Another Reason NOT To Leave Manhattan . . .
West Virginia legislators slyly inserted a provision of ignorance into a seemingly innocuous bill about parks and recreation. The amendment to House Bill 2782 adds the following provision:
"English shall be the official language of the State of West Virginia."
Apparently, there is even a group called "U.S. English, Inc." dedicated to the preservation of the "unifying role of the English language in the United States." One might assume that such a group was started by some crazed white supremacist. However, the group was founded in 1983 by, Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa. The propaganda on the US English website refers to Hayakawa as "an immigrant himself." After a long career as a professor of English and semantics scholar, Dr. Hayakawa was elected to the US Senate. He was the first to introduce the English Language Amendment saying, "Bilingualism is fine for an individual but not for a country."
I attended a college whose motto was, "The World is Our Campus." Some of our matriculation requirements were not only to attain reasonable proficiency in another language but also to study abroad for a semester. Today, I live in a city where it is possible to walk down the street and hear every language spoken by contemporary man. It is one of the reasons that New York is not just an elegant and wonderful place, but the thriving hub of a truly global economy. Multilingualism is a foundation for success. Aptitude in language allows people to communicate and relate.
This kind of legislation comes from the unfounded belief that immigrants to the United States will not learn English unless the government enforces it. Not only is this untrue, it also signals the presence of the deep roots of fear and ignorance that fuel American sensibilities. I have witnessed Americans in foreign countries act indignant when natives of these countries do not speak English. Concurrently, I have seen immigrants in this country being belittled for speaking English with an accent.
However, my experience with the average American is that most do not read or write English above a 6th grade level. How can we enforce English as an official language when most Americans themselves are not proficient in their "native" tongue?
For example, in West Virginia, according to National Institute of Literacy, 20% of West Virginia adults function at Level 1, compared to the national average of 22%. Generally, those adults who score at Level 1 have difficulty performing such everyday tasks as locating an intersection on a street map, reading and comprehending a short newspaper article, or calculating total costs on an order form. The state of West Virginia ranks 33rd in overall adult literacy, tied with three other states.
There is far too much legislation being enacted that, on the surface, claims to defend and protect the lifestyle and identity of Americans. Bills like the one in West Virginia and the recent legislation that requires all people from Canada and Mexico to have passports to enter the United States only foster an environment of hatred and ignorance. It also prevents the United States from evolving into a truly welcoming multicultural society. People believe the government is protecting them from terrorism and the encroachment of outsiders. This is not true. This kind of legislation is simply promoting an agenda of exclusion that benefits no one.
I've said it before and I'll say it again . . .
I'll take Manhattan. Viva la revolucion!
Oh, and by the way . . .