Lou Dobbs: “Multi-culturalism does not work in any country in the world”

Map of Swiss LanguagesHere’s a little excerpt from the transcript of October 13th Real Time with Bill Maher, which featured Lou Dobbs, Danielle Pletka, and Ben Affleck on the panel:

DOBBS: The fact of the matter is that “English Only” is not racist, and we have to – we have to come to terms with it. And I don’t like the issue of race in this discussion. Because there is this sort of patronizing view that 40 million legal citizens of this country who just happen to be Hispanic are somehow identified on an equivalency with the illegal immigration issue. Half of those people, at least in the state of Arizona, voted for Proposition 200.
And these – these activist groups, whether they be like MALDEF or La Raza, suggesting they’re speaking for the Hispanic American population in this country, is absurd. And for us to adopt some sort of idea that “English Only” is racist is absurd. It is a reaction to a cultural phenomenon in which you are walking in and saying, “Hit one – press two for Spanish,” walking into a school in which you have bilingual requirements that are crushing some school districts, while half of the Hispanic students in this country are dropping out of high school. We have a crisis in public education. [applause]
MAHER: Yes, that’s—
DOBBS: And we’re talking about nonsense.
AFFLECK: But we also, like many countries – and again, I don’t really have a big position – but many countries seem to function with, like, two languages. For example, you go to Canada. You press one for—
DOBBS: Yeah, I’ll tell you. They’ve had a great time up there in Quebec and the rest of the country. It’s been fascinating.
AFFLECK: They haven’t had a great time, but they’ve—
PLETKA: They haven’t had a great time. That’s the point.
DOBBS: It’s a disaster. Multi-culturalism does not work in any country in the world. Name one.
MAHER: Iraq. [laughter] [applause]
AFFLECK: Well, multi – you’re talking multi – multi-language.
MAHER: Yes.
AFFLECK: Multi-culturalism—
DOBBS: I’m talking both.
AFFLECK: [overlapping]—is the foundation of this country. I mean—[applause]
DOBBS: No, it is not. No, it is not.

Bill Maher didn’t exactly use the best example when he mentioned Canada. They’ve had their share of issues up there. But what about Switzerland!? There are four official languages, and, for the most part, four corresponding cultures. Yet, the Swiss have achieved a national unity, which is placed above (in terms of living together in peace) those differences.
Swiss International Airlines PlaneEven the less than one percent of Swiss that speak Romansh are represented all over the place. Their language can be spoken in parliament and is on the national airline (Svizra =Switzerland).
India has 23 official languages. And while it’s not the most stable country in the world, it does decently well.
Hispanic students are primarily dropping out of school because their parents are making minimum wage (if they’re legal) or less (if they’re not). Yes, they should learn to speak English, but Dobbs is overlooking the primary problem here.
There is a reason why Spanish is the most-learned second language in the United States… You can actually speak it places. And the U.S. has always lagged behind in foreign language education, which is tied in with foreign culture education, which expands the scope of students’ thinking and allows them to think outside of the “blind patriotic box” that so many do.
A study by Simmons Market Research found that 19% of the Hispanic population speak only Spanish while 9% speak only English, 55% have limited English proficiency and 17% are fully English-Spanish bilingual. It’s no wonder there’s the “press two for spanish” option when calling many 1-800 numbers.
If the increasing number of Spanish-speakers as a result of immigration does nothing but increase the number of English-only speakers that have to learn another language, in this case Spanish, then I already consider it a success. I don’t completely denounce the possibility that the increasing two-language society is going to cause structural problems in this country, but it shouldn’t be something that cannot be managed by the often-called “greatest country in the world,” which goes back to my entry from yesterday.
Image Credit:

  1. “Map of the geographical distribution of the official languages of Switzerland (2000)”. Copyright Marco Zanoli. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Version 2.5 License.
  2. Swiss Air Lines ARJ-100 HB-IXN. Copyright Flickr user ‘caribb‘. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Version 2.0 License.

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