One Teacher`s Classroom Conclusion: Immigrants Just Don`t Want To Assimilate
And as is my
custom, I`m looking back and evaluating my effort to
teach English and to instill enthusiasm for the American
way in my students.
Is it just my imagination or does
my task grow more difficult every year?
class attendance was sparse. During the two
semesters, only 350 pupils signed up—a tiny fraction of
the total number of Lodi residents who need English
language training—even though we accept students at any
time of the year.
The average daily attendance was
about 35 students. In other words, for every 10 who sign
up, only one stays in class.
The 10-1 ratio is disappointing,
but consistent with the pattern that has evolved over
the last few years.
The more non-English speakers who
arrive in Lodi, the easier it is to get by without
Nevertheless, I start each new
school year with optimism. But I have over time adjusted
my game plan.
On the first day of class, when I
look out at my students, I ask myself two questions:
- Will I be able to instill in
you an appreciation for what it means to live in
- Will I be able to help you
understand the difference between getting along in
America and thriving in America?
These two concerns, more than the
technical task of teaching English, is the focus of my
Indirectly, through lessons and
conversations about life in America, the students will
improve their verbal skills.
But in 2003, my revised strategy
hit a bump in the road.
One young woman, visiting from
Spain on a
tourist visa, told me in her above average English
that everyone she knows back home "hates" the U.S. for
Still, she is trying to figure out
how to become a permanent U.S. resident.
When I asked her why, feeling the
way she does about America, she would want to live here
permanently, she admitted being enamored of life in the
"Can I love America but hate its
politics?" she asked.
Like my student from Spain, my two
Russian fiancée brides also speak nearly fluent
They`re passionate about politics
too, having no use for either Bush or Russian President
Super Bowl weekend rolled around, I asked them if
they planned to watch.
I encouraged them anyway.
don`t have to do either to enjoy the
Super Bowl. Remember: watching the Super Bowl is the
most American thing you can do, "I told them.
The class talked about California
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. They all knew him as
Hollywood star. But surprisingly few were aware of
his history as a poor but legal immigrant from
Austria who made a multimillion-dollar fortune in
movies and real estate.
And almost no one knew that
Schwarzenegger is married to a
prominent television journalist related to one of
wealthiest and most influential American families.
I told the students that if they
learned how to spell S-C-H-W-A-R-Z-E-N-E-G-G-E-R, they
would be among a very small percentage of people
nationwide, even including college graduates, who could
write the governor`s name correctly.
For reasons best known to the
students—perhaps being able to do something that college
graduates cannot—they took to that task with enthusiasm.
But there remained, this year as
every year, the nagging sense that my students weren`t
getting all they could out of the American experience.
Every Friday, with the weekend
edition of the Lodi News-Sentinel in front of
them, I pointed out what was going around town—much of
it free—with the hope that the students would get
But, more often than not, when
Monday rolled around, disappointingly few students had
browsed at the
Street Faire, shopped at the
local farmers market or signed up at the
library for computer lessons.
For all of the eighteen years I
teaching at the Lodi Adult School, getting immigrant
students involved in the community has been a
A May 2005 Public Policy Institute
of California report,
"Second-Generation Immigrants in California",
reveals that, despite my experiences, I have even
underrated how serious the failure to assimilate is
among first, second and even third generation
Categorizing immigrants as
"Asian/Pacific", "Latino" or "White",
the P.P.I.C. found that, regardless of generation,
Latinos lag across the board in
voting, petition signing,
attending local meetings, writing to elected
officials, contributing to political campaigns and
To think that the nearly 17 million
people those percentages represent will be
disengaged from the communities they live in is
This is the point at which my
students—those studied in the P.P.I.C. report—have to
make their choices. Will they assimilate or not?
Since most of them will spend many
more years in the U.S. than they ever lived in
their home country, their decision should be
These immigrants came to the U.S.
of their own free will and volition. And I always urge
them to become part of the Great American Way.
But the plain fact is that they
don`t want to.
Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.