Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- December 27, 1879German in the Public Schools (Editorial)
We received a letter from Mr. Keith, member of the school board, wherein the gentleman took exception to our remarks published in the Thursday, December 25, issue of the Illinois Staats-Zeitung. We accused Mr. Keith of having broken his word. He said that he had merely promised the editor of the Illinois Staats-Zeitung that he would not join in the attacks which were then being made against, the teaching of German in the public schools, and that he had fulfilled that pledge, but that he had never made a declaration that he would maintain that attitude throughout his tenure of office. He was not prejudiced against the Germans or their language, but it was his conviction that teaching the German language in the public schools was of no educational value. If people wished to reproach him for his act, then he would have to accept their censure, but he objected to anyone's saying 2that he disregarded his promises, because such a statement was not founded on fact.
Well enough. We do not intend to be unfair and therefore we gave his views. Whether his explanations will convince others we leave to our readers. We wish to add, however, that according to Mr. Keith's opinion the reduction in the appropriation for salaries of special teachers is by no means an indication that German instruction will be dispensed with. The appropriation affects only the salaries of the "superintendents" of the special branches, German, music, and drawing, for whom no money will be available after July 1, 1880, but the status of the teachers remains unchanged.
According to this explanation, only the salaries of the afore-mentioned three superintendents of the special branches would cease after July 1.3
If a definite issue were to be made of the question whether German instruction should be continued or eliminated, the school board's decision would be entirely different from its vote on Stone's motion, three days ago. At least two members (possibly even Keith, as a third, but he did not definitely say this) who voted for Stone's motion would then vote for the retention of German in our schools.
Let us hope so, and if it does happen, then we will be indebted to the energetic intervention of the German press.
We also received a communication from another source, wherein the sender endeavored to show that the Germans themselves showed little concern about the teaching of their native language, and proof was offered by quoting statistics of the constantly diminishing attendance at German classes due to parental choice.4
These figures are misleading, because the large number of children who study German at home, in parochial or private schools, or who are far advanced beyond their age group in the public schools and therefore do not study the language there, are not listed. One will readily perceive the importance of German instruction if he considers those children of Germans who have no opportunity to learn the language at home or at a private institution. One can admit, however, that the pedagogic value of maintaining the German language in the school curriculum is less important than the moral value as long as it is taught in the present unsatisfactory manner. Above all, our citizens of German origin will become staunch advocates of the public schools, whereas otherwise our schools might meet with considerable and justified criticism based on sensible teaching methods.
Those Americans who at heart are opposed to German instruction are the very ones who should favor the teaching of German in the public schools, because 5thousands of children who now attend private or parochial schools would then go to our public schools. Many far-seeing Germans have recognized this fact and opposed strenously the teaching of German in public schools, because the children became Americanized thereby. What inconsequential German is taught in the public schools is entirely disproportionate to the English-American influence prevailing there; however, the majority of the German-speaking people in Chicago are not aware of this fact.
Another factor which is of moral significance: German instruction steadily reduces the animosity which exists between German-American and English-American children. Those of our readers who have been here for twenty years or more have had experience along this line. A quarter of a century ago the middle and lower classes of our native population had the same attitude toward the Germans as Californians have toward the Chinese today. The Germans--and above all, their language--were ridiculed, and 6it was not unusual for American rowdies to tell Germans not to speak their native tongue in public or while riding on a train. Whenever Germans spoke their native language, Americans scoffed or grinned, so that many Germans, fearing mob violence, resorted to English jargon.
After the German language was introduced into the schools of our larger cities, matters improved considerably. The new generation does not ridicule people anymore when they talk a foreign language, because it is taught in schools now and therefore commands respect. Fluency in another language is now regarded as an accomplishment, and most of the friction is now a thing of the past. And what applies to the children also applies in a large measure to the parents. The continuation of German instruction in our schools gives assurances of ever-growing mutual esteem between the English-Americans and German-Americans, and helps in fostering friendly relations.
On the other hand, if we discontinue the teaching of German in the public 7schools we revert to former days, and old grudges will be renewed.
If the American Republicans, the Irish, and the Kentucky Democrats [Translator's note: This refers to Mayor Harrison, a Democrat from Kentucky, and his followers--hence, Kentucky Democrats], wish to combine to bring about this undesirable condition, then they must expect to be treated as bitter enemies by the Germans.
I A 1 b, I A 2 b, I B 3 b, II B 2 f, III A
Secondary listingsGerman // Attitudes > Education > Parochial > Foreign Languages (I A 2 b) ?
German // Attitudes > Mores > Family Organization > Parent-Child Relationship (I B 3 b) ?
German // Contributions and Activities > Avocational and Intellectual > Intellectual > Special Schools and Classes (II B 2 f) ?
German // Assimilation > Segregation (III A) ?
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