Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

May 15, 2004

Greater access to English skills would aid state

Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer recently expressed outrage that an employee of a fast-food restaurant lacked sufficient English-language skills to provide him the level of customer service he sought ("Delayed fast-food order fodder for comptroller," May 6).

However one may characterize Mr. Schaefer's attitude, this incident offers an opportunity to reaffirm some important points that should inform Maryland public officials and the citizens who elect them.

First, many studies have shown that immigrants have a strong desire to learn English and to help their children learn it. They recognize the key role of English skills in getting a better job and a good education for their children. However, across the United States there are long waiting lists for accessible, affordable courses for adults in English as a second language.

Second, most of the world's people use more than one language routinely in their daily life and work. It is neither necessary nor desirable to forget or abandon one language in order to learn another. And being bilingual and biliterate confers significant cognitive and other advantages.

As elected officials of a multicultural, multilingual state such as Maryland, both Mr. Schaefer and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. have a responsibility to work to provide affordable and accessible English-language learning opportunities for those who require them. Or, alternatively, to refrain from criticizing taxpayers whose hard work contributes to the state's economy.

In fact, if Maryland were to offer more opportunities for people to learn English, the return in greater tax revenue generated by immigrants might be far greater than the cost of a meager investment in English-language classes.

Myriam Met

College Park

The writer is acting director of the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Schaefer speaks for vast majority

Three cheers for a Maryland political legend, state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. Mr. Schaefer hit the target and spoke for an overwhelming majority of Marylanders when he expressed his frustration with the un-Americanization of America ("Speaking out against `English' comments," May 11).

Ordinary people are getting tired of having a so-called multicultural, multilanguage agenda forced on our nation.

"Illegals" enter this country at will, and they cost Maryland taxpayers millions in uncompensated health care costs, lost jobs, lost taxes and expenses for education, social services and crime.

Yet the Maryland legislature, led by liberals, attempted to give illegal aliens driver's licenses and to let them pay in-state college tuition. When will the insanity stop?

The Canadian experience and violence in the Balkans, Cyprus and other lands make it clear what happens when multicultural, multilanguage advocates take control.

Mr. Schaefer can now expect relentless attacks from the ethnic activists and so-called immigration reformers. He will be called xenophobic, intolerant, biased and mean. The media and press will join in the assault. Shame on all of them.

But I have learned from my experience promoting the truth on this issue that the people will stand by his side.

Patrick L. McDonough

Baltimore

The writer represents the Seventh District in the House of Delegates.

Multiculturalism undermines unity

When the Founding Fathers recommended E Pluribus Unum ("one from many") as the motto for the Great Seal of the United States, they paid homage to the notion of the assimilation of disparate cultures into one national culture.

Multiculturalism, particularly as defined by Mayor Martin O'Malley ("O'Malley rebuts `English' remarks," May 12) or The Sun's Michael Olesker ("Schaefer's view flies in the face of the American way," May 7), represents the antithesis of what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

Yes, legions of foreign nationals have continually landed on our shores, but they learned the national language and adopted and practiced our de facto national culture. But this seems to have changed in the past 20 years with the advent of the "progressive" education agenda that promotes English as a second language for immigrants.

This notion is nonsense. Should we as a nation continue to encourage immigrants to retain their native tongues, we shall continue down the slippery slope toward Balkanization.

Kudos to both Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer for having the courage to speak the truth (in English).

Michael D. Rausa

Forest Hill

Racism underlies Iraq prison abuses

I believe that there is a deep racism connected to the acts of brutality toward war prisoners in Iraq that is not lost on the Arab world.

These acts of brutality go beyond "softening" prisoners up for interrogators. They can only be explained by an attitude that Iraqis are less than human.

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