The Bible’s story of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) always fascinated me. As a youngster, it was the story of how God punished the people for their attempt to reach heaven by this massive tower and was the explanation for all of the many world languages. Then there was the fascination of the archaeological attempts to locate this, quite possibly, very real tower in Babylonia.
There are parallel stories in other cultures, notably from Mexico, concerning the Great Pyramid of Cholula. A story from a hundred-year-old priest at Cholula related that when the light of the sun first appeared, giants set off in search of the sun. Not finding it, they built a tower to reach the sky. An angered Lord of the Heavens called upon the inhabitants of the sky, who destroyed the tower and scattered its inhabitants.
Maybe these stories are real, partly real or totally fictional. However, a central theme is that without a common means of communication (language) people cannot effectively function as a community or society.
Like it or not, the common language of the United States is the English language. Neither of my grandmothers understood English when they arrived in America, but they learned English and made sure that their children were fluent in it in order to prosper in their new homeland. They were very poor, but had the hope of a better life for themselves and their children and grandchildren in America. My parents and most of my aunts and uncles did not go to college, but they made sure that almost all of their children had that opportunity and that we chose courses and degrees that would help us get good jobs.
America, and especially California, has done a great disservice to the many immigrants who come to America for opportunity by not properly teaching and requiring a use of our common language of English. Government publications are printed in many native languages, rather than our commonly used language of English; costly and a waste of resources. Schools try to teach children who do not speak, read or write English by integrating them into the classrooms that are taught in English. A far better approach of longer lasting benefit would be to first teach basic English, then integrate the children into the classroom curricula. By not assimilating our immigrants, we have created ghettos of inopportunity and low wages.
Most immigrants, especially from Asia, realize that without a good knowledge of English, advancement is hampered or impossible. The native languages may continue for at least a generation as a cultural heritage, but the children assimilate into the distinctly American culture and communicate in English.
This problem of poverty due to a lack of education in English is not limited to immigrant communities. It’s also a problem in predominantly black or poverty stricken white communities. It’s a failure of our educational system that tolerates lackadaisical instruction, parental incompetence and indifference, and student ineptitude. Money is spent on administration and feel good programs and not on the basic purpose of actually educating our nation’s children. America needs to teach the parents and the children the language of opportunity – English. We need to eliminate the politically motivated tower of Babel, created by multi-language official promotion by pandering politicians and bureaucrats, that has encroached our shared heritage in America.
The story of the tower of Babel may be a myth, but its meaning is very real. Without a common language, people will not find common cause and shared prosperity.