Memo From Middle America (Formerly Known As Memo From Mexico) | Hispanic Triumphalism, Globalism In School Spanish Textbooks—Courtesy of U.S. Taxpayer
May 19, 2009, 05:00 AM
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My experience living in Mexico was a real eye-opener for me personally. It had a profound influence on my thinking on the National Question—as I have recounted in my VDARE.COM article The Education of a Gringo in Mexico.

And now that I`ve moved back to the U.S.A., to teach Spanish in the American public school system, my education is continuing.

I`ve discovered some interesting details about Spanish-language textbooks. By Spanish-language textbooks, I refer to textbooks designed for American high school students studying Spanish. If your sons or daughters are studying Spanish in high school or junior high, I recommend you keep up with the curriculum.

Before considering some specific examples, a few general principles are in order.

Studying a foreign language is a valuable experience. It would be good if more Americans studied foreign languages.

Not only that, but it`s also advantageous that some Americans study Spanish as a foreign language.

That, however, is distinct from the idea being promoted in the U.S. nowadays—that learning Spanish is some sort of obligatory civic duty incumbent upon Americans living in their own land. Even in "Red State America", a region supposedly filled with nativist xenophobes, I constantly hear statements like "Nowadays it`s necessary to learn Spanish".

What we`re moving toward is Spanish becoming a de facto official language of the United States, eventually to achieve parity with and even superiority over, English. (I wrote about this in Spanish and the New Conquistadors).

Impossible? Well, a few decades ago, who`d have predicted that both Democrats and Republicans would be having presidential debates in Spanish?

By the way, since I`ve entered the American education complex, I`ve learned that the term "foreign languages" has been replaced in some circles by the PC term "world languages". Nevertheless, I still find the former term more useful. After all, a "world language" would include any language spoken on Planet Earth, even English, while the term "foreign language" has a very simple definition – any language other than English. So I don`t plan on joining that bandwagon.

It used to be that French was the most-taught language in American schools. But it`s been replaced by Spanish.

Once again, it`s good that some of our high school students study Spanish (though some of them ought to study other languages). But what are they studying when they learn Spanish?

Certainly, they have to learn vocabulary and verb conjugations, and practice speaking and reading. At times they must focus on aspects of Spanish that are difficult to English speakers, for example the pronouns and usted, the "to be" verbs ser and estar, and the "to know" verbs saber and conocer, etc.

So you can find all this basic material in Spanish textbooks used in public schools. But what kinds of cultural/political agendas are also being promoted?

It`s really impossible to teach a foreign language without teaching some culture. In fact, the cultural aspect makes it more interesting and practical.

That`s why foreign language textbooks contain dialogues featuring young people in foreign countries. Spanish-language textbooks traditionally have dialogues of kids in Spain, Mexico or some other Spanish-speaking country.

They still do. But now Spanish textbooks also include dialogues of young people speaking Spanish in Texas, Florida and California.

Since there are so many countries in which Spanish is spoken, there are lists of Spanish-speaking countries. They now regularly include the U.S. as another Spanish-speaking country. Sometimes the U.S. Southwest is colored differently than the rest of the United States on maps, indicating it is a Spanish-speaking region.

Another feature found in Spanish textbooks is the obligatory article at the beginning, explaining to students why they should study Spanish.

In ¡Ven Conmigo ! Level 1 (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2003), on page 2, one of the reasons listed is: "For Career Opportunities":

"Bilingual employees are always in demand in business, social work, health care, education, journalism, and many other fields. Learning Spanish will help you find a more interesting, better-paying job."

In the section entitled "To Expand Your Horizons",, ¡Ven Conmigo! says that "Spanish-language movies, books, videos, magazines, TV shows, and music are all around you".

¡Avancemos! Dos, a textbook from a rival company, (McDougal Littell, a division of Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007) has a section on page xxx entitled "Why Study Spanish?" explaining that

"Inside the United States, Spanish is by far the most widely spoken language after English. There are currently about 30 million Spanish-speakers in the U.S. When you start to look and listen for it, you will quickly realize that Spanish is all around you—on the television, on the radio, and in magazines and newspapers. You may even hear your neighbors speaking it. Learning Spanish will help you communicate and interact with the rapidly growing communities of Spanish-speakers around you."

This text also touts career opportunities:

"If you speak Spanish fluently, you can work for international and multinational companies anywhere in the Spanish-speaking world. You can create a career working as a translator, an interpreter, or a teacher of Spanish. And because the number of Spanish-speakers in the U.S. is growing so rapidly, being able to communicate in Spanish is becoming important in almost every career."

Spanish textbooks also play up the Spanish colonial territory which later came to be part of the United States.

¡Ven Conmigo! Level One declares on page 3 that

"Spanish language and culture are important parts of our national history. As you begin your study of Spanish, you should be aware that…

  • the Spanish were among the first European explorers in what is today the U.S.

  • the first European settlement in the United States was founded by the Spanish in 1565 at St. Augustine, Florida.

  • parts of the U.S. once belonged to Mexico.

  • many common words, such as rodeo and patio, came into English from Spanish.

  • Spanish is the second most frequently spoken language in the U.S."

This is subtle compared with what one finds in ¡Aventura! 2 (James F. Funston and Alejandro Vargas Bonilla, EMC Publishing, 2009) . On page 53, the impressionable student reads that

"Look at a map and see the lakes, rivers, cities, mountains and other geographic features with names in Spanish. For example, the states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico have names of Spanish origin. Can you see this influence in your community or in your state ?" [Mira un mapa y vas a ver lagos, rios, ciudades, montañas y otros lugares geográficos con nombres en español. Por ejemplo, los estados de Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Nevada y Nuevo México tienen nombres de origen español. ¿Puedes ver esta influencia en tu comunidad o en tu estado ?]

Let me hasten to point out that in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with students learning that certain geographical features have Spanish etymologies. But it`s not just the etymologies, it`s the context in which it`s presented. American students ought to understand the historical context of how the U.S. acquired the Southwest, so as not to fall prey to reconquista propaganda.

For example, Page 68 of ¡Aventura! 2 contains a Lectura Cultural (= "Cultural Reading") entitled "Estados Unidos: Un País Latino" [= "The United States: A Latino Country"]. This informs students that

"Spanish was the first European language spoken in the territory which is now the United States. That`s why we have cities with names like Los Angeles and Las Cruces (and not The Angels or The Crosses). Today, the Latino community, with a population of more than 40 million, is the largest ethnic group in the United States." [El español fue la primera lengua europea que se habló en el territorio que hoy es Estados Unidos. Por eso tenemos ciudades con nombres como Los Ángeles y Las Cruces (y no The Angels y The Crosses). Hoy, la comunidad latina, con una población de más de 40 millones, es el grupo étnico más grande de Estados Unidos.]

Did you catch that last part ? Latinos constitute "the largest ethnic group in the United States"!

So the white English-speaking majority, which founded this country and still constitutes the majority, is not an ethnic group ? Well, not according to this textbook .

But there`s more:

"The impact that the Latinos have in the culture of the United States is evident in daily life. Waking up, you turn on the radio and listen to Jennifer Lopez or Enrique Iglesias. Showering, you use the shampoo of Samy, Latin stylist of the stars. Later, you have an egg burrito for breakfast. At lunchtime, you order salsa for your hamburger. (In 1992, salsa replaced catsup as the number one condiment in the United States). In the afternoon, when you turn on the television, you see Soledad O`Brien give the news. Shakira is on one commercial and Congressman Reyes on another. Later, a baseball game with player Alex Rodriguez starts. Before going to bed, you speak by telephone with your friend Jose. (In 1988, Jose replaced Michael as the most popular name for boys in Texas and California.) Every day, the United States becomes more Latino." [El impacto que los latinos tienen en la cultura de los Estados Unidos es evidente en la vida diaria. Al despertarse, enciendes la radio y oyes a Jennifer López o a Enrique Iglesisas. Al ducharte, usas el champú de Samy, estilista latino de las estrellas. Luego, desayunas un burrito de huevos. A la hora de almorzar pides salsa para tu hamburguesa. (En 1992, la salsa reemplazó al catsup como el condimento número uno en Estados Unidos.) Por la tarde, cuando enciendes la televisión ves a Soledad O´Brien dar las noticias. Shakira está en un anuncio comercial y el congresista Reyes en otro. Luego, empieza el partido de béisbol con el jugador Alex Rodríguez. Antes de acostarte, hablas por teléfono con tu amigo José. (En 1988, José reemplazó a Michael como el nombre más popular para niños en Texas y California.) Cada día, Estados Unidos se vuelve más latino.]

"Every day, the United States becomes more Latino." Sounds a lot like Jorge Ramos-type triumphalism, does it not ?

What`s more, the ¡Aventura! 2 chapter is followed by questions including the following :

"How do you think that the culture of the United States will change during the next fifty years with the growth of the Latino population ?

"Why do you think it is important to learn Spanish ?

"How might you use Spanish as a volunteer in your community?"

(How about volunteering to help the Border Patrol ? Probably not what they had in mind!)

On page 81, the textbook contains a little selection entitled "Minoría Mayoritaria":

"An historic date for the Hispanics of the United States was the year 2003. In that year the results of the last census made it official that the Latinos of the United States had become the majority minority, passing the Afro-Americans for first time in the history of the country. Do you imagine how this significant growth of the population will affect the future of the Hispanics ?

" The Spanish language is the second language of the United States. It is now normal to encounter every type of government document in Spanish. In some states it is obligatory to have all these documents in Spanish. Also, someday, these increases of the Hispanic population are going to be seen reflected in the politics and economy." [Una fecha histórica para los hispanos de los Estados Unidos fue el año 2003. En este año se dieron los resultados del último censo que hizo oficial que los latinos en los Estados Unidos. Se convirtieron en la minoría mayoritaria, sobrepasando a los afroamericanos por primera vez en la historia del país. ¿ Te imaginas cómo va a afectar el futuro de los hispanos este incremento tan significativo de población ?

El idioma español es el segundo idioma de los Estados Unidos. Ya es normal encontrar todo tipo de documentos del gobierno en español. En algunos estados es obligatorio tener todos estos documentos en español. También, algún día, van a verse reflejados en la politica y en la economía estos incrementos de la población hispana.]

Not only is the Hispanicization of the United States pushed relentlessly, but so is globalism as well.

Thus ¡Ven Conmigo! Level 1 has a cultural note on page 280 about national currencies. Harmless information, right? Just telling the kids what the currencies of various Spanish-speaking countries are?

Yes, until it gets to Spain, where the text celebrates the replacement of the peseta with the euro:

"During the 1980s, the countries of the European Union, including Spain, [but not including the U.K., which apparently doesn`t matter] made a commitment to use a single currency: the euro. Since 1999, banks, companies, and stock markets have been trading in euros. Spaniards were able to use both pesetas and euros until 2002. Now the euro is Spain`s only currency.…The euro is intended to strengthen Europe economically. It also makes it easier for countries around the world to do business with the European Union. Can you think of some ways it might affect travel, tourism, and banking if several countries in the Western Hemisphere decided to use a common currency ? What might such a currency be called ? "

In that textbook`s sequel, ¡VEN CONMIGO! 2 (copyright 2003)  there is an "Encuentro Cultural" on page 13 entitled "¿Qué es el Euro?" [= What is the Euro?]:

"How would you feel if you traveled to a nearby town and had to change money to be able to buy anything there ? Europeans living near international borders have had to do exactly that. The euro is a monetary unit that has replaced the individual currencies of the countries in the European Union. Using the euro may be easier for travelers and for people doing business in different European countries."

This is followed by "discussion questions" including these:

"What are some of the advantages of many countries using the same currency ? Are there some disadvantages as well ? How are United States businesses affected by the euro ?"

This at least mentions disadvantages as a possibility, though the text doesn`t present any. And then it asks:

"Would it be a good idea for the United States to share a common currency with Canada and Mexico? Why or why not ? "

The additional information for teachers in the annotated teachers` edition doesn`t present anything negative about the European Union or a North American common currency. It even suggests that the teacher "ask students to imagine they are shopping for bargains in Europe through mail order or on the Internet. Ask them to discuss how using the euro might make it easier for them to make the best purchases."

We could dig up more examples from Spanish textbooks, but with the examples presented above, you get the idea.

Individual teachers may or may not teach or emphasize these textbook celebrations of Hispanic cultural conquest and globalism. But that is what is in the textbooks—courtesy of the American taxpayer.

Besides being a teacher, I`m also a parent, of a fourth-grader and a first-grader. They have both done well in their first year in an American school. And they have good teachers.

But I`ve already felt the need to, shall we say, provide them different perspectives to balance out some of the things they`ve been taught.

As parents of public school students, we have to be on our guard—constantly. We have to evaluate what our kids are being taught, what their textbooks say, and what agendas their teachers are promoting.

That applies to academics, politics, moral issues, and the National Question. As parents, we can`t take anything for granted when it comes to the education of our children.

And if your kids are taking Spanish, encourage them to do their best—but check out their textbooks as well!

American citizen Allan Wall (email him) recently moved back to the U.S.A. after many years residing in Mexico. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here and his website is here.