"I need help," she said, "None of my citizenship students speak English!"
Here's the background: in response to requests from neighborhood Hispanics—who no doubt anticipate amnesty legislation—the Adult School added a section of ESL that focuses on the U.S. citizenship test.
What she discovered, only two sessions into the class, is that few of her students could carry on a basic conversation in English—even though most have lived in the U.S. for more than a decade.
"I can't teach them English and citizenship at the same time," she told me.
And, of course, she is right. Students don't need to be fluent to master the basics of the citizenship test. God knows we can't expect that. But they should be able to speak and understand English at a fundamental level before taking an examination to become citizens.
(In fact, fluency in English is technically a pre-requisite for becoming a citizenship—but, like the passage in the oath about "abjuring foreign potentates" and the provision that immigrants should not become a "public charge", it's been quietly deep-sixed. For example, applicants over fifty don't even have to try to speak English. )
My friend will muddle on, hoping for the best. What she will soon learn is that, in addition to not speaking English, students will, for example, enroll during her lesson on the Civil War despite having missed her preceding lectures on the 100 years of U.S. history leading up to it. This, if Teddy Kennedy has his way, is what will pass for "mastering" civics.
So I repeat a theme that I have touched on in other VDARE.COM columns: no matter what Kennedy, et al. promise, very few among the amnesty hopefuls—I predict statistically none—will learn English and U.S. history.
First and foremost, why, as a practical matter, should they? For those who get as far as the citizenship interview, none will be sent home to polish their English.
The whole idea of amnesty is to make aliens into citizens (and voters). The rest of it—like the language requirement—is window-dressing. Kennedy, et al. can say what they please because they know that none of us will ever be able to figure out whom among the aliens dedicated themselves to learning English and who ignored the requirement. They will all be amnestied anyway.
Second, as the alien population grows by leaps and bounds, the need to learn English diminishes proportionately. Every meeting between non-English speaking adults and teachers, principals, doctors and auto mechanics can be conducted in Spanish.
Why, again as a practical matter, should prospective students bother learning? Hard work is involved. Personal time will be lost in a boring classroom. Summer is here. Who wants to wrestle with an English grammar workbook when he can picnic on Lodi Lake?
I am a fan of The ProEnglish newsletter. (Sign up for ProEnglish language related action alerts here.) In its April 2007 issue was this quotation from Maria Cantu-Dougala—an assistant vice president of the Second Federal Savings in Chicago [send them mail] and a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Said Cantu-Dougala about her Mexican heritage:
"We're never giving up our Mexican roots. I still consider myself Mexican. That's where we're so different from other immigrants. We just can't give it up." [Mexican, American—or both? By Lennox Samuels, Dallas Morning News, October 11, 2006]
Cantu-Dougala's arrogant attitude of entitlement is, after twenty years on the immigration front line, nothing new to me. While I would not say that her arrogance is common, neither is it uncommon.
And a great problem is that the Mexico now and forever philosophy is passed down to American-born children.
One of my clearest classroom recollections is of a high school teaching aide born, raised and educated in the U.S. But her car's bumper sticker read: "Latina para la vida."(Latin for life.)
I wish I could say that the other aides thought differently. But I can't.
And, as with their parents, why should their teenage views be different? After all, many of them are on their way to a special Latino graduation ceremony where Mexican traditions will be celebrated. These are now common throughout California.
If the Senators need proof, they can follow me around Lodi for a day or two.
What they will see is that within a one-mile radius of the Lodi Adult School, little English is spoken. Yet few in the neighborhood bother to attend English language classes, even though the school is within walking distance for all but the most infirm.
I recommended to my teaching colleague that she prod her non-English speaking citizenship students to attend regular ESL sessions first to build a foundation before advancing to the citizenship class.
Her reply: "They say they have no time."
How odd, I thought. Many don't work. And for those who do, classes are offered from dawn to dusk five days a week.
The obstacle isn't time.
Joe Guzzardi [e-mail him] is the Editor of VDARE.COM Letters to the Editor. In addition, he is an English teacher at the Lodi Adult School and has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.