Saturday, July 27, 2002

Publically-funded bilingualism watch:

San Jose Mercury News discusses the latest additions of languages to the ballot required by the Voting Rights Act. But not even all immigrants are in favor of letting people who don't speak enough English to understand the ballots cast their vote:

Chunfang Liu disagrees. An immigrant from Taiwan, Liu teaches other Chinese in San Mateo County how to speak English and prepare for the citizenship test. ``I always tell my students, if you want to live here, it's better to learn the language. It's not always good to count on someone to help you,'' Liu said. "I want them to be independent."

Let's hope they don't mistranslate anything this time.

Friday, July 26, 2002

The Boston Globe runs the first ever interview with Ken Lau of 1974 Lau v. Nichols fame (note: the text of the decision doesn't mandate bilingual education - just some form of assistance for English Language Learners). The bottom line: since he's doing pretty well for himself these days and by college had successfully adjusted to all-English education, he's rather uncomfortable with the politicization of his case. At the same time, though, he regrets that, due to the glacial pace of government bureaucracy in implementing bilingual education, he continued to receive all of his education in English and is now illiterate in Chinese.

People risk so much to come here ... and I think they should be able to retain their language and their culture.

In response to this comment of Mr. Lau's, all I can say is, don't rely on the government to help you with that. What Washington bestows, it can confiscate at the behest of a popular majority, an activist judiciary, or a dedicated group in the Legislature. What we build for ourselves, hopefully we can keep - unless the government decides to take that away too like Maine did in their interference with French-language teaching in Franco-American schools in 1919, which a generation later led to the demise of the community.

Possible outcomes of increased Chinese language education on ABC (American-Born Chinese) youth, part 1: Greater acculturation to Western behavioral standards during university years?

Seems to go against common sense? Some speculate the insecurity young AAs (Asian Americans) feel in their identity due to lack of knowledge about their heritage is a major factor behind AA cliquishness. ABCs are nervous that if they don't do more to express their heritage in their daily actions, others will accuse them of being whitewashed, and they'll lose the chance to socialize with AAs and hook up with AA girls. So once they get to college and find Asians make up ~20% of their fellow students, they find an easy, material way to let the whole world know how Asian they are - join an Asian clique, follow their tastes in clothing, music, and cars, and in general make a fetish out of their heritage. It's known (somewhat sarcastically) as an "Asian-American Awakening."

However, there are two groups who seem less likely to Awaken. One is adoptees and others socialized only to white culture, who feel uncomfortable with AAs who retain more of their ancestral social habits. They don't fit in to AA cliques, don't join, and they really don't care if you call them twinkies. But the group at the other end of the acculturation scale , those who speak their ancestral language well, also are less likely to need an AA clique, because they're secure in their identity as an AA and don't need cliques, cars, or clothes to demonstrate how Asian they are - they can simply open their mouth and bust out the language.

Simply put, expand the number of ABCs who speak Chinese, and maybe fewer of them will go through identity crises and spend eight of their social formative years in high school and college hanging out with ten clones of themselves. Instead they'll branch out in their friendships and learn the outward protocols of behavior they need to interact with a wider range of Americans. Some people have speculated that the "glass ceiling" faced by Asian-Americans trying to move into management is precisely because differing social habits lead to a lack of rapport with white colleagues, which them comes across as a lack of interpersonal skills. If so, increased confidence by AAs in their identity might actually alleviate this problem by the means described above - AAs who socialize well with white people won't find interpersonal problems (e.g. coming across as weird, nerdy, or antisocial) a barrier to rising to the top in the corporate hierarchy.

Leaving out any cracks about how "There's no truth in the News and no news in the Truth," Razib points out this Pravda article on a Korean women alleged to be pregnant with a cloned baby. Obviously Clonaid, the Raelian-linked company which allegedly impregnated her, also came to the conclusion that cloning white people is redundant, which is why they chose to clone an Asian instead. (Update: Looks like CNN also picked up this story.)

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Very slow day at work, so I'm taking advantage of my free time to tweak the template and add a few new features. Thanks to the folks at ENetation for providing the comments. Also, Steve Sailer is now linking to me, so I guess I have some pretty big expectations to live up to now. Once I get back home to my own computer, I'll post up the first in my rather long series of speculations on the possible effects of expanded Chinese-language education on the Chinese community in the US.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

I'm messing with the template right now, if this page looks really strange or completely unreadable, check back in a few minutes and it should be better.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Lately I've been reading up on the expansion of dual-immersion English/Chinese programs, especially in the public schools. These are not transitional programs aimed at immigrants, but instead were implemented by immigrant parents to help their US-born children preserve their heritage and native parents to help their children learn an important world language. Both native English speakers and native Mandarin speakers are put in the same classroom and receive half of their subject instruction in English and the other half in Mandarin. This takes advantage of one of the most important ways in which kids become fluent in a foreign language: through the need to communicate with their peers.

The expansion of such programs is not surprising; the first wave of Taiwanese immigrants of the 1970s watched many of their sons and daughters grow to adulthood retaining only a minimal command of Chinese, and there's now a growing awareness in the Chinese community that kids aren't going to pick up the language just from hearing it spoken at home and at Saturday schools. So they're looking for alternatives, and two-way immersion schools are providing one.

But is it ethical for Chinese people to rely on United States government schools for this kind of education? More importantly, is it practical for our community to rely on the non-Chinese speaking taxpayers to continue funding these programs in the long term? Even not considering Proposition 227 for the moment, the answer to the second question is rather obviously no. As more and more Chinese parents realize this, those enough money will instead seek out private schools which can provide this kind of instruction.

Which leads to an unusual dilemma for the Republican Party, which Ron Unz noted some time ago in this article in The Nation: certainly it would be nice to break the backs of the National Education Association, and let the free market provide school choice (either by vouchers or tax credits) wherever people desire it. However, under such a scenario many immigrants who wouldn't otherwise be able due to lack of funds would likely choose to send their children to schools which provide them with extensive instruction in the language and culture of their ancestral homelands.

Though many such schools have plenty of students of other ethnicities (Alice Fong Yu Alternative Elementary, a Chinese/English dual-immersion school in San Francisco, is only 36.5% Chinese and probably another 25% or so mixed-race Chinese, according to their own statistics), they'll still likely promote greater cohesion among members of the ethnic community whose language is being taught, and closer ties between that community and their coethnics in the ancestral homeland and other overseas locales. This may have some negative effects on the naive and widespread view of immigrants as at best actively embracing Western culture and complete assimilation while throwing away the ideals of the old country and at worst inexorably sliding towards complete adoption of Western values despite their most strained efforts.

Next time I'll engage in some fairly unbridled speculation tempered with a bit of research and a lot of stretched analogies to places such as 1920s New England and modern-day Malaysia: what exactly would be the effects of widespread retention of immigrant languages into the second, third, and fourth generation, on both Chinese youth culture in America and on the cohesion of America as a whole? Email me with your thoughts. (At least until I get a comments section up and running).

Razib from Gene Expression somehow found my blog and decided to link to it. Maybe this will provide the stimulus for me to start taking this thing seriously. And yes, to answer your question, I'm half-German. I probably got the loudmouth gene but years of intensive socialization managed to put it under control. The triumph of nurture over nature, for once. Also, I haven't really written anything relating to mixed-race issues lately, due to lack of inspiration. So for now you get to deal with my rantings about bilingual education, of which I'll hopefully finish the first part soon.

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