NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 3, 2004

The formal practice of assimilating immigrants into American culture is not what it used to be, says author Samuel Huntington, but should remain an important goal for the country today.

Between 1915 and 1922, over 1 million immigrants were enrolled in public school classes designed to "Americanize" the foreign-born. Many companies, including Ford Motor Company, provided language courses over several months that compelled new immigrants to learn English.

Recently, however, political leaders and academics have instead promoted "multiculturalism" and "diversity," which have served to fragment American society, says Huntington:

  • In a study by Paul Vitz of 22 text books published in the 1970s and 1980s, only five out of 670 stories had a "patriotic theme;" all 22 books lacked any story featuring Nathan Hale, Patrick Henry, Daniel Boone or Paul Revere.
  • Forty-five percent of Islamic immigrants in America report "closer ties or loyalty" to Islamic countries than to the United States.
  • In Miami, Spanish is now the principal language spoken in business, commerce and politics; the city's most-watched television station is a Spanish language station.

In view of this trend, however, most Americans still favor the promotion of a unified American culture, says Huntington:

  • In 1986, 81 percent of the Americans believed that those who wished to stay in the United States should learn English.
  • In 1988, 76 percent of Californians believed that knowing English was "very important" to being an American, and 61 percent believed that the right to vote should be limited to those who speak English.
  • Between 1980 and 2002, 12 referenda were put forth opposing bilingual education, and the average voter support for them was 65 percent.
  • In 1998, 61 percent of California voters favored an end to bilingual education.

Although politicians are squeamish about promoting assimilation, it is still necessary, says Huntington, in order to integrate the current wave of Mexican immigrants and prevent the United States from becoming a country of "two languages, two cultures, and two peoples."

Source: Samuel Huntington, "One Nation Out of Many," September 2004, American Enterprise Institute.


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