Last week, my former boss, Newt Gingrich, threw a much-needed conceptual bomb into the jejune public dialogue of presidential aspirants. Amidst the platitudes, banalities and evasions that constitute pre-presidential debate these days, Newt argued (in a speech last weekend) that bilingual education only encourages students to be linguistically "living in a ghetto:
"The government should quit mandating that various documents be printed in any one of 700 languages depending on who randomly show up" [to vote] "The American people believe English should be the official language of the government We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto. Citizenship requires passing a test on American history in English. If that's true, then we do not have to create ballots in any language except English."
Predictably, the PC riot squad screeched into the media to suppress such clarity of language. Peter Zamora, co-chair of the Hispanic Education Coalition, intoned: "The tone of his comments were very hateful. Spanish is spoken by many individuals who do not live in the ghetto." CNN and other news outlets started raising the question had Newt gone too far this time?
But, of course, there was nothing hateful in Newt's language or in his thoughts: The case is completely to the contrary. Newt has always sincerely wanted to help poor people and legal immigrants become successful, fully integrated American citizens.
Back in 1995, he was mocked for warning the public that inner-city kids would be left out of the computer-filled future if we didn't get computers into inner-city (largely black and Hispanic) schools just as suburban (largely white) parents were providing computers for their kids. Only years later did liberals recognize the very real danger of the socio-economic "digital divide" as a threat to poor kids. Newt was the first to notice the danger -- and he was the first to try to actually do something about it.
Mr. Zamora and the others in the media who have pounced on Newt's mention of the ghetto either willfully or ignorantly misinterpret the significance of the ghetto reference. Originally, the word ghetto was used to describe that part of the city of Venice, Italy, where Jews were required to live.
It wasn't the Jews' fault. It was the fault of the others who wanted to deny the Jews the right to live fully integrated lives. Of course, even in medieval times, Jews around the world spoke a noble, historic language. The fact that it was also spoken in the ghetto was no reflection on the language -- but rather a reflection on the repressive culture in which many Jews were forced to live.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.