Republicans See English as the “Official Language”

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 03, 2008 1 min read

The platform for the Republican National Convention, which opened this week in St. Paul, Minn., considers English to be the “official language” of this country. But apparently an earlier draft of the platform used softer language, stating that English is the “common” and “accepted” language, according to a Fox News reporter (hat tip to Latina Lista). The Fox News reporter says delegates from North Carolina and Colorado wanted the stronger language.

Here’s what the platform says about language policy in this country:

One sign of our unity is our English language. For newcomers, it has always been the fastest route to prosperity in America. English empowers. We support English as the official language in our nation, while welcoming the ethnic diversity in the United States and the territories, including language. Immigrants should be encouraged to learn English. English is the accepted language of business, commerce, and legal proceedings, and it is essential as a unifying cultural force. It is also important, as part of cultural integration, that our schools provide better education in U.S. history and civics for all children, thereby fostering a commitment to our national motto, E Pluribus Unum.

That call for schools to provide more U.S. history and civics seems to come right out of a report by the Bradley Foundation released this year. But interestingly, the Republicans chose to state cultural “integration” as a goal, not cultural “assimilation.” The latter word is the one I’ve seen favored by some political conservatives.

In addition, the Republican platform contains the following sentences, which I believe are meant to apply to English-language learners:

To ensure that all students will have access to the mainstream of American life, we support the English First approach and oppose divisive programs that limit students' future potential. All students must be literate in English, our common language, to participate in the promise of America.

Frankly, I’ve never heard of the “English First approach.” I’m thinking that it is new lingo for “English-only.” When I learn more about this, I’ll let you know. See Campaign K-12 for more about what the Republican platform says about education.

The platform of the Democratic National Committee, by the way, supports transitional bilingual education.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.