I'm don't think any language should be the "official language," but I can tell you the exact moment when I realized legal language mandates were incredibly silly.
I was using an ATM and the language choices were English or Spanish. The ATM was in Chinatown San Francisco.
*nods* I can see that, I just don't think it should be labeled an "official" language. Before the bilingual education craze, we had that in fact if not in law and it worked out fairly well. More and more I'm finding that "First, do no harm" should apply to legislation and regulation.
I agree that learning more than one language is a good idea, but I don't support public education or laws mandating what should (and should not) be taught.
I think it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s that the big push came for "bilingual" education. I was in grade school/high school then and my fascination with history came later (and OUTSIDE of formal education). Even though it was called "bilingual," it was basically code for introducing Spanish as the only "official" and acceptable alternative. I remember thinking at the time it was odd, probably because I knew many more Diné and Hopi than Hispanic people.
Immigration has always been in waves. There was a significant German immigration starting before the Civil War that lasted up to the Great Depression. In the early 20th, there was significant Italian immigration. The Immigration Act of 1924 put a lid on immigration. That didn't change until 1965.
In the 1980s, American immigration policy was expanded to "forgive" those who had broken the law to get here. It's just one of the "reforms" that undermined the rule of law and gave special privilege to "victims" even if they had broken the law. That was wrapped up in the bilingual craze I've already mentioned. Basically, certain people were given license to ignore the law if they didn't like it.
It's not what I would call it. As nearly as I can tell, the phrase "bilingual education" originated in the 1960s and was enshrined in law in 1968 with a couple of Federal laws. It was targeted at children who weren't proficient in English, primarily the children of immigrants. Later versions particularly ESL (English as a Secondary Language) changed the public perception a bit, but were still aimed at the "victims" who were "repressed" by the "system."
These aren't terms I agree with, but they were the terms and justifications used.
I think it's another example how something meritorious was changed to part and parcel of victimhood politics. It wasn't because two languages was a worthy goal, it was to patch up the failures of society and America specifically.
Pardon, but I think it is the attitude. There's a difference between "this is required" and "you're a victim so we must make allowances." The first is about responsibility and the second is about excuses.
Which, given how ineffective some ESL programs were, meant that the excuses became the norm.
Two or more languages is certainly a worthy goal. But the how and the why get in the way. Two languages to make you better is one thing. Two languages so you (poor thing) might become adequate if society helps you enough, that's another. One builds you up and the other rips you down no matter what you do.
Can you tell I despise the politics of victimhood?
Again, "bilingual" isn't my term and I disagree with the way it is used conventionally.
"Unless you're assuming that non-English speakers are less intelligent than English speakers…" From the abstracts, reports, and project plans I've read, I think that was the prevailing attitude.
I think stressing the label over the person is a real problem. Frankly bilingual doesn't matter to me unless I speak all the languages involved or I am asking someone to translate. It's like the people who tell me they are gay 7.38 seconds after I meet them. If I am not going to sleep with them, why should it matter?
I think we let labels get in the way.