Leaked: The Internet must go!

Hey! Are you on the internet right now? Of course you are! Then you should definitely check out this amazing video about what the internet companies are planning. This move could hurt both consumers and content creators--but of course would be a huge windfall for internet providers.

How weathly are Americans?

The disparity in wealth between the richest one percent of Americans and the bottom 80 percent has grown exponentially over the last thirty years — but the video, posted by user politizane and relying on data from a popular Mother Jones post, focuses on the difference between the ideal disparity that Americans would like to see and the reality.

Tax the Rich

So long! It's been fun.

Dear listeners,

In July 2011 I started a new job teaching Italian at Kansas State University. In some ways this was a return to my roots, as I taught English as a Foreign Language for 17 years in Italy. Now I am teaching English speakers Italian. I've come full circle.

This coming full circle also means the end of an attempt on my part to start a new career in my 50s. Sadly, as much as I tried to bring community radio to Manhattan, I was not successful. So I have decided to dedicate my energy and time to my first love, being an educator.

The archive of my shows will remain active - there's a lot of great content in the shows. So I hope you continue to listen and enjoy them.

Once again thank you for your support and encouragement over the five years the show was on the air. I know many feel that my program needs to be on the air and I agree with you that a diversity of voices is sorely lacking in the local media. But alas, it is not I who will bring that diversity. It will have to be someone else.

Christopher E. Renner

07 March 2007

What's Wrong with 'English Only'

Originally read on 15 February 2007
by Christopher E. Renner


As if the Kansas legislature does not have more pressing issues, like providing health insurance to the uninsured in the state - a full 11% of the population, or approx. 300,000 people; or, maybe it is because Kansas’ Hispanic population makes up the largest single group of uninsured in the state, this week the Kansas State House of Representative took up what is probably the single most important piece of legislation, right after Rep. Kinzer’s bill to prohibit the establishment of domestic partner registries that is, -- H B 2140. Introduced by Rep. Don Myers of Derby, HB 2140 would designate English as the official language of the state of Kansas and would direct its use by state agencies and political or taxing subdivisions.

HB 2140, as amended, would designate English as the official language of the State of Kansas for all public documents and official public meetings. The bill would not diminish or expand any existing rights. No state agency or local government would be required to provide documents in a language other than English, but may use other languages at the agency or local government’s discretion. The bill authorizes the use of braille to provide signage and documents, and communication in American Sign Language to accommodate persons with disabilities. American Sign Language is a language other than English, by the way…

The bill would require the local entity (read: local school district) designated by the Kansas State Department of Education to offer English language classes, training, or other educational services for non-native speakers and to seek assistance from listed groups in expanding awareness of the available services. But HR 2140 carries no funding clause to see this requirement put into action.

The proponents of the bill as introduced included Representative Don Myers, a sponsor of the bill and Ben Piper, Director of Government Relations for ProEnglish.

Pro-English is one of the various “English Only” organizations who cloak themselves in the flag of patriotism in order to hide their xenophobia, racism and ignorance of scientific facts.

The opponents of the bill as introduced included Sandy Jacquot, Director of Law and General Counsel for the League of Kansas Municipalities; Steve Cadue, Tribal Chairman of the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas; Anna Lambertson, citizen; Melinda Lewis, Director of Policy Advocacy and Research for El Centro, Inc.; Arthur Solis, citizen; and Chaplain Rene Tario, Executive Advisor for the Wichita Hispanic Ministerial Alliance. Written testimony in opposition of the bill was provided by Bob Halloran, City Manager of Garden City, Kansas and Richard Meza, Regional Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

In my opinion, I can sum up HB 2140 in three words: intolerant, discriminatory, and divisive. So one has to ask who are the people that support the English Only agenda?

It is a broad variety of people:
1. Citizens who want to preserve our common language and avoid ethnic strife
2. Bigots seeking to roll back civil rights advances for language-minority groups
3. Conservatives hoping to impose a sense of national unity and civic responsibility
4. Liberals who fear that bilingual education and bilingual voting discourage assimilation
5. Nativists trying to fan animosity toward immigrants and build support for tighter quotas
6. Euro-ethnics who resent "unfair advantages" enjoyed by Hispanics and Asians today
7. Politicians attempting to exploit a national mood of isolationism and xenophobia
8. Racists who equate multiculturalism and ethnic separatism
9. Americans who feel threatened by diversity, among other unsetting changes
10. All of the above

As someone who has worked in language acquisition for over 20 years, these ill-conceived “English Only” laws do nothing to help integrate new immigrants into our society, but put up blocks which prevent the full participation of immigrants in the democratic process and allow racists to feel morally superior.

"English Only" laws, which declare English to be the state’s official language and bar government employees from providing non-English language assistance and services, are inconsistent with both the First Amendment right to communicate with or petition the government, and the right to equality. They are also unnecessary and sometimes even dangerous to both individuals and the public. Currently enforced in eighteen states, some "English Only" laws are written so broadly that they forbid non-English government services such as assistance to recipients of benefits, applications for drivers' licenses, and bilingual education.

Current "English Only" laws are based on the false premise that today's immigrants who come from Asian and Spanish-speaking countries will not learn English without government coercion. In fact, the vast majority of Asian and Latino immigrants are acquiring proficiency in English just as quickly, if not faster, than earlier generations of Italian, Russian and German immigrants. Moreover, only 4% of the U.S. population over the age of five does not speak English.

Compare this with some historical data provided by the US Census Department. From 1850 to 1930, the foreign-born population of the United States increased from 2.2 million to 14.2 million, reflecting large-scale immigration from Europe during most of this period. As a percentage of the total population, the foreign-born population rose from 9.7 percent in 1850 and fluctuated in the 13 percent to 15 percent range from 1860 to 1920 before dropping to 11.6 percent in 1930. The highest percentages foreign born were 14.4 percent in 1870, 14.8 percent in 1890 and 14.7 percent in 1910. Today, 35.3 million people are foreign born or 8.2% of the population (2005 American Community Survey). So there are fewer foreign born people in the US today than there was from 1850 through 1930.

So why do we now feel that we have to make English the official language? Why wasn’t it done 1890 or 1910 when a very real and present danger to English existed in the country?

Simple answer --- people weren’t afraid of people who didn’t speak English. If 14% of the population were speaking other languages, then everyone probably knew someone who did not speak English very well. Of the 35.3 million foreign born immigrants in the US today, only 84% speak a language other than English in their homes and of those, 40% report to speaking English “very well.”

The problem is not that immigrants are unwilling to learn English, but that there are not enough available educational resources for them. Today, many thousands of immigrants throughout the country are on the waiting lists for adult English classes. English-only laws do nothing constructive to increase English proficiency, they simply discriminate against and punish those who have not yet learned English or who weren’t fortunate enough to be born in an English speaking country to begin with.

Scientific facts:

Educational research has show that it takes 3 - 5 years for a language learner to acquire oral language proficiency and another 5 - 7+ years to acquire cognitive academic abilities in the second language.

Cognitive academic abilities are those skills needed to succeed in school - ability to summarize, take notes, analyze an academic text and determine what it is saying; be able to read technical language as in a science book or computer programming manual; write a book review or term paper, etc.

In order for native speakers of English to be ready to read, research has shown that a child will need to have an oral vocabulary of 2,500 words when they enter Kindergarten and have other skills like concepts of print (that a comic books is different from a newspaper) have letter name/sound correspondence and phonemic awareness. A kindergartener will have, on average, a receptive - recognize the words when spoken - and productive - use the word in their conversations - vocabulary of 5,000; a 4th grader 8,000 and a 6th grader 21,000. (National Reading Panel)

In contrast, language learners who are “proficient” in their spoken English only have a vocabulary of 3,000+ words and it takes as long as 3 - 5 years to get to that point. Why? Because the people wanting to dictate English as the official language do everything in their power to also cut funding from the education budget that would provide intensive English language services to immigrant populations. So, I once again ask, why is this an issue that the Kansas legislature feels we must take up? It is nothing more than the fear mongers of the right once again scapegoating
a population for ills they are unwilling to address.

Surely with the health crisis that is facing our state as our graying population retires and coupled with that Bush’s proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicade, we should be spending energy on the real crisis of health care. But once again the reactionary right is forcing us to waste time, money and energy on a “crisis” that only exists in their imaginations to enshrine another of their fears into law that diminishes the American Dream for all of us.

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