I am very much concerned about the fact that, annually, over a million people come into the United States legally, a quarter million more come in under refugee status, and a million or more come in here illegally. That is what I call massive immigration. I say it is massive because, in the heyday of immigration into this country during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the highest number of immigrants coming, in any given year, was about 200,000. We are six times that amount today, and that is legally. We would go up 10 or 12 times that amount, if we add all the illegal immigration into the country.
There are ramifications to that massive immigration, and I want to talk about one ramification in particular. It deals with the degree to which we are able to integrate newly arrived immigrants into the American mainstream and make them a part of the American experience in every sense of the word.
It is disquieting to find information, some anecdotal, some empirical, that deals with the degree to which recent immigrants into this country actually have not attached themselves to the American ideal.
In the past, immigrants did attach themselves to the American experience. Immigrants did want, in fact, to become Americans in every sense of the word, not just in terms of the ability to achieve a measure of economic prosperity. What I am talking about is the matter of patriotism--love of the country, willingness to defend it, association with it, a feeling of being part of the American experience. That is changing, I think; and I will get into exactly why I believe that is the case.
Let me preface it by explaining my own family's experience. My grandparents came here in the late 1800s, 1890 actually. So I am not what one would call a longterm immigrant. I am a relatively shorttermer here. My great great grandparents did not come over on the Mayflower or anything near it. The members of my family are relatively new to the country.
When I went to school, it was in North Denver, in a small and relatively impoverished area, at a small parochial school, in which I learned about my country's heroes. I learned who I was by studying the history books that I was given. And I also learned about what my parents said about America.
In my whole life, I never ever thought of myself as anything but an American. When I thought of my heritage, and who were the heroes of my past, I thought of Washington and Adams and Jefferson, and I connected with them immediately. I never thought of myself as anything but an American with that kind of heritage. I am happy about that because I believe that is exactly what immigrants should do and what they should become, people connected to America in every sense of the word.
I have a feeling that this is not happening, as regards recent immigrants. Many of us have had anecdotal experiences that would lead us to believe that many immigrants today are not as well steeped in American history and not as well connected with America as perhaps our ancesters were.
One anecdotal part. The Washington Post interviewed a middle-class Muslim American immigrant family from New Jersey and reported that, for Kahr and her husband (taxpayers, registered voters, and law-abiding citizens), assimilation is not a goal. The Washington Post article stated that Kahr, who came to the U.S.A. from Syria when she was 12, 17 years ago, would soon graduate from Seton Hall law school. However, this well-educated woman opposed America's war efforts against the Taliban in Afghanistan and declared that "throughout history, Muslims will always be separate."
While that is the anecdotal thing--and there are literally hundreds of those kind of stories--there are studies that have been done. Empirical evidence suggests that Kahr's views are not unique. In what Islamic expert Daniel Pipes has described as perhaps the most sophisticated study to date of Muslims in the United States, an Iranian doctoral student at Harvard University found that a majority of immigrants he surveyed felt more allegiance to a foreign country than to the United States.
This article goes on to say that this ambivalence about American identity is not confined to Muslim immigrants and their children. The most comprehensive evidence we have on patriotic assimilation of the children of immigrants is a longitudinal study by the Russell Sage Foundation, a study of 5,000 children of immigrants, mostly Mexican-American and Filipino-American teenagers. The study concluded that, after four years of American high school, the students were 50 percent more likely to consider themselves "Mexicans or Filipinos than they were to consider themselves Mexican-Americans or Filipino-Americans or just plain Americans."
In other words, patriotic assimilation, or self-identification within the American nation, actually decreased and decreased dramatically after four years of studying in American high schools. That should not surprise too many people when we go on to recognize exactly what has been happening in American colleges and universities and in our K-12 school system. The philosophy of cultural relativism has seeped into the school system. According to cultural relativism, all peoples and cultures are the same; they are all equal.
If we combine cultural relativism with massive immigration, we can see what kind of problems are going to develop. When we do not teach children about America, be they immigrant children or nativeborn children, they will not understand America.
I was a teacher for many years. I was regional director of the U.S. Department of Education. It is absolutely evident to anyone who has worked in the field of education that, in order to have children appreciate certain things, we must teach them about it. A child does not walk into school appreciating fine art. A child does not walk into school appreciating fine poetry, not even sciences; and they have to be taught the value and beauty of these things. They have to be encouraged. We have to find that spark in every child and ignite it and say there is an excitement to learning and here is what the child should be learning.
We have to teach them about America because they will not walk into schools with an innate understanding of and appreciation for their country. It will not happen without proper teaching. However, not only do we not teach them about America, but a lot of what we do tell them is harmful.
At a central Michigan university, for example, a school administrator told several students to remove patriotic posters and an American flag in their domitory. A residential adviser said the pro-American items were "offensive."
At San Diego State University, an Ethiopian student overheard four Saudi Arabian students speak approving of the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the New York World Trade Center. When he scolded them in Arabic, they complained to the school. In a response, the University judicial officer threatened to suspend or expel Kebede, the gentleman who was challenging these students who were excited over the terrorist bombings on September 11, 2001.
At Pennsylvania State University, a professor was told that his website, which advocated military action against terrorists, was "insensitive, and perhaps even threatening." Under Penn State's speech code, intimidating language is ground for dismissal.
At a Florida Gulf Coast university, Dean of Library Services Kathlene Hoeth demanded that employees remove "proud to be American" stickers from their work areas.
At the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, a professor is under investigation for "harassment" after he told a female student that he supported U.S. military action in Afghanistan. The student said the position made her feel "uncomfortable."
A Roxbury, New Jersey, school superintendent who ordered signs with the slogan "God Bless America" be taken down, said he was merely trying to be fair to those who refer to God as "Allah" and other names.
Librarians at Florida State University have been told not to wear "I am proud to be an American" stickers.
A Los Angeles educator tells the news media that he has no intention of flying the American flag. "I grew up suspicious of the flag," he says. "it meant Rightwing politics. It meant arrogance. It meant, we are the greatest."
At Marquette University, undergraduates were blocked from holding a moment of silence around the American flag. The gesture, the University President's advisor felt, might be offensive to foreign students.
At Lehigh University, the Vice Provost for Student Affairs initially reacted to the September 11 tragedy by banning the display of the American flag. A Lehigh spokesman explained the idea was to keep from offending some of the students.
When officials at Arizona State University removed the American flag from a school cafeteria out of fear that it might offend international students, Syrian immigrant Oubai Shahbandar introduced a bill in the Student Senate paving the way for the flag's return. His bill was defeated.
Professer Jensen at the University of Houston pronounced that "my primary anger is directed at the leaders of this country. The attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center are no more despicable than the massive acts of terrorism, the deliberate killing of victims for political purposes that the U.S. government has committed in my lifetime. We are just as guilty."
University of New Mexico professor Richard Berthold bluntly declared, "anyone who would blow up the Pentagon would get my vote."
This is what America's young people are being taught. Are we surprised then that students write things like this? "We sponsor dictators who maim, we defend corporations that enslave, and then we have the arrogance to pretend we are safe and untouchable," said West Virginia University student Joshua Greene.
"In the light of the current destructive nationalism that calls for war," a Duke University student opined, "the sight of the American flag burning would be preferable to its display."
All these things matter, and they are undercurrents of a philosophy that will do great harm to the United States. You combine this cultural relativism with massive immigration, with people coming into this country who are not inculcated into the American mainstream, who are coming at such great numbers that we cannot begin to even do that, and they are being encouraged when they come here not to accept American ideals, but to think of us as the enemy, to think of themselves as separate from the American mainstream, we have a serious threat to the American nation.
Immigrants' rejection of American ideals, their feelings of separation from the American mainstream and their disloyalty to the United States, are encouraged by our institutions of higher education and our K-12 schools throughout the country. Also encouraging such attitudes and beliefs are many members of the media. In addition, there is William Jefferson Clinton, ex-president of the United States, who, not too long ago, stood up in front of a group of people and said that what happened to us on Septembert 11 was our fault.
Mr. Clinton only exacerbates this problem. That kind of thinking, of course, is indicative of the problem.
It is going to get worse. And I suggest we have to deal with this issue on a variety of fronts. We should certainly deal with it in our local school systems. I wish our schools, every school board in America, would look at and carefully analyze their curriculum to determine the extent to which we are teaching about the American experience and appreciation of who and what we are, because, I reiterate, children do not come to school with some innate knowledge of that.
Certainly they are not going to learn it from TV or from the movies. They are not going to learn to appreciate the American experience from any aspect of the pop culture. The only place we can hope they are learning it is either in school or in their homes.
But if the parents of these children do not care, or are antagonistic, as many of the immigrant parents are, to American culture and American history, and if the schools do not teach children about who we are and what we are and how to appreciate our freedom, then what is the hope that we will maintain our common American nationhood and our constitutional democratic political institutions in the future?
Political Culture, Patriotism, & American National Identity
Thomas G. Tancredo is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the Sixth Congressional District of Colorado.
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