Fond bitcoin pour l'amélioration du site: 1memzGeKS7CB3ECNkzSn2qHwxU6NZoJ8o
  Dogecoin (tips/pourboires): DCLoo9Dd4qECqpMLurdgGnaoqbftj16Nvp

Home | Publier un mémoire | Une page au hasard


The lobbying of the u.s english movement since 1983: a campaign via the media in quest of national unity

( Télécharger le fichier original )
par Victoria Riposseau
Université de Nantes - Maitrise IRT Anglais 2010

précédent sommaire suivant

Bitcoin is a swarm of cyber hornets serving the goddess of wisdom, feeding on the fire of truth, exponentially growing ever smarter, faster, and stronger behind a wall of encrypted energy


1. Characterizing U.S ENGLISH's Conception of the Nation

First, as we have seen in part one when considering the status of English in the United States, America is a civic nation. Indeed, American identity is first and foremost defined in more political than cultural terms. The American nation is thus an ideas nation?112 as Professor Edward Ashbee termed it. In his article about American national identity, E. Ashbee explained that being American meant adhering to particular beliefs and principles. The American sociologist Nathan Glazer considered the American nation as being a nation based not on a common ethnic stock linked by mystic chords of memory, connection, kinship, but rather by common universal ideas? (Ashbee 1). On the same point, the historian Richard Hofstadter considered that in America, it has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one? (Ashbee 1).

Both N. Glazer and R. Hofstadter have a liberal concept of the American nation. They both saw America as an open and inclusive nation. For liberals, individual freedom should be protected under the law and people have to be treated equally. This dimension of individual freedom is well-illustrated in the definition of liberal nationalism of the sociologist Jack Citrin. He wrote:

A common identity is a lubricant that helps a nation achieves collective goals. Liberal nationalism is a formula for fusing individual members of American society into a system that assures equality of status and a measure of commonality to all while, at the same time, allowing the maintenance of their cultural traditions (Ashbee 12).

In this part, our focus will be on the way U.S ENGLISH has been playing with the different concept of American identity. Having defined the concept of liberal nationalism, we need to prove whether U.S ENGLISH did or did not use liberal nationalist arguments to support their cause since 1983.

112 ASHBEE, Edward, "Being American: Representation of National Identity", Edward Ashbee, 2002. Web. 23 Oct. 2009. p.1.

First, U.S ENGLISH has tended to define American identity in liberal nationalist terms as their vindication of the right individuals should have to maintain and promote their ethnic identity. For instance, in their fund raising brochure of 1984, they wrote that the rights of individuals and groups to use other languages and to establish privately funded institutions for the maintenance of diverse languages and cultures must be respected in a pluralistic society?(Annex III, l.59-61). Liberal nationalism being based on individual freedom and laissez-faire policy, we can consider that U.S ENGLISH acceptance of the maintenance of one's culture and language is a proof of their liberal nationalist idea of the nation. On this point, one has to be cautious because there is a dichotomy between what they have been projecting and what they actually been supporting. Indeed, as we have demonstrated in part two, at some point U.S ENGLISH has been vindicating the need of forgetting one's ethnic culture and language to assimilate the American culture.

In this light, even though there are some elements in their rhetoric that tend to prove that they have been defining American national identity in liberal terms, this concept does not reflect their general attitude. For instance, they have been rejecting bilingual education programs that aimed at maintaining and promoting immigrants' native tongue. They wrote in their fund raising brochure that U.S ENGLISH actively works to reverse the spread of foreign language usage in the nation's official life?(Annex III, l.65). This demand for governmental intervention to outlaw the speaking of foreign languages is an evidence of their non-liberal conception of the American nation: in general, liberals consider that language choice is a private matter and that the State does not have the right to impose a national language on individual. Between 1984-1988, U.S ENGLISH has been calling for the repeal of laws mandating multilingual ballots and voting materials... restriction of government funding for bilingual education to short-term transitional programs only [and] ... universal enforcement of the English language and civics requirement for naturalization?(Annex III, l.72) In addition to what we have seen in part one, the system proposed by U.S ENGLISH, namely the exclusion of non-English speakers from the national community because of their language ability is clearly not compatible with a liberal conception of the nation that put the emphasis on equal status and individual freedom. It can be argued that a national language legislation, as proposed by U.S ENGLISH, would violate the freedom of speech and other rights and liberties guaranteed under the American Constitution and promoted by a liberal concept of the nation.

Similarly, at first sight, the motto of U.S ENGLISH the language of equal opportunity? seems to promote equality for all but, as we have demonstrated previously,

instead of encouraging diversity, U.S ENGLISH has been presenting ethnicity as a social and economical handicap making access to the power and resources of the nation more difficult for ethnic minorities. What was presented as inclusive in theory ended up being mostly exclusive and separatist in practice.

As we have seen, U.S ENGLISH has tended to project a liberal nationalist concept of the nation through the media, but a close analysis of their rhetoric tend to show that in practice their proposals do not meet the criteria of liberal nationalism. In this light, we can conclude that U.S ENGLISH has not been favoring individual freedom and equal access to society at the core of liberal nationalism. As far as American identity is concerned it implies that U.S ENGLISH has been very likely to encourage cultural uniformity.

Civic republicanism is another concept of the American nation that contrary to liberalism tends to favor the collective good over personal interest. This concept considers that only a socially homogeneous population can create the conditions for equal participation in the nation. Civic republicanism focuses on the importance of participating in democracy. It consists in government of the people, by the people, for the people?113 as inscribed in the American Creed. This concept of American identity tends to prioritize one's political identity over one's cultural identity in the name of public good.

This concept of American identity may imply the renunciation of one's ethnic culture and language in order to achieve unity. As we have seen at the beginning of this part, U.S ENGLISH has been amalgamating equality and unity with uniformity and homogeneity. Since the mid 1980s, U.S ENGLISH has been proposing a national language for the nation on the basis that cultural homogeneity was the only way to achieve unity at a national level. In this light, we can deduce that U.S ENGLISH has also been using civic republicanism to promote their cause and gain members. By doing so, they have been presenting the English language as being a primary determinant of American identity

But on the other hand, considering the importance given to democracy and equal participation, we can consider that civic republicanism may defend the right of everyone to freely participate in democracy regardless of their language ability. As we have just seen U.S

113 William Tyler Page, The American's Creed, I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes. I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.?

ENGLISH has been wanting to impose language as a civic duty and thus ban the access to democracy to all non-English speakers. We can then conclude that U.S ENGLISH has been trying to define American identity in both political and cultural terms. For U.S ENGLISH, both U.S citizenship and the English language are at the core of American identity.

A last concept of the American nation is multiculturalism or cultural pluralism. This conception of American identity emphasizes the value of diversity. A multiculturalist concepti of American identity tends to accept linguistic pluralism at a national level because it considers language as a non-exclusive aspect of a nation's culture. Hans Kohn who described the American nation as a nation of nations? referred to Sir Alfred E. Zimmern who said about America that it was not one nation but a congeries of nations such as the world has never seen before within the limit of a self-governing state?(Kohn 139). On the other hand, other commentators like Arthur Schlesinger considered that cultural pluralism would led to the disuniting of America'?. He wrote that the national ideal had once been E Pluribus Unum. Are we now to be little Unum and glorify Pluribus? Will the center hold? Or will the melting pot give way to 'the Tower of Babel??(Schlesinger 2).

Throughout our analysis of U.S ENGLISH we have demonstrated that, even though they have been promoting diversity in their different publications, they have also tended to reject cultural diversity on several occasions. It is important to note that U.S ENGLISH has been accepting multiculturalism as a fact, that is to say that they acknowledge the presence of people of diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds within the nation, but not as an ideology. Multiculturalism as an ideology challenges the symbolic hegemony of English in the U.S in order to safeguard ethnic traditions. Their rejection of bilingualism and their urge for the enactment of national language legislation are two major elements accounting for their monocultural vision of American identity. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that U.S ENGLISH has been willing to protect and promote the Anglo-American?culture as their nativist conception of the nation has shown. By doing so, they have been trying to reinforce the hegemonic order in the nation.

Those three forms of nationalism have been used by the movement to promote their cause and gain membership since the 1980s. But we will see that U.S ENGLISH has also been promoting a more extreme and less inclusive form of nationalism.

In fact, as their attitude towards unsuccessful immigrants has pointed out, at some point, U.S ENGLISH has had an ethnoculturalist attitude. Ethnoculturalism consists in delineating American identity to certain ascriptive and immuable characteristics. Traditionally, ethnoculturalists try to protect and promote the dominance of White-English speaking

protestants of Northern European ancestry in the nation. Often associated with the White Supremacists, this conception of American national identity implies hostility towards immigrants and support for immigration restrictions as well as restrictive language policies. U.S ENGLISH can be said to have shown some ethnoculturalism because they have been considering that only people with a certain cultural background can be American. In fact, the speaking of the English language has been a cultural element that allowed U.S ENGLISH to determine who was and who was not American114. This attitude is a form of chauvinism as we have seen in part two. But at this point, it is interesting to contrast what they actually have been doing compared to what they have been projecting. On their fund raising brochure, one can read that U.S ENGLISH operates squarely within the American political mainstream, and rejects all manifestations of cultural and linguistic chauvinism? (Annex III, l. 44). It is relevant to note that they have been manifesting some cultural and linguistic chauvinism? while claiming to reject it.

Another extreme form of nationalism is incorporationism. It is a conception of American national identity that considers America as a nation of immigrants. Incorporationism celebrates ethnic diversity and pleads for the maintenance of cultural traditions while supporting assimilation and the emergence of a new American identity. This concept of American national identity has been highly used by U.S ENGLISH to promote their movement and justify their views as we have seen when considering their description of the melting-pot as a national ideal.

In this part we have seen that U.S ENGLISH has been playing on liberal, civic republican, ethnocultural and incorporationist conceptions of the nation in their different publications. This technique allowed them to gather support from a larger political spectrum so that liberals and conservatives, republicans and democrats, radicals and moderates would feel concerned by the cause they have been fighting for since the mid 1980s.

Having determined to what extent U.S has been playing with those different concept of American identity, our task will be to gauge the extent to which they have been re-imagining American identity.

114 We are not pretending that U.S ENGLISH had any racial or religious considerations when determining who is and who is not American.

2. To what Extent does U.S ENGLISH Re-imagine American Identity?

First, in order to determine to what extent U.S ENGLISH has been re-imagining American national identity, it is necessary to recall the evolution of American identity. In addition to what we said previously it is important to note that the American nation has historically tended to go from exclusion to inclusion, allowing more and more diverse people to participate in the life of the nation. Evidence of this attitude can be found in the evolution of the criteria for population censuses of the U.S Census Bureau since 1790.

In fact, only in the 1930s, censuses started to include other non-white racial? categories such as Asians? and Mexicans? proof that the American nation has gradually acknowledged the presence of more and more races? on its soil and in its core. Furthermore, only since the 1970s, under the influence of the Civil Rights Movement, identity was officially recognized as a voluntary choice: self-identification of people's ethnic or racial identity was introduced for the first time in the 1970 census (Sowell 56). This change in the conception of one's identity was also part of the Ethnic Heritage Studies Program Act of 1974 that asserted the right of individuals to choose their ethnic identity. In addition to this, the possibility to have more than one racial or ethnic identity appeared only in the 2000 Census.

Similarly, American identity has evolved from an individual and difference blind conception like liberalism, to a community-centered conception of identity illustrated by the recent upsurge for multicuturalism as our analysis of they different conceptions of American nationalism has showed.

Defining American national identity is not an easy task because as we have seen previously in this analysis, there is a battle between two normative visions of American society. First, those who defend the concept of the melting-pot like U.S ENGLISH tend to consider the nation as the result of an Anglo-conformity. On the other hand, those like H. Kohn who pay tribute to the linguistic and cultural diversity of the American nation tend to consider America as a nation of nations? and thus promote a cultural pluralist vision of the nation.

As we have seen previously, U.S ENGLISH can be considered as a strong nationalist movement in the light of E. Gellner's definition of nationalism. Gellner explained that those who want the state and the nation to be congruent can be said to be nationalists (Gellner 7). But in the United States, it is very difficult to determine whether the state culture, that is to say the culture imposed by the political institutions, has ever been in total agreement with the

national culture. To be sure, it is very likely that belonging to the state strongly influences the way people identify with the nation. But it is debatable whether one has to be a citizen to identify oneself with the American nation. Similarly, it is relevant to wonder if being an American citizen implies full identification with the American nation. In this light, being of American nationality certainly has an impact on the feeling of belonging one has to the American nation. For the purpose of this analysis, we will consider that both visions of the American society have to be taken into account. Both Anglo-conformity and cultural pluralism are complementary when describing the American society but to be sure neither of those two visions are fully representative of American society. However, the influence of the political culture on the national culture of the U.S is acknowledged by both conceptions of the American society because for Anglo-conformists, the culture carried by the State is the basis on which one can built his/her national identity and for cultural pluralist, it is the political culture of the State that allows the cohabitation of many nations within the American nation. We can then consider that both State and national culture influence each other.

Attempts at finding an official definition of American identity are in vain because identities are subjective and created over time. According to Arthur Schlesinger, American identity will never be fixed and final; it always be in the making?(Schlesinger 138). Considering the difficulty to find any official definition of American national identity, we will work on a definition of American nationality. The 1997 U.S Commission on Immigration Reform stated that:

These truths constitute the distinctive characteristics of American nationality... the principles and values embodied in the American Constitution and their fulfillment in practice: equal protection and justice under the law; freedom of speech and religion; representative government; lawfully-admitted newcomers of any ancestral nationality- without regard to race, ethnicity, or religion- truly become Americans when they give allegiance to these principles and values (Ashbee 9).

In other words, the U.S Commission on Immigration Reform considered that American nationality lies in the principles and values defined under the U.S Constitution. America is described as a tolerant, inclusive and open land to immigration from all over the world. It seems that for the U.S Commission on Immigration Reform, American identity is first and foremost based on political rather than cultural criterion.

This attitude can be explained by the fact that people do have multiple identities and that the identification someone has with an ethnic group is not incompatible with national identity. On this point, E.F. Isin and P.K. Wood wrote that identities are fragmented and

fractured, never singular but multiply constructed across different, often intersecting and antagonistic, discourses, practices and positions?(Ashbee 1). For Virginia Cyrius, being a member of an ethnic group in the United States is synonymous with having at least two identities to which can be added religion, gender or class identity. She explained that:

When we identify someone as a member of an ethnic group, we mean that she or he

belongs to some identifiable group within American society. This is the most important

component of ethnicity: membership in a subgroup within an environment dominated by

another culture115.

Those two types of identities are well explained by Michael Billig in his book Banal Nationalism:

As far as nationalism is concerned, a distinction should be made between those social movements which are mobilizing 'identities' in the cause of securing homeland territory and those which are mobilizing 'identities' within an existing polity(Billig 146).

For M. Billig, voluntary identification to an ethnic community does not challenge the

nation but the nature of the nation. He stated that:

Identity politics in the US is not directed towards creating separate national homelands. In fact, identity politics appears, at first sight, to transcend place. Feminists, Gays, Hispanics and so on are not localized within the US. To be sure, there are ethnic and racial ghettos within cities; but there is no African American or Italian American state, with its own bordered territory and with its claim for national independence. On the contrary, the politics of identity, unlike that of nationalist movements, gathers together those who are geographically scattered in to an imagined unity of identification: a placeless community of interests is to be imagined(Billig 146).

According to M. Billig, ethnic pride and the maintenance of one's ethnic identity should not be considered as a source of division within the nation because ethnic identity like gender identity does not function as nationalism because this kind of identities function as placeless community of interest?. Cultural identity, contrary to political identity does not seek statehood and this is why ethnic consciousness and the maintenance and promotion of cultural identities should not be considered as a threat for the national community. In addtion tot hids M.Billig wrote:

If identity politics is based on the vision of the 'multicultural society', this politics takes
for granted that there is a 'society', which is to be multicultural and which is to be
represented by a greater variety of faces than on a Rockwell canvas. When the

115 FONG, Mary; CHUANG, Ruelying, Communicating Ethnic and Cultural Identity,Oxford: Rowman and Little Field Publisher Inc, 2004. Print. p.5.

multicultural ideal is tied to the notion of the nation, then 'identity politics' is situated within the nation's tradition of argument: identities within the nation are contested but not the identity of the nation itself (Billig 148).

In the light of M.Billig conception of identity we can conclude that, in a multicultural context like the United States, the presence of culturally heterogeneous people is not incompatible with identification to the nation. On this point, M.Walzer considered that we have come to regard American nationality as an addition to rather than a replacement for ethnic consciousness?(Ashbee 7).

Once those conceptions of identity and the American society have been explained, it is important to determine to what extent U.S ENGLISH has been re-imagining American identity.

First, throughout this analysis we have demonstrated that U.S ENGLISH has tended to present language as an exclusive cultural element because they have been trying to make the speaking of the English language compulsory to the naturalization process. A national language legislation, as presented by U.S ENGLISH, considers language as a civic duty, closing the door to citizenship to all non-English speaking people. As we have previously demonstrated, language is a salient element of one's ethnicity or one's identity. Even though we have seen that it is not easy to measure to what extent does being a citizen influences the feeling of belonging to the nation, what is certain is that by making the access to citizenship dependent on a cultural element, U.S ENGLISH has been reinventing American identity. As a result, U.S ENGLISH has been trying to define who is and who is not American on the basis of one's language ability. By doing so, U.S ENGLISH clearly expressed their wish to see the political and national culture become congruent as their nationalist attitude as well as their conception of the melting-pot as a national ideal has shown. The presence of culturally diverse people in the nation has always been a fact in the U.S history and as Michael Billig genuinely explained in his book Banal Nationalism, it is not incompatible with the idea of a unified nation. But their rejection of cultural pluralism on the basis that it threatens a division within the nation indicates that their conception of the nation is highly different from the current trend. At some point, they have been presenting American identity as exclusive when they said that in order to become American one has to forget his/her ethnic culture and language. This conception of American identity as being restrictive, exclusive and based on language ability is a proof of the way they has been re-imagining American identity.

Finally, we have seen that they have been playing with national symbols to create patriotic and nationalist feelings. We have also demonstrated that they have tended to project

a pro-American and pro-Immigration image of the movement by promoting the movement through the promotion of the nation. In addition to this, we have explained to what extent U.S ENGLISH can be considered as a nativist organization with a view to make the speaking of the English language compulsory for naturalization. We have also studied the way they have been re-imagining the composition of the nation by overemphasizing the presence of ethnic minorities and in particular Hispanics in the nation. The media has been a way to carry all those ideas and, as we have seen when accounting for the role of the media in society, even though it is debatable, the media has an influence on reality or at least on the individual and personal evaluation people have of reality. However it is not sure whether all those publications had an impact on the nation itself but the presence of lobbying organizations such as U.S ENGLISH is the sign that American identity and the American nation in general will always be in the making?. The questions that arise around the American nation is a sign that America still is a strong and unified nation because the genius of a nation lies in its capacity to constantly reinvent and re-imagine itself.

In the last part of this analysis, it is important to put things in perspective and study what is the general opinion towards the views promoted by U.S ENGLISH. To finish with, we will try to account for what the support for this movement tells about American identity.

3. What does the Support for This Movement Tell about American Identity?

In 2009, U.S ENGLISH had 1.8 million supporters. Proportionally their supporters represent 0.93% of all the U.S citizens above 18 (U.S Census Bureau 2000). One may think that after all, less than one percent of the U.S population above 18 is not that much but we also have to consider that there must be people who share those views and who did not choose to adhere to U.S ENGLISH. It is important to note that all the elements demonstrated previously in this analysis are relevant but people who actually support U.S ENGLISH do not necessarily share the same views. It would be a mistake to consider that among their 1.8 million supporters in 2009, everybody has been considering that English should be a civic duty or that a nativist conception of the nation is acceptable or even that Hispanic immigrants represent a threat to national unity.

In this part, we will first attempt at showing the attitude people have towards the different issues at the heart of the rhetoric of U.S ENGLISH. In those ends, we will use the 1972-2008 GSS Cumulative Dataset as well as others surveys to show the general trend and

the general attitude people have towards some important questions raised by U.S ENGLISH. Then, we will try to draw a parallel between the views defended by U.S ENGLISH and the results of a study conducted on The 'Official-English' movement and the symbolic politics of language in the United States»by Citrin, Reingold, Walters and Green.

First, we need to analyze the popular conception of the American identity and the general attitude people have towards immigrants.

Edward Ashbee in an article entilted Being American: representations of national identity? one can find data adapted from the 1998 Ittil "il " P This was a survey conducted in twenty-four countries across the world and the aim was to determine what the popular conceptions of American and other countries identity were. When respondents were asked about how important it is to be able to speak English in the United States, 71. 3% said that it was very important, 21.6% fairly important and 5.1% not very important and 1.9% not important at all(Ashbee 9).

When a similar question was put to Americans, 76.1%of the respondents considered that speaking English as the common national language is what unites all Americans?(Annex XXI, Fig. 5.). Similarly, 77.5%of the respondents were in favor of a law making English the official language of the United States? (Annex XXI, Fig. 3). In this light, we can consider that most people, both in America and abroad, consider that the knowledge of the English language is very important when considering American national identity. In addition to this, a study conducted in June 2005 on Americans' attitude about being American?, found that sixty-seven percent of respondents believe that immigrants should adopt America`s culture, language, and heritage,? while only seventeen percent believe that they should maintain the culture of their home country?.116 Seventy-nine percent felt that immigrants should be required to learn English before they are allowed to become citizens (Rasmussen Reports). These polls show that Americans are very attached to the symbols of their nation and generally tend to protect them by considering that immigrants should adopt the American culture. Furthermore, it seems that, for Americans, language ability is one element that has to be taken into consideration when asserting their American identity. In this regard, the need for national language legislation is very likely to be supported by the general public opinion in America.

Americans tend to have a liberal vision of America as they generally oppose government intervention in cultural matters. In fact, when asked if the government should

116 RASSMUSSEN Reports. Americans' Attitudes About Being American?, June 2005, American Demographics. Web. 5 March 2010.

help racial and ethnic groups to change so that they blend into the larger society, 78.5% of the respondents disagreed and considered that this should be left up to groups (AnnexXXI, Fig. 11). An official English language amendment as proposed by U.S ENGLISH clearly asks for governmental intervention for the integration of immigrants within the American society. There is a dichotomy between the fact that people tend to oppose government intervention while integrating newcomers to the American nation, and the fact that they generally acknowledge that English is what unites all Americans and consider that English should be the official language of the United States. This dichotomy may be a sign that Americans, very attached to their language, seek to protect it, but on the other hand, they are also very attached to the inclusive and tolerant character of their country.

In a way, Americans consider that the speaking of the English language is, and should remain assimilated with American identity, but should not become a compulsory requirement for participation in the life of the nation. We have seen that U.S ENGLISH has been playing with different conceptions of American identity when promoting their cause and in the light of this analysis of the general opinion, we can consider that the claim for governmental intervention in what people consider as private matters may discourage and refrain some people to join U.S ENGLISH.

Throughout this analysis, we have seen that U.S ENGLISH has been playing on the pride Americans feel for their nation when they recalled national symbols to promote their cause. U.S ENGLISH has tended to project the image of a disunited nation because of the pride some may have for their ethnic heritage. Indeed, to the question when you think of social and political issues, do you think of yourself mainly as being as a member of a particular ethnic, racial, or national group or do you think of yourself as just an American??, 90.1% of the respondent felt Just an American? and 7.5% felt as some part of an ethnic or racial group? (Annex XXI, Fig. 10.). The figures highlight the previously demonstrated argument that the pride some may feel for their ethnic heritage is not incompatible with loyalty and feeling of belonging to the nation. Americans when asked to choose between the two tend to generally favor their national identity over their ethnic identity. In America national identity is not at all being challenged by ethnic consciousness in America unlike what U.S ENGLISH has been trying to project.

However, Americans generally do not prioritize their national identity when defining who they are because when asked what is most important to you in describing who you are??, 15.5% of the respondents mention their current occupation, 48.4% mention their family or marital status, 11% religion, 8.6 % gender. Nationality comes only at the 8th rank with

2.4%117. But even though American tends to define themselves in more practical ways than identifying with the nation, they are still proud of being American. To the question, ?are you proud to be an American??, 47% of the respondents said that they were extremely proud?, 38.8 percent that they were very proud?, 12.7 % were somewhat proud? and only 1.4 percent were not very proud?118.

Those figures show that the communication strategies used by U.S ENGLISH when advertising, namely referring to national symbols, may echo in people's mind as they are generally proud and attached to their national identity. In addition to this, we can consider that the motto of U.S ENGLISH the language of equal opportunity? may also catch their reader's attention as we have seen that people tend to define themselves through their current occupational status. In other words, the social position defined by the occupational status is important for Americans and it is very likely that they might favor the enactment of official language legislation if it allows immigrants to have a good position on the socio-economic ladder. Lawrence Auste considered that it makes no difference whether a person can participate in the culture of this country or even if he speaks English; holding a job and paying taxes become the sole criterion of being a good and useful citizen?(Ashbee 3). This definition of a useful and good citizen? tends to demonstrate that participation in the economic life of the nation is very important.

As far as immigration to the United States is concerned, more than half of the respondents felt that immigrants will affect national unity and are demanding too many rights (Annex XXI, Fig.1.). But on the other hand, when asked if immigrants improve American society, more than half of the respondents agreed (Annex XXI, Fig.8.). Similarly, half of the respondents considered that more immigrants somewhat open the country to new ideas and cultures (Annex XXI, Fig. 6). In addition to this, it is important to note that the public opinion seems to be divided on the question of whether legal immigrants should have the same rights as Americans because 11.7% strongly agreed, 26.8% agreed, 15.6 % neither agreed nor disagreed and 35.1% disagreed and 10.8 percent strongly disagreed (Annex XXI, Fig. 9). Similarly, to the question how important is it to have American ancestry to be truly American, 32.7 % of the respondents found it very important, 22.5% found it fairly important, 31% found it not very important and 13.8% found it not important at all(Annex XXI, Fig. 7).

An analysis of those figures tend to prove that Americans generally have a positive attitude to immigration but still many consider that it might be a threat to the national unity.

117 GSS 1972-2008 Cumulative Dataset

118 Ibid.

Furthermore, still a lot of people consider that having American ancestry is important when determining who is a true American. This element may account for the attitude some people have towards the rights that should be given to legal immigrants.

When asked if English is threatened by the language spoken by immigrants, more than half of the respondents disagreed(Annex XXI, Fig. 4) and as we have seen there is more than 70% of the respondents who favored a law declaring English the official language of the United States(Annex XXI, Fig.3). In this light, we can consider that people see in official language legislation a symbolic and instrumental unifier.

However, as we saw in part one, more than 70% of respondents favored bilingual education (Annex XXI, Fig. 2). In addition to this, when asked about the way children who don't speak English when entering public schools, should be taught, 36% of the respondents thought that all classes should be taught in English, 48.3% thought that they should have a year or two of instruction in their native language and 15.7% thought that they should have only native language instruction during high school119. In this light, we can conclude that American public opinion tend to favor bilingual education but also consider that the aim of bilingual education is to transfer into the mainstream language as only 15.7 %of the respondents considered that they should be taught only in their native language. To a certain extent, this attitude is somewhat contradictory but it informs us that Americans are very attached to the freedom of speech and individual freedom but as they consider that the speaking of the English language is essential to American identity they tend to favor transitional instead of true bilingual programs.

An analysis of the opinion polls tends to reflect the battle between the two normative visions of the American nation explained previously. It would have been interesting to conduct research among the members of U.S ENGLISH in order to determine what drove them to join the movement. Such a survey would have helped to determine what the support for U.S ENGLISH tells about American identity.

Last but not least, it is necessary to quote the results of a research on The 'Official-English' movement and the symbolic politics of language in the United States»conducted by J. Citrin, B. Reingold, E. Walters and D.P Green in September 1990. In an article published in the Southern Political Quarterly, they concluded that:

We identified feelings of nationalism as a principal source of the mass appeal of 'official
English'. ... Patriotism is a key symbolic issue raised by language policy. Learning
English figures prominently in an image of American experience in which successive

119 GSS 1972-2008 Cumulative Dataset.

waves of immigrants become full-fledged citizens by their own efforts at assimilation. Among those who believe that being American means speaking English, 'official English' is likely to be a codeword for nationalism. ... In this conception of national identity, moreover, bilingualism easily becomes a symbol of civic disunity. When nationalistic sentiments are engaged, therefore, people are likely to evaluate specific bilingual programs according to whether they facilitate the diffusion of English-speaking skills.

We have also confirmed that attitudes toward racially and culturally distinct ethnic groups shape opinions on language issues. ... Polls suggest that the public generally endorses the abstract value of 'maintaining one's ethnic heritage'. Disagreement centers on the extent to which government policy should actively promote the use of languages other than English and on whether "official English" discriminates against minority groups. ...

Popular reactions to language policy thus depend significantly on how these issues are framed. To the mass public, English remains an important symbol of national identity. Regardless of ethnicity, most Americans take for granted that English is the national language. ... By limiting the goals of language policy to providing linguistic minorities adequate opportunities to learn English while tolerating the use of their native languages in the private realm, elites can diminish the salience of the movement for 'official English'(Citrin, Reingold, Walters, Green 545).

This research conducted on the sources of public opinion on language issues was based on J. Citrin and D.P Green hypothesis that while objective changes in the ethnic composition of a community may alter the salience of language policy, symbolic attitudes rather than material concerns are the predominant influence on mass preferences?(Citrin, Reingold, Walters, Green 536). The research also demonstrated that people tend to favor bilingual programs aiming at transferring into the mainstream language, but on the other hand, public opinion acknowledges the right ethnic minorities should have to maintain their native language. The emphasis was on the fact that the support for Official-English legislation strongly depended on the way the issues are framed: people tend to support the enactment of official-English legislation as a symbolic measure.

The results of this research verify the different hypothesis made throughout the analysis of the lobbying organization U.S ENGLISH. Thanks to this research, we can conclude that the efficiency of the communication strategies of U.S ENGLISH is due to the fact they have been using the positive attachment people have for the symbols of their nation. U.S ENGLISH chose to appeal to the nationalism and patriotism people may feel for the nation to reach a larger audience. According to this research, their strategy has been to elevate English to a role as the primary guardian of the American culture and way of life.

précédent sommaire suivant

La Quadrature du Net