Monday, April 8, 2013

Reflections: The Question of Immigrants

I am a first generation immigrant from India.  I love my country:  the United States of America.  I am well versed in the rich history of our nation and greatly admire the founding generation.  People often ask me why some immigrants ignore the nation’s founding principles.  Although majority of immigrants love America, whether they understand our nation’s history, particularly that of the early Republic is another matter.  Several reasons may exist for this phenomenon.  The few that I have come to understand essentially involve a lack of knowledge of our fundamental principles.

Of course, by lack of knowledge I mean improper education about our nation’s founding.  To be sure, many immigrants are well-educated members of the society and hardly illiterate.  The improper education I speak of comes from the de-emphasis of civics and American history in public schools, colleges, and universities throughout America.  None of these institutions spend any substantial amount of time teaching the fundamentals of American history.  Students often exit high schools with only a vague idea about the founding principles.  For instance, many are unaware that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.  Still fewer of them know the causes of the American Revolution.  It is hardly surprising then that if they do attend college, they must re-learn (and in some cases learn to begin with) the basics of American history in their first year as part of their general education requirement.  All students, including immigrants, experience the same diluted version of American history in public schools throughout the country. 

Another reason why immigrants fail to understand the importance of the founding generation is from a lack of regard for American history.  Often these individuals remain tied to their old country and are unwilling to accept America as their homeland.  They enter the United States with dreams and ambitions of acquiring a decent education, employment, and lifestyle without considering the liberties that allow them to gain all of these opportunities.  Many of these immigrants have already completed college in their country of origin before arriving to the United States.  Therefore, for them, the opportunity to learn about the founding of the United States becomes even more remote.  For example, in India, children are well versed in the history of their country by the time they reach college.  There are people who have lived in the United States for several decades but they can still sing the national anthem of India without missing a beat.  On the other hand, the same immigrants falter when singing the Star Spangled Banner.  Yet, it is important to remember, that in many such cases, the lack of regard for American history stems more from the ignorance of it than from any disdain towards America.             

Some immigrants also reject the founding principles outright and embrace the progressive culture that exists in our nation today because it allows them to feel at home.  These individuals find the utopian idea of collectivism more akin to their lifestyle than the idea wrapped in liberty and freedom.  For them such an effort in society is a steady reminder of their old ways and thereby an idea to be cherished.  Even for those who lived under difficult circumstances in their country of origin, holding onto an old idea, however terrible it might be is often comforting when pitted against the confusing culture of America.  In this idealistic world, they find a place to be as they were back at home.  Indeed, they consider progressive values the true basis of freedom for everyone over the stale ideology of liberty from a bygone era.  They delight in the movement and ardently support it so others can find the same joys they experience.  Cases such as these suggest that some immigrants are more receptive to ideas reminiscent of their “home.”

Even though the reasons for their negligent attitude towards the early Republic vary from one group of immigrants to another, one common element resides in all three examples.  In each case, the immigrants suffer from a lack of knowledge or improper education of our nation’s founding principles.  As such, they are more likely to follow the status quo instead of taking the time to learn about what makes America a fundamentally unique nation.  The idea of liberty resonates even less with such individuals because it is a vague notion, far removed from their “reality.”  Perhaps, if immigrants had the proper education about our nation’s founding era, they could reconsider their views about America’s future.  Ironically, in cases such as these, immigrants are similar to Americans who remain misinformed about their country’s founding.  If all Americans took the time to study the founding principles and learn about their heritage, we may finally be on the proper course to making America great again.

1 comment:

  1. Ponderings of an old immigrant:
    Your last sentence says it all. However, it takes effort and motivation to do that. It is easier to slide through school, than strain a brain. What these indolents do not understand is that their lack of mental strain is going to kill their lifestyle, or that of their offspring.
    Let's go back to the very beginning - that snake, and that apple are the two most important wake-up calls in the West, and no one not only remembers them, but when they do, don't think they're relevant.
    Our entire Constitution is built on that concept. If you haven't learned it in childhood, you will probably never learn it as an adult. Too difficult.