Tom Humphrey has this legislative roundup.

The lede is about a stupid and illegal bill that would require drug testing of anyone receiving public assistance. Even though he knows it is prohibited by federal law, the sponsor (Knoxville Sen. Tim Burchett) wants to send a message that people should be getting a job instead of laying around smoking pot on the taxpayer's dime. It's hard to argue with that, and I'm sure it will have wide appeal among the folks back home even if it is illegal (and how much would it cost and who would pay for it and how prevalent is the problem?), so I don't have much to say about that.

But the second item is about a measure that would require driver's license testing in English only. According to the article, the bill's sponsor (Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro) says it's "the first step in protecting the sovereignty of our country." Say what? But I guess that will play well back home, too.

Have these folks considered that there are lots of legal immigrants right here in Tennessee? Yes, it's true! They're among us! Some of them are Japanese who work for Denso right here in Blount County. There are Iraqi expats in Nashville. Oh, yeah, there are some Mexicans, too. Some of them here illegally, but plenty here legally. And some of these people don't speak English!

The article notes that the tests are currently given in Spanish, Korean and Japanese. What exactly is this bill supposed to accomplish besides "protecting the sovereignty of our country"? I guess it will help ensure more unlicensed and uninsured motorists on Tennessee roads.

Scott Emge's picture

Randy, I'll have to respectfully disagree

Randy,

I'll have to respectfully disagree with you here. I think it's an excellent idea to require English only drivers license testing. As far as the Japanese at Denso are concerned, all are required to know a certain amount of English; some are more proficient than others. Not all try to get drivers licenses because they carpool. But all Japanese management at Denso is required to know and speak English. I know this because I have a relative that has worked at Denso for 17 years.

"Oh, yeah, there are some Mexicans, too. Some of them here illegally, but plenty here legally. And some of these people don't speak English!"
I don't think anyone can ascertain how many of these are here legally, but I would feel safe betting my lunch money that the majority are here illegally. The overwhelming majority of illegal aliens in Tennessee are from Mexico. I'm sorry but it's true. It may make some feel better to refer to them as immigrants, but their correct classification is illegal alien. They have entered this country and stay here in violation of our entry and immigration laws.

The reality is that we are being over run by illegal aliens...mainly from Mexico. The Mexican Government actively and openly encourages it's most impoverished and it's most violent criminal element to sneak into our country. This is a win/win for Mexico. Their police don't have to deal with gang members once they are on our soil. Their economy benefits from the dollars sent back to Mexico from the illegal aliens here in the U.S. and they don't have to provide any services to these poor folks. The U.S taxpayer does.

Is it a terrible thing to require legal immigrants to learn to speak our language and take a driver's test in English? I don't think so. Illegal aliens should not even be given the privilege to legally drive. They should be deported.

Socialist With A Gold Card's picture

The bait

Is it a terrible thing to require legal immigrants to learn to speak our language and take a driver's test in English? I don't think so. Illegal aliens should not even be given the privilege to legally drive. They should be deported.

Scott, by making this argument, you've taken Ketron's bait. His bill has nothing to do with immigration, legal or otherwise, but that's the debate he's trying to provoke, in a backhanded, nationalistic, xenophobic kind of way. I mean, for heaven's sake, what does a driver's license have to do with "national sovereignty"? Such code words are right-wing shorthand for anti-foreign xenophobia and racism. It's cut from the same cloth as the recently vetoed "English Only" bill which bubbled up from the depths of Davidson County.

That's one dark corner we do not want to turn. Don't take the bait.

We need to deal with the immigration problem in this country in a meaningful way, but proposals such as this only pander to fear.

--Socialist With A Gold Card


"I'm a socialist with a gold card. I firmly believe we need a revolution; I'm just concerned that I won't be able to get good moisturizer afterwards." -- Brett Butler

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Unable to read?

Well, as a matter of safety, I'll chime in with Scott. I can't imagine trying to navigate Tennessee's interstate system, or maybe even it's less-traveled byways, unable to read the street signage.

Do you suppose immigrants unable to read English are likely to carry liability insurance, as the law requires (I'm asking)?

Socialist With A Gold Card's picture

Language

As far as the reading thing is concerned, I've driven thousands of miles across various countries in Europe without incident, and my only language is English. The street signs are not only in languages foreign to me, the symbols used on those signs are sometimes radically different from those used in the States. A little reading beforehand on the street signs used in other countries has always been good enough for me; I've never had an accident, caused one, or gotten even a sideways glance from a cop. The inability of someone to read road signs is a red herring.

As a matter of fact, basic literacy is not a requirement for a driver's license in this state (or any other state, as far as I know). So, if someone who can't read in any language can be allowed to drive, what is the point of discriminating against people who don't read English in particular? The answer is simple: it's anti-immigrant xenophobia couched in other terms.

As I mentioned before, this bill has nothing to do with immigration, but that's what Ketron wants it to be about. If someone has a driver's license in Tennessee, they're required to carry insurance. The status of their immigration papers has nothing to do with it.

I'll turn the question around: how many US citizens living in Tennessee do you suppose don't have liability insurance? I bet the number is higher than the number of immigrants without coverage. This is another red herring.

Ketron is trying to stoke up anti-immigrant sentiment, plain and simple.

--Socialist With A Gold Card


"I'm a socialist with a gold card. I firmly believe we need a revolution; I'm just concerned that I won't be able to get good moisturizer afterwards." -- Brett Butler

presleylopez777@yahoo.com's picture

I have to say I agree with

I have to say I agree with you on the driver's license issue... legal or illegal I think everyone that is going to be driving on our streets needs a drivers license and insurance... immigrants dont come here for drivers licenses they come here to work... people are sooo stupid! Gov. bredeson is an idiot too... he should have charged them an extra fine made them report insurance every month and he might not have been way under budget for the year like he is... WE NEED ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTs whether you like it or not...They help our economy in alot of ways... Im sure if they could get their green card they would... they just havent had the opportunity to do so!!!!!!!!! Our immigration systems sucks here!

R. Neal's picture

Scott, re. the Denso

Scott, re. the Denso employees, in our last neighborhood we had a Japanese neighbor who worked there. The husband/manager at Denso could speak enough English to get by (he could speak a lot more English than I could Japanese). His wife, however, didn't speak any English. What about her? Should she not be allowed to drive?

Is it a terrible thing to require legal immigrants to learn to speak our language and take a driver's test in English?

Basic proficiency in English is already a requirement for citizenship. There are millions of other legal immigrants, though, who are here legally on work visas and such who aren't required to speak English unless they decide to stay and apply for citizenship. What about them?

mpower1952's picture

Sovereignty, Schmovereignty

But the second item is about a measure that would require driver's license testing in English only. According to the article, the bill's sponsor (Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro) says it's "the first step in protecting the sovereignty of our country."

We all know how important our country's sovereignty is. Our fearless leader has opined on this topic with his usual resolve and clarity.

"Tribal sovereignty means that; it's sovereign. I mean, you're a — you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities." —President Bush, Washington, D.C., Aug. 6, 2004

OK then. :)

Be a blessing to someone today.

USAGlobalist's picture

Randy is Correct

I am a proud USA citizen on an assignment in Shanghai, China. I got my Chinese drivers license by taking a test in English here locally. I don't think the Chinese are afraid that their sovereignty is at risk because people here can take a driving test in English.
This situation in Knoxville is really is a reflective comment about the world and the USA in general. While traveling the world I have seen governments working within their country and with their industrial base to help make their country more globally competitive and to help their citizens economically. In the USA we are doing little along these lines; in fact, situations like this clearly show we are turning our back on the world and trying desperately to pretend there is nothing outside of our borders.
The world is rapidly growing around us, and if we do not figure out how to work together and to work globally we are going to lose our place as a major economy and country in the world. We have got to open up and work the global opportunities available to the USA. We need to embrace and learn different cultures. Yes, we need to maintain English as our language, but we need to accept the fact that we have neighbors and we need to work with them and learn about them.
We need, among many other things, to get smarter about insuring our industry has a level playing field. I would rather see us spending our intellectual energy figuring out how to make other countries as open to importing USA goods as we are open to importing global goods, instead of debating offering driving tests only in English. We are not at risk of losing our sovereignty by offering a driving test in another language, but we are at risk of losing our sovereignty if we cannot be competitive in the global arena.

talidapali's picture

Amen...

USAGlobalist...preach it honey!

SmileyCentral.com

"You can't fix stupid..." ~ Ron White"

"I never said I wasn't a brat..." ~ Talidapali

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Trying to extrapolate...

USAGlobalist: "I am a proud USA citizen on an assignment in Shanghai, China."

Now, I'm not entrenched in any opinion, here, so don't pounce on me. Gold Card is convincing WRT her ability to navigate the road in a foreign language and Globalist is persuasive, too, but...

Globalist, what I'm pondering is the extent to which English is spoken around the world, due largely to the fact that it is the dominant language spoken in our own geographically large and powerful nation.

If you took your driving test in English in China, though, am I correct to assume that you do not speak Chinese, but that you are nevertheless able to conduct in English the business you are presently undertaking in China?

If so, is your experience in China truly a parallel WRT the experience a Latino immigrant might have here in the US? That is, although he or she is able to take a Spanish driving test here, it is *not* currently the case that he or she can reasonably expect to then conduct work-related business here in Spanish. For the present, English remains our dominant language.

Isn't it the case, then, that your own globalist work experience *has* been aided by the circumstance of English being the "sovereign" language of the world?

What, then, are the implications of our accommodating Latino immigrants with a Spanish driving test, only to subsequently throw them into this cultural den of English-speaking lions in the workplace (and perhaps elsewhere) that exists presently?

It would seem that our only two options on behalf of these real and theoretical Latino workers are to 1) agree that a multi-lingual workplace in the US is an appropriate next-step, affording them equal opportunity to success, or 2) agree that a single-language workplace is our goal, thus relegating non-English speaking immigrants to a second-class status in the workplace, at least until they learn English.

Extrapolating, then, would a multi-lingual workplace actually reduce the power of the US in our domestic and our global economies? Would it actually limit our ability to engage in global commerce, given our present advantage of speaking the world's dominant language? Conversely, what measure exists or might exist to avoid relagating non-English speaking immigrants to second-class status in the US workplace?

My thoughts are that the sovereignty of our language *has* enabled, to a large degree, the sovereignty of our nation commercially, and that the sovereignty of our nation impacts our lives every single day.

Isn't this question, then, about a lot more than how one obtains a driver's license? Wouldn't we be naive *not* to consider the broader implicatons of public policy that might ultimately erode our position of power and undermine our ability to navigate the world, confident that others will work to understand *our* language?

Just asking...

Socialist With A Gold Card's picture

Gold Card is convincing WRT

Gold Card is convincing WRT her ability

That would be "his" ability, madam. ;-)

That is, although he or she is able to take a Spanish driving test here, it is *not* currently the case that he or she can reasonably expect to then conduct work-related business here in Spanish.

And herein lies the problem: if non-English-speaking people are prevented from obtaining even the most basic means of transportation, how can they be expected to assimilate into the larger culture in any meaningful, productive way? Disenfranchising immigrants from even holding a steady job (which is what this proposal would do, regardless of the status of their immigration papers) would permanently relegate them to the second-class status they already hold.

As an employee of a multinational corporation, I see the benefits of a multilingual workforce every day of my life. Of course, anyone who hopes to succeed in the US must eventually learn English, as would be the case for an American living and working abroad. But a multilingual workforce in no way diminishes the "sovereignty" of our nation or "erodes our position of power"; it enhances it. Expecting (or requiring) everyone else to "understand *our* language" is the kind of monolithic arrogance that gives US businesses a bad reputation around the world; the French used to have that attitude when their language dominated both business and diplomacy, and look what happened to them.

We need to stop thinking that way, and instead learn to adapt to a world in which English is the dominant (but by no means exclusive) language of business. Having native speakers of Spanish, Chinese, German, French, or Portuguese will only strengthen us as a nation.

"Sovereignty" is not eroded by diversity; it is enhanced by it.

--Socialist With A Gold Card


"I'm a socialist with a gold card. I firmly believe we need a revolution; I'm just concerned that I won't be able to get good moisturizer afterwards." -- Brett Butler

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Can you extrapolate?

Gold Card: "That would be "his" ability, madam. ;-)"

A man who quotes Brett Butler? How refreshing!

I am not insensitive to this problem of an English-only drivers license thwarting immigrants' goals of bettering themselves here, and I acknowledged it in my text.

However, you chide me for the arrogance of my concern that English remains the dominant language, here and abroad, (and I readily concede that it *is* an arrogant concern), yet your own embrace of a multi-lingual workplace reveals that you depend on that outcome. You say...

Gold Card: "...Of course, anyone who hopes to succeed in the US must eventually learn English..." and also "...We need to stop thinking that way, and instead learn to adapt to a world in which English is the dominant (but by no means exclusive) language of business."

Can you extrapolate, as I tried to, to explain how it is you believe this current trend would *not* bring about the diminution of the English language?

Socialist With A Gold Card's picture

Diminution? How do you see

Diminution? How do you see the English language being diminished by accommodating non-English-speaking immigrants for the most basic of services? I just don't see how it would happen. Countries around the world provide basic services in the language of the local community every day without sacrificing the mother tongue.

French isn't diminished by providing services in Arabic to Arabic communities in France, nor is German diminished by providing local services in Turkish to Turkish communities in Germany. English (and the US) should be no different toward our immigrants.

We've been a nation of immigrants since the beginning; I don't think we were diminished in any way by the 19th century waves of immigrants from China, Mexico, Poland, Italy, or Germany. Those waves made us stronger, and the current one will too. I fail to see the distinction between today's immigration patterns and those of the Ellis Island era.

I'd like to get back to the language of Ketron's bill, in which this xenophobic "English Only" claptrap somehow preserves "national sovereignty." The last time I checked, "sovereignty" still meant "free from outside domination." How on Earth would accommodating non-English-speaking immigrants for the most basic of services somehow surrender our "sovereignty" to another power?

Just who is it we're supposed to be afraid of here? Mexico? Give me a break.

More to the point, just exactly what threat do minority languages pose to "national identity" (which is what Ketron's bill is really about)? Be careful how you answer, because you'll run the risk of sounding like this guy.

For now, and for at least the next several decades, English will remain the dominant language of business around the world. This is due only in part to the rise of the US as a post-War economic power; it's also been fueled by the integration of Europe, in which both French and German were explicitly rejected by the itty bitty countries as the dominant language of commerce across the pond. Belgium, The Netherlands, et al., have spent several centuries being dominated by the French and the Germans, so they adopted English as the primary language of business as a rejection of the growing Franco-German axis within the European economy. As the EU became a reality, English was already in place as the dominant language of bidniss, and it has spread as the EU has spread.

I've overheard business meetings in Greece, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and a lot of other places, in which no participant is a native English speaker, yet the entire meeting is conducted in English. That in no way compromises the integrity or primacy of Greek in Greece, or Danish in Denmark. Multilingualism is a skill we would do well to foster in this country, not squelch.

There may come a day in which the dominant language of business is Chinese, or Hindi, or Arabic, or Spanish. Should we then stubbornly hold on to "English Only" as a pale reminder of faded dominance, or should we adapt to changing times to avoid becoming irrelevant?

"English Only" initiatives such as Ketron's smack of Canute railing against the tide, and they pander to the worst kind of nationalistic chauvinism.

As a country, let's not go there.

--Socialist With A Gold Card


"I'm a socialist with a gold card. I firmly believe we need a revolution; I'm just concerned that I won't be able to get good moisturizer afterwards." -- Brett Butler

LadyVols's picture

I'll have to respectfully

I'll have to respectfully disagree with you here. I think it's an excellent idea to require English only drivers license testing."

We can't include all "other" languages in our testing because of the cost. At this point we should include SPANISH because of the numbers of Spanish speaking people now living in our country. It has nothing to do with being an American but it has everything to do with giving the poor a way to drive to work. Even the right wingers should understand that?

Scott Emge's picture

I'm not a right winger but...

It has nothing to do with being an American but it has everything to do with giving the poor a way to drive to work. Even the right wingers should understand that?

If "the poor" you are referring to are those in our country illegally (a.k.a violating our law), regardless of what country they are from, they don't deserve the right to work or legally drive here.

LadyVols's picture

they don't deserve the right

they don't deserve the right to work or legally drive here."

Everyone deserves the right to feed their children and in this state and country if you don't drive you are going to find working a very hard thing to do.

We (Americans) must realize those people are already here, they work for us and they are the reason we have beautiful brick homes and crack free driveways..not to mention food on our table. If we can't get past that old right wing attitude and let them take their driving tests in their language then we will all suffer.

Scott Emge's picture

I guess we'll have to just agree to disagree

We (Americans) must realize those people are already here, they work for us and they are the reason we have beautiful brick homes and crack free driveways..not to mention food on our table.

I guess we'll have to just agree to disagree. I think you're reasoning is somewhat of a cop out. Just because illegals provide cheap labor so that their employers make higher profits doesn't get around the fact that they are breaking th law. And because they can mulch yards and provide nanny/maid service cheaply for our upper income citizens doesn't change this fact either. I'm sure the MS13 gang members spreading through Tennessee appreciate all the sympathy the ilegal community is recieving.

I have a feeling if the flood of illegals were doctors, lawyers, and other white collar professionals setting up shop here and undercutting wages for American professionals, attititudes might be different.

R. Neal's picture

I don't think many people

I don't think many people would argue that illegal immigration is a problem. But how does requiring English Only solve it? Considering what some of these people go through to get here, English Only is a minor inconvenience and hardly a deterrent. So why punish legal immigrants?

R. Neal's picture

P.S. Scott, there is a whole

P.S. Scott, there is a whole series of other legislation, most of which that makes a lot more sense and actually addresses the problems you are talking about. See here:

(link...)

(There's still some silliness, but overall common sense stuff that you would think was already the law.)

Sven's picture

So why punish legal

So why punish legal immigrants?

And why are we assuming everyone with limited English proficiency is an immigrant, legal or otherwise?

Sven's picture

I can't imagine trying to

I can't imagine trying to navigate Tennessee's interstate system, or maybe even it's less-traveled byways, unable to read the street signage.

Hmmm. I've driven the Autobahn without incident, and I understand neither German or that funky measurement system they use in Yurp. I must be a genius.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

You *are* a genuis, Sven

Sven: "I must be a genius.

I've followed your posts, Sven, and I'm convinced you *are* a genuis. Will you engage me, then, in this quandry I'm stuck in?

I've conceded, for all my Knoxviews peers to critique, my sentiment that I am unabashedly content to exist in the lingual majority of my nation and my world. I've shared my suspicion that my majority position WRT the language of my birth has enriched my life tremendously, and I've conceded, too, that I would be frightend to lose my position of superiority and advantage.

I'm not asking you to to join me in my very public embarrassment by conceding that you harbor the same concern. Just answer my concern, like you would answer that of a small child, that my position of lingual superiority might be diminished by the perpetuation of a multi-lingual trend in my country.

Thus far, Gold Card (whom I understand may not be reading along just this minute) has not yet explained why he believes English will remain the dominant language of the US and the world...but he makes clear that he depends on that outcome.

Socialist With A Gold Card's picture

Thus far, Gold Card (whom I

Thus far, Gold Card (whom I understand may not be reading along just this minute) has not yet explained why he believes English will remain the dominant language of the US and the world...but he makes clear that he depends on that outcome.

No, Tamara, I don't depend on that outcome. If some other language were to arise as the dominant tongue of international business, I'd have to learn it just like everyone else. My point about a multilingual workforce is that it makes my employer more competitive in the global marketplace. If we stubbornly adhered to some bizarre "English Only" policy, we'd lose out on a lot of business.

All this has very little to do with the effect of immigrants on the language spoken inside the country's borders, though. See my other reply above about the 19th century influx of immigrants.

When people move, they adapt; it is always thus. Immigrants to this country eventually learn English (or their kids do). If we end up with a sizable minority that speaks Spanish (or Swahili, or whatever), how does that diminish us? I fail to understand the problem here. Is it fear of outsiders, fear of change, or whut? In what way is Spanish a threat to your sense of national identity or (as you put it) superiority and advantage?

I'm genuinely scratchin' my head here, Tamara. I don't understand the problem. I do understand Ketron's thinly disguised racism, but I get the impression that's not what's motivating you.

Frankly, I doubt seriously that you'll ever have to be fluent in Spanish to hold a job, or go to Kroger, or attend church, or educate your child, at least in Tennessee. But it would probably do your kids some good to learn to communicate with their peers in whatever language is necessary. That's a competitive edge, not a disadvantage. It's a benefit, not a compromise of "superiority."

Europeans make fun of us for our monolingual culture. They see us as basically uneducated rubes because we speak only English (and that rather poorly). Every Dutch schoolkid of the last 50 years has had anywhere from 8 to 12 years of English, and by the time the Dutch reach high school, all of their textbooks are in English. They still speak Dutch fluently, and are under no risk of forgetting their first language. So why is Spanish such a threat here, and why is the administration of a driver's license test in Spanish a diminution of sovereignty?

--Socialist With A Gold Card


"I'm a socialist with a gold card. I firmly believe we need a revolution; I'm just concerned that I won't be able to get good moisturizer afterwards." -- Brett Butler

Tamara Shepherd's picture

No thank you, tad

Thank you, tad and Gold Card, for your lengthy and thoughtful posts.

So tad concedes a trend toward multi-lingualism could, in fact, lead to the cessation of English as our dominant national language, but that doesn't worry her. You, Gold Card, acknowledge the possiblity that English might cease to be a dominant language just in international business, but you don't expect that outcome as to English spoken here at home. (And Sven, you're off track, dear--I got away from the subject of drivers' licenses a couple of posts back, really ;-))

Well, let me first offer this disclaimer: I have not, in fact, lived a "white bread" existence. I lived in Texas and New Mexico for ten years as a child, and I lived in California for six years as an adult. I have lived among Latino immigrants, then, for sixteen years of my life.

Maybe it's because of that life experience that I sense so keenly this change in the climate of immigration. Unlike tad, I *am* threatened to think that my language and, to the extent that language bears my culture, my very way of life are recently under attack.

A recent wave of immigrants seems more demanding of *their* culture than were any who preceded them. I'm sure you recall those newspaper photos recently of rallies at which throngs of immigrants, legal and illegal, waved Mexican flags? And this from a population whose native government imprisons illegal immigrants for a minimum of ten years? Yes, you can count me among the majority of Americans who bristled at their audacity. Surely those pictures differ vastly from any of Ellis Island a century ago!

It's true enough that the immigrants of a century ago made our nation stronger. Perhaps the biggest step they took toward that task, and promptly, was to learn our language. So what happened to the notion that immigrants would assimilate *our* language and culture? When did it start to be that our responsibility was to assimilate theirs?

I admire the courage of the emigrant who looks forward, not back. I'm optimistic for his success, and I will assist him in many ways. But as the number of immigrants, legal and illegal, multiplies exponentially in this nation, and as the time they require to assimilate grows longer (I think especially of the burden to our public schools), I am increasingly aware that somewhere, there is a line to be drawn, past which this population must cease demanding entitlements.

As to drivers' licences, as any convicted drunk driver has learned, driving is not a right, it's a privilege. Let's not fail to distinguish between the two.

Socialist With A Gold Card's picture

Tamara, this all sounds way

Tamara, this all sounds way too familiar; conflict and exaggeration of "threats" have always been part of the immigration scene in this country:

From the early days, there were those (in places like Boston) who viewed the Irish as slothful, violent, naturally stupid, culturally and religiously barbaric and a danger to society if too many were to gather in one place. As in Britain, Irish immigrants either lacked skills for better jobs or were openly discriminated against. "No Irish Need Apply" signs were plentiful in many places of employment along the eastern seaboard, especially in New England.

The English Only movement depends on fears like those you've expressed for their toxic xenophobia to take root. Your use of phrases like "under attack" suggests that you're buying into it.

The foreign-born population of the US might be as high as 10%. Big whoop. This is a lot lower than the 14% level during the Ellis Island days, but the images of large crowds on TV certainly makes it seem larger, and it makes the fear of outsiders easier to exploit.

No solution to the immigration problem can start from a position of fear or exaggerated threat.

--Socialist With A Gold Card


"I'm a socialist with a gold card. I firmly believe we need a revolution; I'm just concerned that I won't be able to get good moisturizer afterwards." -- Brett Butler

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Impact on schools

I'll re-read my post, Gold Card, but I don't think I disparaged any nationality or race. The comments I intended were to disparage an *attitude*, maybe prevalant among multiple groups, that linguistic assimilation is no longer a requirement of residency here.

I'm in a hurry right now (I'm helping my daughter with homework and she's up too late), but I'll share with you sometime soon my experiences volunteering to tutor immigrants in KC elementary schools. Suffice to say, the single largest handicap these children suffer is that too many of their parents have made no attempt to learn our language. A second handicap they suffer is that their families often come and go--not just from Knoxville, but from the US--quite abruptly. The same children sometimes pop in and out of our classrooms repeatedly in the course of a single year!

The burden on schools to find, then switch about, the teachers law requires we provide for them is tremendous. So is the burden to enable this population to "pass" under No Child Left Behind guidelines. Whole schools and school systems are suffering. Take a quick look at our TN State Report Card to understand. Davidson County's school population is now 12% English Language Learners.

More later.

mpower1952's picture

Just something to think about

A recent wave of immigrants seems more demanding of *their* culture than were any who preceded them. I'm sure you recall those newspaper photos recently of rallies at which throngs of immigrants, legal and illegal, waved Mexican flags?

Have you ever seen a NY St. Patrick's Day parade?

On March 17th, the saying is "Everyone's Irish."

Be a blessing to someone today.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

To mpower

Yes, I've lived in several large cities, including six years in East Los Angeles, where my block was largely Turks and Armenians (yes, there was gunfire) and the Guardian Angels kept a lid on tensions.

I've also lived ten years in Dallas and Abilene, Texas and in Albuquerque, New Mexico (which is why I can spell it).

More later.

talidapali's picture

I've lived...

in Albuquerque too...most of the people I knew out there only knew how to spell it because of Weird Al Yankovic.

gimme an A-L-B-U-....QUERQUE!!!

Seriously though, I never once had a problem communicating with anyone because I didn't speak Spanish so well and they didn't speak English so well. Shop owners and business people make it their business to never let language stand in the way of making a living...neither should anyone else. Don't be afraid of immigrants, remember they are probably more scared than you will ever be. Hell, they are hundreds or thousands of miles from home and they know no one, and they don't even speak the language sometimes.

Think how you would feel if you were stuck in say...Mongolia. Wouldn't you hope and pray that someone there would care enough about their fellow human beings to try to help you? Instead of hating these people and treating them like sub-humans, why not try to be a friend to them? Or is true Christian compassion so far beyond us now that Jesus would not know any of us at all?

"You can't fix stupid..." ~ Ron White"

"I never said I wasn't a brat..." ~ Talidapali

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Jwaly in the balance

talidalapi: "Wouldn't you hope and pray that someone there would care enough about their fellow human beings to try to help you? Instead of hating these people and treating them like sub-humans, why not try to be a friend to them?"

Wow! Are you speed-reading through my posts, tali? That I lived 16 years in the southwest, six of those on the Mean Streets of East LA? That I've tutored immigrants at Powell Elementary in more recent years? Maybe I failed to mention that I took my A.A. from Los Angeles City College, where I was sometimes the *only* caucasion in my classroom, before transferring to the UC college system, still ethnically- mixed. I guess I failed to mention, too, that I spent nearly 18 years of my adult life, off and on, attending a total of 7 universities in 3 different cities, and universities, of course, are always more ethnically-mixed than are the cities in which they exist. And I never got around to introducing you to those immigrant kids I tutored, like shy Jwaly, my all-time favorite, who hailed from the Dominican Republic--three times in one school year.

The earliest friend I recall from my childhood was Christina Alvarz, from my kindergarten class in Abilene. Somewhere in a drawer at Mom's house are her childish letters sent after I moved away. Sung Wu's letters are packed away there, too--she was a Korean immigrant, a jewelery artisan, who, in adulthood, was my close friend and neighbor in LA. The day I moved back to Knoxville, I found her first letter waiting for me at Mom's house--she'd tucked in $40 for me, probably because she didn't have $50. But all this will become too long a post...

I guess the mistake I've made in this conversation has been to focus too much on the benefits *to me* of retaining a common language, valid as I believe those arguments to be. It's likely the same mistake I made on an earlier thread last week, where I made the point that tiny Maynard Elementary should be closed to save money. In both these questions, though, a strong argument also exists for examining our public policy to see whether maybe an unintended effect is that it is actually *increasing* the social and cultural isolation of these different but similar minority populations.

Chronologically, then, I'll quickly backtrack to Maynard Elementary, where I volunteered for three years. The very first task they asked of me there was to help in creating "Community Helper" kits--thematic plastic bins containing books and toys relating to firefighters, police officers, and the like. These kids, who lived in a community where average household income ran $5000 a year per the last census, had never met such animals. Another of my tasks early on was to collect boys' dress shirts and neckties for wear in an after-school etiquette class. It was true that kids needed the instruction.

As my months and years there wore on, though, it became increasingly apparent to me that so many of the tasks the school was taking on to teach were really the consequnce of a public policy--namely to maintain too small a school--that had isolated these kids socially and culturally. Why not adopt the policy for a somewhat larger school, then, that would allow their assimilation into their larger community?

That same unintended consequence of social and cultural isolation exists in this notion of overly-accommodating immigrants who don't speak any English. Is it really the case that promptly affording them a driver's license will put them on the fast-track to assimilation to our culture, and, presumably, to afford them financial success?

It appears to me that the only types of jobs these mobilized, but linguistically-handicapped, immigrants can obtain are in landscape and the kitchens of low-paying restaurants, so doesn't our policy ignore the larger part of the tools they'll need for success? And maybe more importantly, doesn't it slow the time necessary to truly allow immigrants' assimilation to our culture--or maybe entrench this notion that no assimilation is even necessary?

Sweet Jwaly and I spent an hour together every Monday morning of his third-grade school year, in the months he popped up. I always arrived with my pockets stuffed with Milky Way fun bars, plus a new Clifford the Big Red Dog book, his favorite, in either Spanish or English. He got my family's four Shrine Circus tickets that year, routed anonymously through his teacher, but what he really needed was a change in our public policy.

It was a policy of too little attention to our borders that allowed his family to arrive here--and to repeatedly leave--as they did, and it was more broken policy that slowed his parents' assimilation to our language and culture, forcing them into their status as migratory workers, and isolating them as a community.

If we can first agree that our language affords us our commonality and understanding of one another, maybe the solution is as simple as delivering instruction in English through our DMVs. But first we have to agree on the importance of language as an instrument to define and maintain our common culture. Meanwhile, Jwaly is very much caught up in our debate.

Godspeed, Jwaly.

R. Neal's picture

See, this is why immigration

See, this is why immigration "reform" is such a good issue for the Republicans. Divide and conquer, and all that.

Nobody is proposing to eliminate English as our official/common language.

And this bill isn't about kids and ESL learners. It's about their parents and first generation immigrants who need to drive to their job while they're working towards citizenship (which, by the way, already requires basic proficiency in English).

But good for you, Tamara, for being part of the solution. I think what some of us are saying is don't get sucked in to the politically motivated posturing of insincere politicians and their wedge issues.

Listen to politicians who are actually concerned about all citizens, like Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell:

"English is our language. It has been so since before the city existed more than 200 years ago.

It is the language we use to conduct the city's business. In order to get ahead in Nashville a person needs to be able to speak English.

This has been the case for more than 200 years. It is not going to change.

We don't need a law to tell us what language we are already speaking.

[..]

This is not who we are. At the heart of this ordinance is the issue of immigration. We are dealing with that issue by supporting the deportation of illegal aliens who commit crimes. But this ordinance goes beyond illegal immigration to put at risk our community and its ability to welcome and work with those people who come to our city legally and want to be a part of our city.

[..]

If this ordinance becomes law, Nashville will be a less safe, less friendly, and less successful city. As mayor, I cannot allow that to happen. Therefore I am vetoing Ordinance 1185 and returning it to the Metro Council where I hope it will remain never to be seen again and that we can turn our full attention once again to education and public safety and quality of life which are the real work of a city and should be the work of its leaders now and forever."

Read the whole thing.

He asks some interesting questions.

talidapali's picture

What affords us our commonality is NOT...

our language or our looks or anything else, America has NEVER been about being alike, it has ALWAYS been about being the ONE place on earth where you didn't HAVE TO BE the same religion or the same nationality or the same anything else. Our commonality is that while we have no true commonality of race or ethnicity or even language, we ALL love freedom and believe that ALL men and women deserve to be free. Free to be ourselves, free to express our opinions, free to worship our gods our way (or not as the case may be), free from fear that because we are different that we will be considered "less than", free of the chains that had bound so much of humanity for so long in the trappings of conformity and unanimity with the states from which our ancestors fled; legislation like this is a gigantic step backwards and in addition to all the small backwards steps the Bush administration has been making lo these many years now, we will suddenly find that our Constitution is no longer the document our Founding Fathers wrote and that we no longer have the freedoms we now take for granted.

Languages change, I daresay you use "foreign" words every day and think nothing of it. The immigrants bring new terminology to our language, English is nothing more than a polyglot language anyway, it is a standardized form of words and phrases that arise from German, French, Spanish, Latin, Celtic, Slavic, and Arabic roots. Look up some of the most common words in English in a dictionary and see just where this "American" language really comes from. And even now we add more words to English every day...or did you do Blogging on the intertubes a few years ago?

We grow and evolve as a species, the human race, and I have to say most of the time we do a damn fine job of it, but we are prone to victimizing ourselves when we let fear of change rob us of our wonder and awe at the things we can become. The only ones who benefit from the fears are the ones who can exploit them to gain power. Ask yourself, who truly gains from legislation like this?

"You can't fix stupid..." ~ Ron White"

"I never said I wasn't a brat..." ~ Talidapali

talidapali's picture

Sorry but English is NOT...

the most widely spoken language in the world...it is number two. Here's a chart of the top 50...so my question is...Why aren't we all required to take Chinese-only driver's tests? Chinese is the number 1(one) most widely spoken language in the world. Spanish is number three. (If you want to go strictly by the numbers then Chinese is the language we should all be learning.)( You might also wanna make a note of those numbers...English is a DISTANT second place. If you add in the lesser dialects of Chinese, such as Wu and Cantonese, we practically don't exist as a language.)

This piece of legislation is nothing more than another bigoted, racist piece of trash. We deserve better from our elected representatives than this kind of junk legislation. And if they don't start giving us better legislation that actually tries to help the people of this state legal, illegal, green, purple, red, or blue then THEY deserve to lose their seats in the Big House.

"You can't fix stupid..." ~ Ron White"

"I never said I wasn't a brat..." ~ Talidapali

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Questions deserving of answers

I'm glad to see you on this thread, talidapali--you're someone else whose opinion I would listen to closely.

My unanswered questions are two: 1) Why would a trend toward a multi-lingual US society *not* diminish English, and 2) how might you feel about becoming a linguistic minority in our country?

They're very straight-forward questions deserving of thoughtful answers, not the bumper sticker slogans I see regurgitated in too many of the posts above.

talidapali's picture

I would like to learn several new languages.

As far as English being diminished...well even Latin which at one time was THE language of the "civilized" world declined in popularity...all things must change. Stagnation is DEATH.

Off the top of my head if I have enough time left on this earth I would like to learn to speak Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Scots Gaelic...I'm not worried at all about becoming a linguistic minority, I know I have the capacity mentally to learn a second and even a third language or more. Besides, white people immigrated to this country oh, say, five hundred years ago and expected the natives here to learn their new language rather than the white folks learning the natives languages... isn't karma a bitch?

SmileyCentral.com

"You can't fix stupid..." ~ Ron White"

"I never said I wasn't a brat..." ~ Talidapali

mpower1952's picture

isn't karma a bitch?

Boy you hit the nail on the head with that one.

This is actually answer to Tamara.

BTW- I'm wondering if the people who are for the English only idea have ever lived in or near a large multi-cultural city like New York City? Do any of you have relatives who immigrated from countries whose native language was not English? Did you grow up with relatives who still spoke broken English?

I could be way off base, but having a husband from south Georgia (the state not the country) was a real eye opener for me. When I asked him his nationality, he said Amercan (left out the i on purpose). I'm Italian-American from NY. I have no desire to go to Italy, or become an Italian citizen but I love pasta, cannolies, and real Italian bread (no, not the one at Kroger). That's what nationality means to a lot of second and third generation immigrants, just a quick description of their food preferences or speaking habits (always use my hands and yelling doesn't mean I'm angry).

Hope this helps a little.

Be a blessing to someone today.

LadyVols's picture

This piece of legislation is

This piece of legislation is nothing more than another bigoted, racist piece of trash."

Of COURSE it is, look who cooked it up! racist and bigoted are joined at the hip to THOSE people!

Add Spanish and get over it! Heck even my grandmother has mexican's working her lawn and gardens in the spring and three even work on the horse farm year round. They are here we need them and they do what we won't do so give them a break.

Sven's picture

I thought the point drivers'

I thought the point drivers' licenses is to ensure drivers have a minimum amount of proficiency behind the wheel, not enforcement of linguistic homogeneity.

Ironically, while the Germans have no language requirement, they don't give full faith and credit to the Tennessee drivers' license (meaning you have to take a test to obtain a license) because it doesn't meet their standards.

Socialist With A Gold Card's picture

Sven, that's true if you

Sven, that's true if you plan to stay there more than three months (I think). For shorter visits, an International Driver's Permit (available from AAA) and a valid Tennessee license are plenty good enough. The IDP doesn't include any kind of test; it's just a form with one's picture on it, like a passport. The IDP + a home-country license are perfectly acceptable in Germany.

What I find funny is that even though all of the EU (and a bunch of other countries) recognize the IDP + a valid home-country license as good enough, and US citizens may obtain and use an IDP overseas, the US doesn't recognize the IDP inside our country. So you can use one over there, but none of them damn ferrners can use the IDP here.

--Socialist With A Gold Card


"I'm a socialist with a gold card. I firmly believe we need a revolution; I'm just concerned that I won't be able to get good moisturizer afterwards." -- Brett Butler

Sven's picture

Yes, any US license is

Yes, any US license is acceptable for six months. In applying for a German license, the TN license will get you an exemption from the driving test but not the written exam. And to take the written exam you have to attend driving school, which costs between $1,000 to $3,000.

redmondkr's picture

My Grandma Frieda came to

My Grandma Frieda came to Morgan County from Germany at the age of ten in 1891. She had been in America for 55 years when I was born so she had no discernible accent. Her handwriting was another matter. I have her five year-diary she started in 1941. A bit of an adjustment period is required in order to read it, just as with your first William Faulkner novel.

I remember a cousin teasing her once about how hard her letters were to read. She told him that she thought she was doing pretty well considering what a ridiculous language she had to learn.

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ultron's picture

Granted, illegal immigration

Granted, illegal immigration is a serious problem. But I always thought that we'd really be in trouble if people were leaving the good old U.S.A. in droves, not vice versa.

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