All Gone in Search of America

What does it mean to be an American? Major debates over legislation and proposed constitutional amendments raise the question. Without stretching a point too much, it is easy to see the American identity as the underlying question on the immigration issue, the Equal Rights. Amendment, and perhaps even in the debate over abortion. It comes out very clear in discussion of the English Language Amendment sponsored last year by Senator Huddleston of Kentucky and supported by U.S. English, a group headed by former Senator and linguist S. I. Hayakawa.

The amendment would make explicit a fact of life obvious to anyone that does not live in Miami or Laredo: the language of England has become the tongue of the United States. Opposition to the amendment comes largely from the Hispanic community and the professional "rights" lobby. The Christian Century is sharp enough to detect "a suspicious odor of anti-Hispanic prejudice" in this latest effort to keep a crust from forming on the melting pot.

Much of the controversy centers around bilingual education. Current studies estimate there are more than 3.5 million children who "need" some education to be given in their native language if they are to make an orderly progress through school. An article in USA Today goes further in calling for "continuing attention to the child's heritage and culture" as a means of "stimulating...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here