into hard rock or pop, dig baseball or football. These students are misunderstood, lost, misguided, depressed, angry, upset or with their self-esteem in constant turmoil.

But these K-12 children are not the problem. Where they come from or how well they speak their parent's primary language is not a hampering factor against our mission for English Proficiency and Academic Achievement. What are a problem is the politics coming from Washington, the politics coming from the Governor, the politics coming from our State Board of Education, our Local Board of education, our District Office, our Principals, teacher lounges, classified gripping sessions and yes, even politically driven parent social groups.

Unheard are the politics that need to come from our youngest Americans, the students. Where is their voice? Why aren't we advocating for the increase in "asset building" that will ensure that our children will be motivated to succeed. Why aren't we feeding these children in the least as well as our prisoners are fed. With all of the tech and know-how, it is well understood that certain fruits, high in antioxidants and beneficial omegas can actually get the students in a good mood and ready to learn; something the teachers would greatly appreciate.

The children speak wanting better food. We deny them their request by giving them "nutritional, organic food" they dislike. They ask to contribute to their learning; yet we still have teachers who only lecture or provide packets. The students ask to be acknowledged, they want rewards; yet we punish them or put down our public schools in the news because they are not succeeding. Instead of creating a negative image of why they shouldn't want to become "grown-up;" we should instill in them the desire to become a person that is successful and that contributes to the betterment of our society.

If "ALL English" were the solution, we would have succeeded long ago. Most "minority" students for the past 6o years have always been in ALL ENGLISH classrooms. China doesn't need Chinese to unify them; they have gladly learned English, Spanish and even Japanese in order to become successful. They are ripping us apart in the world market. Great job Washington; it is a great relief to know that our fearless leaders continue to debate over “ALL English” so that we at least have the common unifying language needed to be able to read "Made in China."

I have never heard anyone other than partisan people use the term "English only." It is generally designed to mislead, to make people think that if English became the official language of the United States, then one would only be allowed to speak English in the US. That would of course be unconstitional.

"English First" as used in your posting suggests that we should focus on the learning of English in our schools. English First is also the name of an organization that supports making English the official language of the US.

It is interesting to look at countries that have an official language. In developed countries with an official language, the policy motivates the intensive and extensive teaching of the national language to those adult immigrants who don't know the language. It also produces a commitment to teaching the national language at the K-12 level to children who don't know it. But most interesting is that most developed countries with a national language policy include in that policy a lot of provisions that protect the rights of speakers of minority languages. And these provisions are enforced as law. Even in Quebec, where French is the official language of the province, provincial law provides for extensive guarantees of the right to speak and use languages other than French. In the process of creating a national language policy, many language rights are established that did exist previously, when there was no law.

Mr. Stansfield is contradicting and tainting the rest of his comment with the opening, "I have never heard anyone other than partisan people use the term 'English only.'" Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) oppose making English the official language of government. This is not a partisan issue; it's a non-partisan, non-issue. About 93% of Americans speak English, according to the Census. And about 82% speak only English. Today's immigrants learn English as quickly if not more so than past immigrants. We all know that learning English is important. So, Mr. Stansfield, if we passed an English as the official language policy of the U.S. today, how many people will somehow become English fluent this time next year? Are you asserting that immigrants or non-English speakers (that 7% of Americans) steadfastly refuse to learn English and need to be coerced into it?

There has never been such thing as English only. People have always come here speaking a language other than English. It will continue and should. I can't wait till they start harassing elderly people in nursing homes to stop speaking Italian, Russian and the other languages many speak and tell them this is an "English Only Facility". People speaking other languages seem to frighten people because people tend to assume they are talking about them.

"...It is also important, as part of cultural integration, that our schools provide better education in U.S. history and civics for all children, thereby fostering a commitment to our national motto, E Pluribus Unum."

A national motto which is, ironically, not in English.

Our motto was in Latin because the educated male of that century learned Greek, Latin, and probably some French. Times have changed. I just read that immigrants who want to come to France must pass a basic French Language test in order to qualify. My Citizenship students appreciate our attempt to help students - adults or kids - but tell me that of course English is the most important language spoken in the United States. My student from Portugal told me that if I wanted to go to his country, I would be expected to learn Portugese. It's a comlex issue for us but it seems to be cut and dry for most of Europe. English is spoken in many countries. Perhaps, we should learn from them.

Raul, you sure do make a compelling point - "Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) oppose making English the official language of government." Take a look at those last names, and you'll know why. When it comes to immigration and assimilation, the vast majority of Hispanic legislators align the same way, regardless of party affiliation. They are for amnesty, and they are for putting everything in Spanish so "la raza" does not have to learn English. When it comes to dealing with their own people, Hispanic legislators forget what's best for the country and focus only on what is best for Hispanics. Now, who are the racists in this whole debate???

Has anyone pointed out to the Republican Party that our motto *E Pluribus Unum* is not in English?

English should be the official language. If people want to move to the United States then they need to know our language. Just that SIMPLE!!!!!!!!

people need to stop being all of this.............. and learn the english language ......... im sick of people sayin it's racists, it's not a racial issue...... it's life. So people need to deal with it...... Any more questions think about em' your self. Learn English!! Thank-youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

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