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americanization day - or - why you should thank an immigrant for the day off:
Taking the Risk Out of Democracy, Alex Carey, p.60:
During 1918 the CPI [Committee on Public Information] set up fourteen foreign-language bureaus and made them responsible for developing, among their people, Americanization sentiment and support for the war. These bureaus were so successful that 745 foreign-language newspapers co-operated out of a total of 865. In addition, it was the foreign-language bureaus which were largely responsible for the petition presented to President Wilson on 21 May 1918, asking that the fourth of July be especially recognized as a day for the foreign-born to demonstrate their loyalty to their adopted country. Wilson agreed. With the President's stamp of approval the CPI set to work to plan an enthusiastic celebration for what was to be called Independence Day.
The ammendment to 'Independence Day' rather than 'Americanization Day' as originally proposed in 1915 by the NAC [National Americanization Committee] is an interesting change. It could be argued that
the cultural and ethnic intolerances inherent in the term 'Americanization' were too obvious in 1918 to engender overwhelming public support for a national celebration. 'Independence Day', while less obviously ethnocentric, does, however, suffer from a certain ambiguity. Within its historical context 'Independence Day' refers to both an immigrant's seperation from old cultural ties and their alienation from the new business-oriented American culture. Current Independence Day celebrations still contain the residual power and meaning of those historically dislocating circumstances, even though most people would think of the day as a celebration for national rather than ethnic independence.
The Bureau of Naturalization also continued its Americanization efforts during 1918, especially with respect to schools. It reported that Americanization committees had been organized in virtually all US communities, that chambers of commerce were widely active and that scarcely a commercial or business organization in the nation was not represented in some way in support of the bureau's efforts. Churches in many areas had also organized programs for Americanization. The bureau continued to sponsor Americanization classes in industrial plants and influenced the city of Chicago to provide a thousand teachers for such work. Overall the bureau did all in its power to preach the gospel for a full red-blooded American campaign of Americanization.
There can be no denying on its own merits its success, or if you're a bedwetter, the Americanization programs' utility. The business community of course used the broader effort as a means to fight the strong pro-union sentiment in immigrant communities (c.f. nathan newman's brief history of the American labor movement), among other questionable matters of pedagogy, but there's also the side-effect of communities organizing to reach out to immigrants to teach them the trade tongue and show them how to bake apple pies, for which something could probably be said. It at least beats the 'final solution' proposed by the fanatic membership of Mensa.
Also, if you're going to waste explosives on something stupid, do it with fireworks.
:: posted by buermann @ 2006-07-04 14:58:27 CST |