At a speech to the National Federation of Republican Women, Newt Gingrich expressed what many have considered to be the general conservative attitude towards bilingualism in the United States. During his speech Gingrich said, “The government should quit mandating that various documents be printed in any one of 700 languages depending on who randomly shows up” to vote the possible 2008 Republican presidential candidate said. “The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. … We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto. Citizenship requires passing a test on American history in English. If that’s true, then we do not have to create ballots in any language except English,” he said.

I do agree with the idea that if a person is going to be, or is, a citizen of the United States then they should conduct their business with the government in English. I think all citizens should vote in English, and I think everyone should fill out their income tax, or Social Security forms in English too. My jumping off point is when Newt calls all other languages that aren’t English, the language of the ghetto. Could a person make a more racist statement if they tried? Not all poor people who live in ghettos speak Spanish.

Most poor people in this country speak English. Gingrich should be ashamed of himself for the pandering to the lowest common conservative denominator. American kids are dumber than the rest of the developed world, not because other students from other places don’t speak English. The American students are behind  because they don’t develop foreign language skills.

Why is it that students from other countries can often speak two or more languages fluently, while most American kids lack basic speaking and writing skills in their native tongue? America is not the center of the world, and it would benefit our nation if future generations of students could speak more than just English.The rationale behind remarks like Gingrich’s totally denies the existence of a global economy.

I do believe that if people want to be citizens of the United States, then they should speak English, but I have always thought that if America’s students were going to be competitive with the rest of the world in the 21 Century, then better foreign language skills are vital. Remarks such as these may make Gingrich the darling of the conservatives, but they also mean that Newt would have no chance against any top Democrat in 2008.

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at blog radio 


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