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THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

One can be thankful that the Supreme Court has not joined the ranks of "100 per cent Americanism". The Nebraska law, with its counterparts in Iowa and Ohio, which forbids the teaching or use of any language other than English in the lower grades, has been declared unconstitutional. The Court's opinion contains this sapient clause-"a desirable end cannot be promoted by prohibitive means."

Insofar as the law forbade the teaching of other languages to English-speaking children, its provinciality and bigotry are manifest. This recoiling from all languages except English, while perhaps excusable in war times, was ill-advised then, and now is absurd. The knowledge of two modern languages could be nothing but a boon, and the advantages of having them taught in the elementary schools is obvious.

But there was admittedly a "desirable end" in such laws, even though, as the Supreme Court recognized, prohibitory legislation was not the way to attain it. The state legislators were aiming not merely at the teaching of foreign languages, but at their actual use as the common speech in American schools. Countless isolated districts survive, both in the cities and in the country, where the native tongue of foreign immigrants is used instead of English. It continues as the family speech; newspapers and church services conform with it, and even the schools have adopted it to the exclusion of English. There is no assurance that the pupil will ever learn the language of this country, and the foreign traditions may be carried on from generation to generation.

A homogeneous race, familiar with a common language, is obviously needed to attack problems concerning the public welfare. The process of assimilation will be delayed as long as the use of English among the children is not made universal. Rightly enough, the Supreme Court has decided that freedom of language is a corollary to freedom of speech: the proper line of attack is not to forbid other tongues, but to encourage English as the first essential.

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