So a principal at Devonshire Elementary School in Charlotte, NC FIRES a secretary for speaking Spanish to parents who are not fluent in English, claiming the secretary violated his rule that "only English" would be spoken in his school. How stupid is this?
As an American living in Turkey, I can't imagine the Turks at any school declaring that "only Turkish can be spoken," and firing a secretary for speaking English to parents like myself. Nor could I imagine any Turk expressing hostility at resident foreigners who don't speak Turkish. I would consider that a hostile environment. In fact, the Turks have BEGGED me to teach English, and pay a premium to native speakers. They understand that we now live in a global economy and as a result Turkey is an economic powerhouse.
It disturbs me that some Americans could be so narrow-minded that they would take such a hostile attitude toward Spanish-speakers or any other ethnic group. Such arrogant, isolationist and ethnocentric attitudes will cause us to lose our economic edge in the world, if it hasn't already.
Sure, English is a global language of business, but if you think the rest of the world needs to speak your language and learn your culture while you as an American remain largely deaf, dumb and blind to other languages and cultures, you are contributing to America's economic decline. One of America's greatest strengths is its cultural diversity.
I'm trying to practice what I preach, taking Turkish lessons and very s-l-o-w-l-y trying to carry on conversations. It's a struggle. I sure empathize with those Spanish-speakers in America who don't speak English. And I often depend on the kindness of strangers, Turks who take me by the arm and lead me to a friend of theirs who speaks English. I'm very grateful for their hospitality. It pains me that my own countrymen might be less hospitable, and indeed hostile, to the non-English-speakers in our midst.