It’s official: As a result of yesterday’s referendum, English will now be the official language of public proceedings in Missouri.
Although, as regular readers know, I have long been opposed to the English-language initiative, I can’t say the new amendment will have some huge detrimental effect on the state. State business is already conducted in English, so no changes will need to be made there. And we’ve already had a meaningless law on the books for 10 years proclaiming English our common language, which did little harm.
The amendment is unlikely to benefit anyone, either. An extra paragraph to a constitution they can’t yet read is not going to be the deciding factor in influencing immigrants to learn English, especially because they already have so many substantial inducements to do that. Furthermore, the idea of a language assimilation dearth is laughable, at a time when schools are scrambling to hire teachers of Spanish, Chinese, and Italian, and the federal government pays Americans to study other languages.
This initiative was aimed at reassuring some people that their culture and language will be upheld. I agree that celebrating English is worthwhile, but there are more material ways to do that than amending the state Constitution. Speaking and writing English, learning new vocabulary words, and studying great works of English literature would all achieve the same goal. And our appreciation of English needn’t detract from our respect for other languages, setting up a false dichotomy between “English lost forever” and “English only.”