Chris Powell: Immigration exceeds assimilation

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, 20 percent of this country's population now speaks at home a language other than English, up 34 percent since 1990. This indicates that immigration is exceeding the country's ability to assimilate immigrants into its culture. 

Another indication was the recent  terrorist attack in New York, where an immigrant from Uzbekistan is reported to have shouted “God is great” in Arabic after driving a truck over a score of people, killing eight and injuring many more.

A  recent rally in Hartford  in support of an illegal immigrant whose deportation order is close to being enforced also suggested that immigration is out of control. That's because the crowd chanted, "Undocumented! Unafraid!" 

Of course, illegal immigrants are afraid. But to pretend that they are not afraid is to suggest that no immigration law should be enforced and that the country should have no borders. That would be the end of the country, and if illegal immigrants want that to seem to be their objective, they will encourage more deportations.


Bridgeport, most of whose students graduate from high school without ever mastering English and math, many of them getting diplomas though they are functionally illiterate, has decided to make them take a course in African-American studies, Caribbean and Latin American studies, or "Perspectives on Race."

"It is going to make a great deal of difference to our children and families," the vice chairwoman of the city's Board of Education, Sauda Baraka, told the Connecticut Post. "It will really help us with the learning process. Cultural competency has been shown to change the direction of young people and make them more interested in learning."

Connecticut can only hope so, since if anything done in public schools substantially improves the motivation of the disadvantaged, neglected and fatherless children of the cities, it does not seem to have been attempted yet.

Of course, to some extent the new courses represent political pandering, since Bridgeport's students and their parents are overwhelmingly from racial and ethnic minorities, about half Hispanic and a third black. But political tampering in education isn't peculiar to the city. A couple of decades ago a law was passed to require the state Education Department to prepare and offer to local schools curriculums in not just African-American and Puerto Rican history but also the Irish potato famine, since some politically influential people of Irish descent still carried a grudge about it.

The sad thing is that if the education of poor city kids was ever likely, and if education elsewhere in Connecticut was ever more serious (student performance in most towns isn't so much better than in Bridgeport), the histories of the country's minority groups would be crucial additions for students of  all backgrounds. (The Asians should be included too, even though they don't whine as much politically.)

For inevitably the teaching of history has been skewed toward the ethnic majority, even though what most redeems the country is its heroic if uneven trudge toward democracy, equality and inclusion.

Will Bridgeport teach the history of racial and ethnic minorities as more cause for perpetual grievance, resentment, and dependence -- that is, teach it as mere political pandering? 

Or will this history be taught as cause for inspiration, achievement, and respect for those whose sacrifice and persistence amid adversity made the country better not just for their own groups but for everyone else too -- made it, indeed, the hope of the world?


The state's biggest teacher union, the Connecticut Education Association, is back on television with a 30-second commercial asserting that "well-resourced public schools and dedicated teachers unlock our children's potential."

This treacle may invite viewers to recall the engraving on the statue of college founder Emil Faber in the movie Animal House: "Knowledge is good."

But apparently the CEA wants viewers to construe it to mean that even as Connecticut's economic and demographic decline worsens and sacrifices begin to be extracted throughout government, including sacrifices from the most innocent needy, teacher unions should be given whatever they want -- for the sake of the children, of course.

Yes, teachers and knowledge are good, but their price has to be weighed like everything else and it's possible even for them to cost too much, no matter how much political influence the union exerts in every town and how much advertising it can afford.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer. in Manchester, Conn.