Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

Events

John J. Miller

National Political Reporter, National Review

Major Issues Lecture Series

Topic: The Unmaking of Americans: How Multiculturalism Has Undermined America’s Assimilation Ethic

Tuesday, December 1, 1998

Listen (Length: 31:32)

John J. Miller is a political reporter for the National Review in Washington, D.C., and a contributing editor for Reason magazine. He is former vice president of the Center for Equal Opportunity and a Bradley Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

His most recent book, The Unmaking of Americans: How Multiculturalism Has Undermined America’s Assimilation Ethic, released by Free Press in May, has received critical acclaim. The Library Journal states, “This book will likely become to the immigration policy debate what Charles Murray’s Losing Ground was to the welfare reform debate.”

In his book, Miller contends that the United States is currently in the midst of an assimilation crisis—one brought about not by immigrants, but by American institutions that have surrendered in the struggle to help newcomers assimilate. Political elites simply have given up on the project. On the left, multiculturalists say that immigrants should not have to assimilate. On the right, nativists say that immigrants cannot assimilate.

Miller occupies the pro-assimilation center, and aims to rediscover the lost idea of Americanization as it was understood and practiced in the first years of the 20th century. In a short span of time, he argues, the United States has gone from being a country that could confidently lay out a few principles to which immigrants and the native-born could adhere to being a nation unsure of what it should ask of these newcomers, and even of itself.

The consequences of this national self-doubt, according to Miller, have created a mishmash of harmful public policies that actively inhibit the Americanization of immigrants. Public schools promote bilingual education that rarely teaches children to speak, read and write in English as well as they could. Bureaucrats classify people by the color of their skin and treat them as members of groups rather than as individuals. The government flirts with lowering the standards of naturalization so far that the only requirement for full membership in the political community could become filling out an application form.

The Unmaking of Americans contains a detailed history of the Americanization movement—from its intellectual underpinnings to its actual practice in the first decades of this century. The book also takes a close look through firsthand reporting at how assimilation functions right now in schools, workplaces, government offices and politics. It concludes with an Americanization manifestation of goals. These include ending the use of racial preferences; insisting public schools teach children in English; opposing foreign-language ballots; refusing to count illegal immigrants in Congressional apportionment; strengthening the nationalization process; stopping the federal government from harassing employers to require their workers speak English on the job; denying welfare to non-citizens; and reducing illegal immigration.

Miller resides in Alexandria, Virginia.

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