Phil Kent: English Only Isn’t Racist

The following is a response by Phil Kent in response to this post from yesterday:

Thank you, Peach Pundit, for allowing me a response to Charlie Harper’s May 15 shrill criticism of my advocacy of learning English as quickly as possible in Georgia’s public high school classrooms.

Why is it “race-baiting” to ensure that our kindergarten through 12th grade high school students– especially Georgia’s sizeable immigrant and refugee student population–  learn and speak English?  To become a naturalized U.S. citizen, the law states that the immigrant must demonstrate “the ability to read, write and speak ordinary English.”  Is that law somehow “racist”? After all, isn’t the ability to speak and communicate in English the litmus test of whether immigrants are assimilating into “our” mainstream culture?

Most Americans have historically embraced and appreciated the traditional “‘assimilation” model whereby anyone who legally comes here can become an American citizen regardless of background or ethnicity. Our English common tongue is the tie that binds us together. It is the road to success in education and careers. It provides a chance to try to live the American dream.

The jury is still out as to whether the record three-decade wave of Third World immigrants, both legal and illegal, will assimilate or will remain in balkanized neighborhoods where they basically just communicate with one another.

The “melting pot” that assimilated and Americanized scores of millions who came to our country for most of the 20th century is not working well now. In the name of “diversity” immigrant special interest groups aided by their media allies are militant about retaining their own culture and allegiance to their home country— and not this one. Most people I talk with, regardless of their politics, are concerned about this trend.

Be proud of your ethnicity and where you and your family came from, but be proud to be an American.

Hopefully most of us can still agree on fixing the “melting pot” in the interest of maintaining a strong nation and a united people. A good start would be to insist on English fluency in our high schools.


    • Ed says:

      How wrong you were.

      I agree with Phil. I just wish we had some evidence about immigrants to American and if they learn English. Why, when I was in NYC the other day, I was too afraid to go to Little Italy on account of my Italian being rusty.

  1. saltycracker says:

    Still chucking over the “tool” twist. We are so emotionally polarized today that attacks on the English only is red herring for “keep them down on the plantation” and English only is red herring for dissing any one with a non-English first language.

    Upward mobility is greatly improved when one can communicate clearly in the local language. It is slowed when speaking the language in dialects and colloquialisms.

    The homeboy and good old boy is fine around the fire pit but not so good on the job ladder. And nothing made my Spanish teacher madder than someone using slang they picked up from the yard guy.

    We can start by getting our educators to speak proper English and pass it on.

  2. Patrick Mayer says:

    Phil, you do realize that by mixing pieces in a “melting pot” the pieces take on the others traits, and lose some of their own, right?

    You do realize that it took half a dozen generations of immigrants (if not more) during the 1800’s and 1900’s to “assimilate” and basically create what is currently the ” ‘Merican ” culture and society that we have today. During the roughly 100 year period of the Civil War, WWI, and WWII the idea of “America” began to change, and move from what was really a “salad bowl” to a “melting pot”. The Irish, Italian, and hispanic neighborhoods began to breakdown with the suburbanization of the cities after WWII and the transformation from an industrial society into a service society in the 80’s and 90’s.

    In the last three decades there has been no major upheavals (minus 9/11) to breakdown cultures to a level that made everyone feel like they were participating at the same level in the defense of this “great experiment”. It is foolish and short sighted to believe that cultures, many of which rely on their language as means of perpetuation due to the creation of arbitrary geopolitical lines, can be rightly assimilated in something as short as three decades…

    What you also fail to remember is that during WWII, while Americans (speaking a multitude of languages) were being sent to die to ensure the freedom of other people that don’t speak English, we welcomed these 3rd world workers with open arms to tend fields and work in factories. We did not want their assimilation, and for all intents and purposes created a stigma afterwards that still lives today.

    Your insight into the culture(s) of this country is what is wrong with the republican party these days. You see difference and believe it is bad. Others see difference and look for the strengths of that culture that we can slowly bring into our own. You see a problem with language, others see an opportunity to expand the growth of children in multiple languages so they can be a bridge between the older and newer generation of immigrants.

    It is unfortunate that so many people out there push for education reform when what they really need is a good schooling themselves.

    Phil Kent, you are what is wrong with the Republican Party, and another reason why the rest of us cannot have nice things.

  3. John Konop says:

    …….The jury is still out as to whether the record three-decade wave of Third World immigrants, both legal and illegal, will assimilate or will remain in balkanized neighborhoods where they basically just communicate with one another…


    The issue is people of color for you… were ok with Irish, German…..neighborhoods and culture….We all can read between the lines…..You should be ashamed……

    • saltycracker says:

      Agree – assimilation/accommodation is a difficult line – the Public responsibility is to appreciate those immigrants that do not want to take three generations to accomplish what they came to America for. Leave the ones alone that prefer the ethnic ‘hoods and for those wanting to interact in this melting pot of America, see that our schools teach proper reading (English), writing and arithmetic and respect for the kid beside them.

      I think highly of my friends that can speak their grandparents language (it has helped several in their paychecks) but all agree we will communicate across these positive differences in English (not colloquial English, either).

  4. Ellynn says:

    You and your client lost me when you started asking for a law that due to how educational standards and basic test medthodoloy (like ‘Common Core’ which you so love to hate) make your point pointless. It shows me how very ingnorant the both of you are in basic education curcuiculum and classroom instruction, and does not show well for some one running for the post of educating “our” children.

    Not to mention your romanitc version of what is “English” is very quaint. The idea of thinking all English words are really ‘American’ would be news to Great Britian. It must be nice to believe that every Kindergartener (German word here) is learning English and spelling with coloured Crayons (tha’st the orginal English spelling by the way) and sitting it their Cafetirias (Spanish word again) and eating barbecue (what! wait, this is a Spanish word too… who knew) without having to assimlate (Latin) like all the other non Americans do… But that’s your albatross (yup -Spanish word ) to bare.

  5. greencracker says:

    Bilingualism and polyglot-ism is, umh, like the norm in a lot of places; nay, a national strength!

    Y’all hear me complain about Singapore a lot, but one thing they get damn right is making their population native-level bilingual Englsh/Malay or Tamil or Mandarin; for a lot of them, throw in Cantonese or Hakka or Hokkien too. (You study stuff like science and math in English; literature, some history and grammar in another language. )

    Singaporeans regularly speak 2+ languages in any given day and can do so simultaneously.

    As a bonus, from all the languages they all bring t0 the table, they’ve developed an informal unwritten patois they use informally among themselves and which foreigners don’t really understand.

    They call their patois “Singlish” and it is a thing all of them, of all races and ages, adore as their unique national thing.

  6. Rick Day says:

    Language is a bridge between cultures as much as it is a tool for communication. The complex role of language has led to controversy over whether it is better to provide education in a minority language (a language spoken by the minority of a population) or simply educating students in the dominant language of a given region.

    There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem: 20 percent of the population of the United States speak a language at home other than English, 56 percent of Europeans are bilingual, and it is believed that over half of the entire world’s population is bilingual.

    Half the world. And you want our students to enter the global workforce hobbled because of white nationalism?

    Given the growing size of the bilingual population, students should receive bilingual education starting in elementary school, in which humanities and social studies are taught in one of the country’s minority languages, and math and the sciences are taught in the dominant language. After establishing fluency in both languages, from middle school onwards, students would be taught their classes in the dominant language — in preparation for college admissions or job searches, depending on their intended career — in addition to one literature class continued to be taught in a minority language. This ensures that students are more skilled and maintain a competitive edge when applying to colleges or for jobs, and that students retain their newly acquired command of their minority language.

    In a globalized society, it is more important now than ever to both be communicative in the dominant language common across global communities, as well as to preserve one’s cultural identity by retaining or learning one’s minority language.

    A bilingual education would prepare students for future professions, enrich their connection with their cultural heritage, and enhance their social experiences.

    In other words, sir, according to MIT, you are doing it exactly 100% wrong. Can you explain how this bill will benefit Georgia’s ability to draw in international jobs? And just why do “your people” hate Spanish so much you would further burden graduates with an “English Only” form of communication?

    Tell us why you hate the white children?

    PS: Charlie is not Shrill! That is his…normal tone of voice.

  7. saltycracker says:

    “A bilingual education would prepare students for future professions, enrich their connection with their cultural heritage, and enhance their social experiences.”

    Absolutely…..until this cultural heritage part morphs into another demand for a “Bilingual Education Act” mandating the children are damaged unless their US education is presented in their cultural language. Recall California and Ebonics….

    We now are fully engaged in a state of half truths and will fight to the death for our half.

  8. objective says:

    paternalism can be racism.
    english ONLY- which was the phraseology in the robocall- is as paternalistic a position as donald sterling’s, demanding conformity to the worldview of the old and intolerant.
    english predominance, with tolerance and inclusion, makes sense. this appears to be the model in existence already. thank god for good teachers.
    but “melting pot” was always a misnomer, because the results of melting all ingredients into one would be a unified slush that tastes like dirt. retaining heritage is what makes the resulting dishes tasty, so to speak. it is the diversity of cultures that allows us to innovate, creating a fine pineapple salsa fresca over here, a bbq taco there…

    • objective says:

      and to qualify, the logic behind even a “predominance” of one language has logical limits.
      but now i really can’t get an image of phil kent whining like donald sterling out of my head.
      “who gives them jobs?”

  9. DrGonzo says:

    Freakonomics says the most useful foreign language to learn is: English.

    It’s why everybody in every other country (except Mexico apparently) wants to learn English, because that is becoming the international language of business (just like French is – supposedly – the international language of diplomacy; English is also the international language of aviation, all pilots around the world are required to learn English if they aren’t native speakers). The ROI on an American learning a foreign language is less than 10%, but the ROI of a non-native speaker learning English is well over 20% or more – don’t recall the exact numbers.

  10. Dave Bearse says:

    Someone that very likely doesn’t believe mankind’s activities have anything to do climate change (if he even believes there is climate change) discredits any argument he begins with “[t]he jury is still out…”

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