The English-Only Question: An Official Language for Americans?
The movement to make English the official language of the U.S. at federal and state levels arouses strong feelings, both pro and con. In a valuable, dispassionate study, University of Illinois English professor Baron demonstrates that the drive for language assimilation has waxed during periods of economic downslide or isolationism, when non-English speakers have been targeted as subversive, unemployable, disruptive or resistant to assimilation. Pointing out that official-language legislation has often masked discrimination, Baron argues that the proposed English Language Amendment to the Constitution and similar laws would not succeed in making the U.S. monolingual. He looks at bilingual school programs, many of which are inadequately funded or staffed with untrained teachers. English will not cease to function as the de facto standard in the U.S., he concludes, regardless of whether laws are passed to force people to speak it. (Oct.)