Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Deconstructing of America?

The book currently latched to the side of my hip is "Who Are We” by Samuel Huntington. You may recall that I recently mentioned Mr. Huntington because of his book “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order”, which was written in the late 1990’s and predicted much of what is happening today. Based on that amazing bestseller, I had to read his most recent book, “Who Are We”, which focuses on the challenges facing America’s historical identity.

I bring it up because once again his opinions are playing out in real life just as he wrote them. In one part of his book, he writes about the “Americanization” of our country, which took place from its founding up until about the 1960’s. The idea behind “Americanization” was to get new immigrants like my Italian and Hungarian descendants to assimilate to the “Anglo-American Protestant traditions and values” that shaped our nation. He goes on to mention how after the 1960’s our country went from one of “Americanization” to one of “Deconstructing”, where certain groups started recommending, “immigrants maintain their birth country cultures”.

I bring up this subject because coincidently I opened up today’s New York Sun to learn that New York City’s education department has approved to spend over $2 million a year to translate school documents for non-English speaking parents. This coincides with the over $10 million spent on other bilingual services. It’s relevant to Mr. Huntington’s book because he talks about how during “Americanization”, the central institution behind it was our public school system whose “creation and expansion in the mid-nineteenth century was, indeed, in part dictated by and shaped by the perceived need for Americanization”. For me his comments make perfect sense listening to stories from my parents about their experiences in the public school system. The move today to create these bilingual services also ties into Mr. Huntington’s “Deconstruction” idea where he talks about how public schools and the liberal school boards attached to them have been the driving force behind it.

Maybe everyone else finds this stuff boring but I find it interesting to stop and see how things are changing for the better or worse. More importantly I respect guys like Huntington who see it happening before anyone else.

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