The Corner

‘Our Pilgrim Forefathers’

Jeff Jacoby’s moving column on Thanksgiving and assimilation ends this way:

As my fellow forth-graders and I belted out the lyrics to another song — P-I-L-grim fathers landed here on Plymouth Bay — we assumed that Mrs. Feigenbaum was simply getting us ready for the Thanksgiving assembly. She knew, of course, that she was doing something far more important. She was getting us ready to be Americans.

This is precisely the point Lawrence Fuchs of Brandeis made in Hawaii Pono: A Social History, writing about McKinley High School in Honolulu, where in the 1920s the children of Japanese immigrants recited the Gettysburg Address by heart and where “a teacher from Oklahoma was deeply moved at his first assembly recitation as little nisei boys seriously recalled ‘our Pilgrim forefathers.’”

Are the children of today’s immigrants being taught what Jacoby was taught at his Jewish day school in Cleveland or what Fuchs relates from Hawaii? Do our schools today teach that, as Jacoby writes, “the country they had come to was in some indispensable way better than the one they had left”? In fact, our schools and the rest of our culture recoil at the very idea of “assimilation” and teach children that America is actually inferior to other nations, warranting apology after apology for not measuring up to their standards. In such an environment, we’re lucky when kids from immigrant families are simply ambivalent about America. Our own kids absorb this same filth, of course, but they at least have a personal connection to our nation’s past — a grandfather who was at Guadalcanal, a great-grandmother who came through Ellis Island, ancestors who fought against each other in the Civil War. The children of immigrants have no such past and must acquire it — be adopted by their Pilgrim forefathers — and to paraphrase something from a different context, the assimilation situation has developed not necessarily to America’s advantage.

Under such conditions, how can high levels of immigration be justified? True, the immigrants aren’t usually demanding that we teach their children the wickedness of Amerikkka — our own post-American elites are the ones responsible. But until we restore a consensus for assimilation, immigration is deeply problematic, exacerbating an already serious threat to our nation’s cohesion. When your tub is overflowing, the first thing you need to do is turn off the tap.

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