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America’s patriotic assimilation system is broken

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Statue of Liberty from Frank Leslie newspaper, July 2, 1887Earlier this week, the Hudson Institute released a new study by John Fonte and Althea Nagai looking at political and patriotic assimilation by naturalized citizens. Comparing the answers given in a survey by naturalized Americans with those of native-born citizens, Fonte and Nagai found that there exists a substantial gap between the two groups of citizens in their patriotic attachment and civic knowledge.

Here are some of their findings:

    • By 21 percentage points (65% to 44%), native-born citizens are more likely than naturalized immigrants to view America as “better” than other countries as opposed, to “no better, no worse.”
    • By about 30 points (85% to 54%), the native-born are more likely to consider themselves American citizens rather than “citizens of the world.
    • By 30 points (67% to 37%), the native-born are more likely to believe that the U.S. Constitution is a higher legal authority for Americans than international law.
    • By roughly 31 points (81% to 50%), the native-born are more likely than immigrant citizens to believe that schools should focus on American citizenship rather than ethnic pride.
    • By roughly 15 points (77% to 62%), the native-born are more likely to believe that that there is a unique American culture that defines what it means to be an American.
    • By 15 points (82% to 67%), the native-born are more likely than immigrant citizens to support an emphasis in schools on learning about the nation’s founding documents.

What does all this mean? In a blog post at National Review’s “The Corner,” Fonte provides some insight:

First of all, this gap should not be blamed on the immigrants. It is our fault, not theirs. For about 40 years since the 1970s, we have been sending the wrong message to newcomers. American elites (in universities, schools, the media, philanthropic organizations, corporations, government, and law) have promoted multiculturalism and ethnic-gender-linguistic group consciousness at the expense of Americanization, patriotic integration, and individual citizenship.

Beyond simply promoting multicultural ideology, progressive elites (with acquiescence and often vigorous support from major corporations) have established an administrative-legal regime that enforces ethnic-gender group proportionalism. Today, immigrants are being assimilated into this multicultural regime. Government agencies designed to assist immigrant integration are, in fact, bastions of multiculturalism and bilingualism.

For example, in Illinois, a governor’s task force tells state agencies to establish comprehensive “linguistic and cultural [i.e., multicultural] competency training” for all state staff and to recruit bilingual teachers from Spain. Massachusetts rejects the idea of “pushing children to learn English as quickly as possible.” Maryland promotes the maintenance of immigrants’ birth languages to preserve the “core identities” of immigrant children. Indiana supports the use of curricula that “reflect the culture, values, interests, and concerns of language minority students.”

Could one imagine early 20th-century progressives such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson importing Italian- and Polish-language teachers to promote bilingual education among American immigrant children? Or changing school curricula to emphasize Italian and Polish ethnic studies over American history and government?

One hundred years ago, the levels of large-scale immigration meant major demographic changes in the United States. Polish and Sicilian peasants, Jewish immigrants from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, the Greeks and Lebanese from the Levant, and many others represented immigrants as different in perception (ethnically, culturally, religiously, linguistically) from the native-born of 1913 as today’s immigrants do from the native-born of 2013. The response of America’s leadership class to the “changing demographics” of 1913 was not multiculturalism, bilingualism, group preferences, affirmative action, ethnic studies, and diversity training, but Americanization and patriotic assimilation by schools, universities, corporations, the press, and all the leading institutions.

Instead, what has happened today is that, for decades, our leading institutions, especially the federal government, have created barriers to patriotic integration. We are told repeatedly that our immigration system is “broken.” Yes, but our patriotic assimilation system is also “broken,” and any solution for immigration would have to fix the assimilation component as well. Real immigration reform would mean serious, comprehensive assimilation reform.

Read the entire study here.

Related: Be sure to check out David Feith’s profile of UNO Charter Schools in Chicago, a school system serving a largely Hispanic population in which patriotic assimilation is heavily emphasized.

AEI