Last Sunday on Book TV I heard an author they were interviewing say the most extraordinary thing. He said that unlike in the past the American elites of today were not interested in having immigrants assimilate. What could he possibly be talking about?
Could it have something to do with education? Our public schools have always been the primary means of assimilation for immigrants. Immigrants who come to this country as adults, especially those that come not speaking English, usually do not become very well assimilated. But their children, if they come to this country before the age of 10 or are born here, always have and continue to learn to speak English without an accent and become perfect little Americans primarily through the efforts of our public schools. If you know anything about what is going on in our public schools you know that when they are confronted with a student who does not speak English, teaching that child English is their top priority and that is just as true today as it ever was.
So how could anyone think that our public schools are not as interested as they once were in assimilating immigrants? Could it have something to do with the schools talking about the need to communicate with parents who do not speak English? Could the school’s desire to be able to communicate with parents who do not speak English be seen as a lack of interest in the parents assimilating? That would be totally absurd. Does anyone really believe that adult immigrants would be more likely to learn English if they could not communicate with anyone at their children’s school? If they cannot communicate with anyone at the school the more likely effect is that they are less interested in their children’s education – the primary means through which immigrants are assimilated.
Could the fact that the government now has paperwork and forms available in other languages be seen as a lack of interest by the government in immigrants assimilating? Again, that would be absurd. Does anyone think that people are going to be motivated to learn English or not based on whether or not government brochures and forms are available in their native language? How often does an immigrant fill out a government form or read a brochure?
The reality is that immigrants who do not speak English are at a tremendous disadvantage in the job market. The only jobs available to those who do not speak English are very low paying, menial jobs. Every immigrant who does not speak English is confronted daily by the economic penalties for not knowing English. That is a tremendous motivation, far greater than any motivation that might be created by being unable to communicate with government officials or school personnel.
So what on earth are people talking about when they say immigrants are not motivated to assimilate or that the elites are not interested in having them assimilate? It just seems to me to be a belief independent of reality.