Welcome ladies and gents to another edition of your favorite blog meme: The Asshat of the Week Award! This week’s “Newt” edition features none other than Newt Gingrich. Many of you may know Mr. Gingrich from the mid-90’s and the Republican Party’s Contract with America.
What earns good ol’ Newt this not-so-prestigious award is his comments from about a week ago (yeah, this post is late, as usual) about bilingual education programs across the country, specifically teaching in Spanish:
“The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. … We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto,(my emphasis)” Gingrich said to cheers from the crowd of more than 100.
The language of living in a ghetto. I wonder if Mr. Gingrich has ever been to the ghetto, or barrio if you will. I highly doubt it. And if he ever did visit one of these places, he might see people working hard trying to get by, something he probably has never had to do being as he’s white and rich and male. I, as well as many immigrants, legal and illegal, would love to see more English immersion classes being taught. There are many ESL (English as a Second Language) courses taught all across the country. If Mr. Gingrich wants to see something like this expanded, he could always add it to his platform that federal funding would be provided to add more of these types of classes to more people. I’m willing to bet that’s not what he has in mind.
The CNN article I quoted above also has some comments by Peter Zamora of the Hispanic Education Coalition:
“The tone of his comments were very hateful. Spanish is spoken by many individuals who do not live in the ghetto.”
He said research has shown “that bilingual education is the best method of teaching English to non-English speakers.”
Spanish-speakers, Zamora said, know they need to learn English.
“There’s no resistance to learning English, really, among immigrants, among native-born citizens,” he said. “Everyone wants to learn English because it’s what you need to thrive in this country.”
What Newt appears to fail to grasp is that eventually, all American schoolchildren will need to be bi- if not multi-lingual if we want our country to remain globally competitive. Already, across the country there are numerous language courses being taught not just to high school students, but elementary school kids too. The United States is no longer the big dog on the block of the world economy. China has become a major player as well. Many international companies are even ditching the dollar in favor of the Euro when it comes to world trade, although that’s another debate for another time. There are so many good reasons to continue bilingual education and not many bad ones. As Mr. Zamora also points out (paraphrased), teaching children Math, Science, and other courses in their native tongue is the best and fastest way to keep them from falling behind their English-speaking counterparts. You want to see No Child Left Behind fall flat on its face as a complete and utter failure? Abolish bilingual education. Granted that’s not the only reason it would fail, but it would fail even quicker without bilingual education. The point is that Newt’s comments were highly inflammatory, xenophobic, and downright hateful. Newsflash Newt: you ain’t gonna win the presidency by distancing yourself from a sizable population group that will vote come the 2008 elections if, for no other reason, than to voice their opinions on the issue of Immigration Reform.
So congratulations, Newt, you are this week’s Asshat of the Week Award winner. Wear it loud and wear it proud. But you know, I have a theory on why Newt wants to outlaw the speaking and teaching in languages other than English: He’s afraid they’re talking about him!