Immigrants’ adoption of English as their primary language is one measure of assimilation into the larger United States society. Generally languages define social groups and provide justification for social structures. Hence, a distinctive language sets a cultural group off from the dominant language group. Throughout United States history this pattern has resulted in one consistent, unhappy consequence, discrimination against members of the cultural minority. Language differences provide both a way to rationalize subordination and a ready means for achieving it. Traditionally, English has replaced the native language of immigrant groups by the second or third generation. Some characteristics of today’s Spanish-speaking population, however, suggest the possibility of a departure from this historical pattern. Many families retain ties in Latin America and move back and forth between their present and former communities. This “revolving door” phenomenon, along with the high probability of additional immigrants from the south, means that large Spanish-speaking communities are likely to exist in the United States for the indefinite future. This expectation underlies the call for national support for bilingual education in Spanish-speaking communities’ public schools. Bilingual education can serve different purposes, however. In the 1960s, such programs were established to facilitate the learning of English so as to avoid disadvantaging children in their other subjects because of their limited English. More recently, many advocates have viewed bilingual education as a means to maintain children’s native languages and cultures. The issue is important for people with different political agendas, from absorption at one pole to separatism at the other. To date, the evaluations of bilingual education’s impact on learning have been inconclusive. The issue of bilingual education has, nevertheless, served to unite the leadership of the nation’s Hispanic communities. Grounded in concerns about status that are directly traceable to the United States history of discrimination against Hispanics, the demand for maintenance of the Spanish language in the schools is an assertion of the worth of a people and their culture. If the United States is truly a multicultural nation—that is, if it is one culture reflecting the contributions of many—this demand should be seen as a demand not for separation but for inclusion. More direct efforts to force inclusion can be misguided. For example, movements to declare English the official language do not truly advance the cohesion of a multicultural nation. They alienate the twenty million people who do not speak English as their mother tongue. They are unnecessary since the public’s business is already conducted largely in English. Further, given the present state of understanding about the effects of bilingual education on learning, it would be unwise to require the universal use of English. Finally, it is for parents and local communities to choose the path they will follow, including how much of their culture they want to maintain for their children.
Q. It can be inferred from the passage that one of the characteristics of immigrant groups to the United States has traditionally been that, after immigration, relatively few members of the group