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Proposed “Americanization movement” targeting immigrants flawed

LatinaLista — In 2006, President Bush established the Task Force on New Americans. The Task Force’s objectives are “to help immigrants learn English, embrace the common core of American civic culture, and fully become American.”

Alfonso Aguilar, USCIS Chief of the Office of Citizenship and Chair of the Task Force’s Technical Committee, discusses first-year initiatives during a press conference at the U.S. Department of the Treasury in Washington, DC, June 12, 2007

In align with their objectives, the Task Force released a report this week that advises the federal government to take a leadership role in an “Americanization movement.” What they want to see happen is an aggressive effort to teach immigrants English and U.S. History. Otherwise, Task Force officials feel:

“If this “Americanization” fails, the nation could see major problems in 20 or 30 years, with foreign-born populations detached from the larger society and engaging in anti-social behavior.”

There’s no disputing that both of those doomsday predictions could come to pass but before the government begins their aggressive efforts, there are two things they need to know.

Before teaching U.S. History to classes comprised of new immigrants, it would be a good idea to revise those history books once and for all.
While the main stories are the same, it’s time to include the contributions of everyone else (read other ethnicities) who created to the greatness of this country. It’s time to include the roles played by Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans in the creation of this country.
History classes that truly reflect the diverse contributions that grew this country would be lessons that could also aspire a new generation of Americans to achieve what others, who looked like them, achieved. In the process, this history would resonate more loudly and foster a greater sense of pride and connection to this country.
Secondly, it’s long been known by those who service the immigrant population that there are not enough English classes for all the people who want to learn it. Over the years, the fallacy has been perpetuated by those, who enjoy spreading false rumors about immigrants, that they don’t want to learn English.
Again, there not enough classes or convenient times for someone who is tired from working 2-3 jobs to sit and stay awake in class. The Task Force recommends that state governments develop Internet-based electronic learning tools for adults to learn English but the problem with that is that not all immigrant families have Internet access in their homes — the place most likely where they would access English-learning sites.
One possible solution to the English class crunch is for cities to delegate some of their public cable access channels to nothing but televised English classes — 24/7. While the solution is not ideal because it doesn’t allow for the teacher/student interaction, it’s a lot better than nothing at all.
Another solution has to do with cell phones. The Centers for Disease Control released the report Wireless Substitution: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, January-June 2008 where the author discovered that more Latinos, than Anglos or blacks, carry a cell phone.

It’s an interesting acknowledgement because of something that Nokia has recently developed for their Chinese customers — mobile English classes.
Nokia has created a new learning application software for their mobile devices; they call it
BBC Learning English is the international content provider for the service which features a number of English tests and practice questions for learning survival English and business English.

“Nokia Mobiledu brings users a truly seamless English learning experience by integrating learning with life; learning English on the go, anywhere and anytime. I believe Mobiledu will help English learners realize their dreams,” said Angela Long, Nokia Sales and Marketing Manager of…
Using the platform, it’s possible to learn the English language at one’s own pace and when they need it – whether it is to study abroad or to improve career development. The mobile learning platform also helps users to learn the English language inexpensively and without having to hunt the Internet to find translations.

If this kind of application is available in China, there’s no reason why it can’t be made available in the United States. With cell phones so ubiquitous among Latinos in the United States, this alternative easily enables immigrants to achieve the goals of the Task Force’s recommendations.
For some reason, there is an assumption that it will be an uphill battle to get immigrants to assimilate. That’s not the problem. It’s when the federal government attaches exorbitant fees to the process that creates resistance.
If the government was truly sincere about wanting to help immigrants assimilate, then they should make the process affordable and as convenient as possible. It’s one thing to make people work to receive their citizenship but it’s quite another to make them suffer for it.

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  • Sandra
    December 19, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Hmm, why do I get the feeling that the subject is illegal aliens and not “immigrants”?

  • Maegan la Mala
    December 20, 2008 at 9:12 am

    I’m umcomfortable with the goal being assimilation. Yes learning English is helpful. Yes learning real U.S. history is helpful but I am concerned that the onus is put on immigrants to become more acceptable, to fit in more, so that they appear to be less of a threat.
    Anyway, last time I checked, so many of these immigrants were already “Americans”, since America is way more than the United States.

  • Sandra
    December 20, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    And just how do you expect immigrants to function in an English speaking country if they don’t learn English? Or are you in favor of them colonizing in their own neighborhoods instead? Oh, that really makes for a cohesive society in this country, doesn’t it? Who is threatend by immigrants? What an idiotic statement.
    You know that the common accepted word for a U.S. citizen only is American. Lets not play childish games here. Do Mexicans in Mexico call themselves Americans? No, they call themselves Mexicans. Most people identify themselves by the country they are a citizen of, not the whole damned continent!!

  • Michaela
    December 21, 2008 at 11:50 am

    But this is already happening in our country. We have people here that are already detached from the larger American society. But the problem to me is they do not seem to want to become Americanized. They do not seem to want to be Americans but instead hold much animosity toward America and Americans. No one is too ignorant to learn a new language. But there appears to be a resistance among certain latinos to learn our language and assimilate. Why? What is the real answer to that? How can you come to a great country like the U.S. and seemingly do everything in your power to resist becoming Americanized. I simply cannot comprehend it.
    “If this “Americanization” fails, the nation could see major problems in 20 or 30 years, with foreign-born populations detached from the larger society and engaging in anti-social behavior.”

  • Texano78704
    December 22, 2008 at 11:36 am

    And just how do you expect immigrants to function in an English speaking country if they don’t learn English?
    The same way the Pennsylvania Dutch have been doing since the 17th century.

  • Challis
    December 22, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    “Anyway, last time I checked, so many of these immigrants were already “Americans”, since America is way more than the United States.”
    I have heard this before, and I really really find this comment annoying.
    yes, America is a contenient, but of the different countries on the Americas, only one country calls themselves Americans. SO-you people who use that may find it amusing, but I find it just an annoying comment that usually has nothing to contribute that what is being discussed.
    As far as the Americanization, I full agree with that concept, if a person didn’t go to school in the country they are living in, it is really difficult to have an understanding of that country’s history, and therefore that country’s perception of current events. I think that ignorance (on all sides) is what is creating this divide or detachment.
    Out in the real world, I very rarely see immigrants to this country that hold negative views of the US and it’s people. Most often they want to learn the language and want to involve themselves in their new environment.

  • Sandra
    December 23, 2008 at 8:36 am

    What an utterly absurd comparison! First of all, the PA Dutch SPEAK ENGLISH AS WELL AS GERMAN! They speak German in their homes, but they interact in public IN ENGLISH with English speakers! They do not expect English speakers to learn German!
    Second of all, the PA Dutch are a very small insulated population as compared to the massive number of Latinos in this country! And the Latinos are NOT a self-contained, insulated community as are the Amish. They use public services, they serve in public office, they make use of public schools, they run businesses which interact with the general public! There IS NO COMPARISON!

  • Minute Man Pete
    December 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    I too am annoyed and telling you all about it helps to contribute to the debate not like you all telling me that Americuns are not the only Americuns. We our the united states of the americuns one nation under god. no other nation can say that so there. stop annoying me with that.

  • Irma
    December 28, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Maybe I am in the minority here, but I dont happen to believe that the burden of making education interesting – falls on teachers and the school system.
    People choose to have children. It is the responsibility of parents to ensure that they educate their children so that they become responsible members of society. So, if a school system fails to do that – the burden falls on the parent.
    I think that the burden of dealing with English at school for a Spanish speaking ( or any non English speaking student) falls on the PARENT not the
    school system. My parents deliberately chose to make English
    my first language. They did this because my mother struggled for
    2 years in school before she mastered
    enough English to catch up in school.
    Children draw inspiration from their parents or at least they should.
    Mine taught me that Mexicans might
    not be talked about in school, but
    that there was a country where the
    President, the police, the judges, most of the doctors, nurses, lawyers etc
    were MEXICAN. They explained that this was not the case in the US, because in the US , most people are not
    Mexican. This made good sense to me as a child – I drew my inspiration from the country of my parents.
    Years ago, my father taught himself how to speak English . He listened to the radio, went to the movies and deliberately chose NOT to rely on
    Spanish. The same was true for my
    grandparents. FRee English classes are great, but again they are not a RIGHT.

  • Sandra
    December 30, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Well it is one of those rare occasions that I agree with you, Irma. The responsibility ultimately falls on the parents. Far too many Latino parents either don’t speak English themselves or even if they do they stress Spanish as being their primary language of usage in the house.
    I see it all the time out in public. Latino parents are speaking exclusively to their children in Spanish all the time and among themselves also.
    You can’t master a language unless you use it as a means of communicating most of the time.

  • Stephanie
    January 1, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Actually, Sandra, there’s a major soccer team in Mexico City called the Eagles of America.

  • Sandra
    January 2, 2009 at 8:17 am

    So, what does some soccer team have to do with this topic?

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