Minnesotans For Sustainability


Sustainable:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.




Creation of the Greatest Generation

Not By Chance

Barbara Vickroy and Frosty Wooldridge*


"The specific object of this volume is to help Americanize the youth of this country, whether of native or of foreign birth." This is the opening paragraph of the preface to a textbook used throughout the nation in the early 1900's: American Patriotism in Prose and Verse.

This textbook and others were among the ways that our great grandparents dealt with what was called "The Great Wave" of immigration. In the late 1800's and early 1920's millions of immigrants gazed in awe at Lady Liberty and were processed through Ellis Island. Since many of these immigrants were not educated in academics or the basic civics in a free democracy, two coping mechanisms shifted into motion by far-thinking men. They heeded Teddy Roosevelt's wisdom: "The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, or preventing all possibility of its continuing as a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities."

First, our nation's leaders took a pragmatic assessment of how many such newcomers we could absorb without damaging our own economic and civic culture. They placed a cap on the number of immigrants. After 1930, the numbers steadily decreased to a low of 100,000 to an average of 178,000 up to 1965. This allowed assimilation into the American Dream. The English language was taught as the cohesive glue to hold all immigrants together.

Second, leading educators of the day, fully understood the delicate language/cultural/civic balance essential to a Democracy. They devised a curriculum to "Americanize" the newcomers and their children. Those children went on to become known as "The Greatest Generation."

Again from that textbook: "The child is the future adult citizen. Education is the living spring of his character. If democracy is to endure, democratic ideals must be woven into the very texture of the thoughts, the feelings, and the life of the individual: for "character is destiny." It's impossible to overemphasize the importance of education in either global competition or in cultural cohesion. Equally inescapable is the fact that the sheer number of students immigrating into America in 2003 is steadily overwhelming our national education system.

In his book, Immigration and Education: The Crisis and Opportunities, author David Stewart delineates on our own most challenged students: "The level of immigration is so massive, it's choking urban schools."

California demonstrates what awaits other states, as these immigration-driven numbers increase. Over 2 million of California's 6 million students are housed in trailers, many more millions are in overcrowded, undertaught, textbook-starved classrooms. Another 2 million are in 'English as a Second Language' classes. Science and math instruction often must take a back seat to teaching English. No surprise that the state trails the nation in academic outcomes.

A final quote: "It is possible that we have proceeded too long on the basis that American democracy is imperishable and will somehow take care of itself. This is not a safe conception." Our great grandparents met the challenge of their wave's numbers at a time when our nation was still largely unsettled, high school graduation was rare, and labor-intensive careers could absorb those with little or no education. They met that challenge by cutting the number of immigrants.

How will we meet the challenges? Why do our leaders insist on piling millions upon millions of immigrants, decade after decade-with more resemblance to a glutton's pastry shop orgy than to thoughtful planning? Their sheer numbers and complex needs make them indigestible. What are we trying to prove? At what point will we be unable to deal with these high numbers?

Current immigration numbers of 2.3 million immigrants per year, legal, illegal and their offspring, have added over 70 million in the past 38 years -swelling US population from 200 million to 288 million. Every corner of American society vibrates with unease. In short, we face the 21st Century with a vast population whose skills belong to past centuries. Even more disconcerting is the fact that over 400 million worldwide want to move to America, and our national leaders seem willing for that to happen.

The most serious consequence by far, to our posterity and us, is found in the requirements inherent in our form of government. Democracy requires an educated populace with a similar moral and ethical foundation-speaking the same language. As immigration's numbers spiral to unmanageable numbers, we are losing the cultural cohesion essential to a healthy democracy.

Our country stands at a critical juncture. We, as a nation, either decide our citizens and way of life are worth maintaining or we may spiral into the quagmire described by Roosevelt-- "a tangle of squabbling nationalities." In his time, he never considered accelerating overpopulation-a present day dilemma exacerbated by immigration.

About the authors: Barbara Vickroy, a former teacher, has written for numerous papers and has been involved in overpopulation issues in California for 30 years. Frosty Wooldridge, former US Army officer, teacher and author has bicycled 100,000 miles on 6 continents to witness overpopulation up close and ugly. He wrote a weekly column while living in Antarctica: Crystal Desert Continent. Wooldridge's latest book: Strike Three! Take Your Base, examines the wisdom and action of early immigration policy which created The Greatest Generation, celebrated in a book by Tom Brokaw.

The authors note to journalists (and students?) "feel free to edit this piece according to your guidelines". The authors have been published in newspapers across the country including: Rocky Mountain News, Christian Science Monitor, Albany Herald, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News and many others.
* Used with permission of the author.
Email Frosty Wooldridge  at <frosty@webhighlights.org>.
See original at < http://www.webhighlights.org/barbfrosty.html >.


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