To the Editor:
I certainly agree with William Celis’ assertion that significant gains in public education have been stimulated by immigrants to the United States (“The Forgotten History of Immigration,” Commentary, Oct. 4, 2006).
But his implication that present immigration represents the same positive influence and outcomes for our nation or for public education is unfounded. The hardy souls who came in droves during the latter part of the 19th century and in the early 20th century were industrious, family-centered people focused on personal and financial improvement and dedicated to becoming part of America and its way of life. The diversity they brought and melded into the American culture made it infinitely stronger.
They did not demand that American culture adapt to them. They did not instantly get benefits that in some cases are beyond those afforded to this nation’s own citizens. They did not require that over 130 different languages be accommodated in our schools. Nor did they demand that their minority viewpoint dominate political and social reform.
We have not forgotten the contributions immigration has generated; we have forgotten how and under what conditions and expectations those changes and advances were made.
Richard C. Totin
A version of this article appeared in the October 25, 2006 edition of Education Week as Other ‘Forgotten History’ Of U.S. Immigration