Page images
PDF
EPUB

PART FOUR

METHODS OF AMERICANIZATION

CHAPTER XVII

AMERICANIZATION: THE NATIVE-BORN

The nature of American traits has been stated; the main facts upon which to base an Americanization program have been presented. Americanism has been defined as a group of principles signified by four sets of terms; liberty and self-reliance, union and co-operation, democracy and the square deal, internationalism and brotherhood. The cultural backgrounds and personal attitudes of the leading native-born and foreign-born groups living in Amer. ica have been analyzed.

Americanization is the process of unifying all peoples residing in the United States in support of the set of ideals which constitute Americanism.1 The central core of Americanization consists in the methods for working out a perfected democracy in our country. The attainment of this goal involves a thorough understanding of a democratic attitude in all its phases, organized methods of in

'See the initial pages of Chapter I for a statement of the various definitions of Americanization.

struction which will reach our entire population concerning the full meaning of democracy, and conscious and continuous everyday efforts on the part of Americans to realize in their living the principles of a perfected democracy.

For many years, Germany knew definitely the principles upon which she wished to stake her future. She labored methodically to instil these principles into the minds of all her people through the governmentally controlled educational system. Through semi-socialistic programs of building up the welfare of the common people, she developed an inordinate degree of group loyalty, or patriotism. She established a consciously planned and highly perfected autocracy.

Upon the basis of an opposite type of principles, democratic in nature, the United States is struggling forward, but with her aims not always clearly defined or understood. Consequently the imperfections in our democracy have been many and the wastage appalling. Our efforts to attain a democracy have often been made unconsciously, inchoately, and spasmodically. The time has now arrived when we should set about the task through educational methods of consciously constructing a state, not upon the theory that might is right, or that "der Staat ist Macht," but upon the contrary ground that right is might and that human personality is sacred. Instead of the individual existing, being fed, and being trained for the state, the state must exist and prosper for the development of the largest freedom of human personalities that is compatible

with group progress. "From an imperfect to a perfected democracy" must be our slogan.

The work of the United States Food Administration under the direction of Mr. Herbert Hoover serves as an excellent illustration of the problem involved in perfecting an imperfect democracy. When the first rules of the Food Administration were announced, the democratic principle was adopted of invoking the free response and co-operation of the people. Two obstacles stood in the way: (1) that of informing all the people promptly; and (2) that of overcoming the imperfect spirit of democracy existent in the country. A phase of the first problem was the lack of a common language and the inability of millions of our people to read at all. Newspaper media, thus, could not be used with entire effectiveness. With a score or more of languages being used in each of the large cities, with a total of eight million foreign language readers who could not read English, with nearly three million illiterate adults, the first need of an Americanization program stood out with blazing clearness, namely, to teach all the people to read, and to read a common language, the English.

The second difficulty was the tendency of many people to show a lack of confidence in the Food Administration, to question its rules, to whine against the enforcement of its requests, and worst of all, to violate secretly its regulations. The need for a socialized national spirit was never so urgent. If all the people could have visualized with sufficient clearness the food needs of the Allies and the

way in which our Food Administration was planning to meet that need, the response would have been so immediate and so overwhelming that the world would have known that at last a highly perfected democracy had been established on earth. As it was, the reliance of the Food Administration upon the democratic principle of voluntary co-operation was so successful that the necessary food was conserved and delivered to the Allies in a way that amazed the world.

Another democratic principle for which the Food Administration has successfully stood is that "most is required of those most able to give." Wealthy and well-to-do people were asked to conserve and to give, while those at or below the mere existence level were not urged so strongly.

By the opposite token, suppose that no one had respected the regulations from the Food Administration, what would have occurred? The alternative measure would have been compulsion, resort to heavy punishments, and the use of the autocratic principle. In a time of national crisis, there are but two ways open, voluntary co-operation, or governmental compulsion. The choice lies with the people and is based upon their underlying attitude of mind-if they live in a democracy. If the reaction to large national needs is prompt and universal, a perfect democracy has been attained. But such a reaction means that the masses have all had the advantages of education and have acquired a socialized viewpoint through education.

The first step in our Americanization plan may now be stated. The need of a Department of Education in our national government, with a representative in the Cabinet is undeniable. The welfare of cattle and swine has long had representation at the President's table of counselors, but the education, unification, Americanization, and socialization of our people are still without a direct spokesman in the cabinet. Education, which releases and develops the spiritual forces of a democracy, is still taken care of by a Cabinet member who at the same time must burden his mind with several other important phases of national life.

Granted the establishment of a Department of Education, the building up of a Bureau of Americanization within that department would naturally follow. In the past, the Americanization work has been left in the hands of several division directors at Washington, with a natural lack of unity, continuity, and hence of adequate success.

At the present writing (February, 1919), there is an Americanization Division under the supervision of the Bureau of Education (Department of the Interior). The Division is directed by Fred C. Butler. A sixteen page monthly publication was established by the Division in September, 1918. In January, 1919, co-ordination of the work of the Americanization Division and of the Bureau of Naturalization was effected. The activities of the former will center upon the general education and assimilation of the foreign-born; the jurisdiction of the latter will be confined to the foreign-born who

« PreviousContinue »