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The Unmaking of Americans: How Multiculturalism Has Undermined the Assimilation Ethic

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In The Unmaking of Americans, John J. Miller draws on lessons from the Americanization movement of the early 20th century, which helped the Ellis Island generation of immigrants adapt to their new home. In doing so, Miller makes the first modern defense of a patriotic social crusade that many 'tenured radicals' have come to scorn as nothing more than a gentrified form of ethnic cleansing. Miller sets out to convince conservatives concerned about immigration that the real threat to American unity is not the ...
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Overview

In The Unmaking of Americans, John J. Miller draws on lessons from the Americanization movement of the early 20th century, which helped the Ellis Island generation of immigrants adapt to their new home. In doing so, Miller makes the first modern defense of a patriotic social crusade that many 'tenured radicals' have come to scorn as nothing more than a gentrified form of ethnic cleansing. Miller sets out to convince conservatives concerned about immigration that the real threat to American unity is not the huddled masses of hardworking newcomers, but longstanding left-wing policies that actively inhibit assimilation.

Proponents of bilingual education refuse to teach children in English, racial preferences encourage harmful group loyalties, welfare rules threaten the work ethic, and the citizenship process is under constant pressure from people who want to dumb it down.The Unmaking of Americans reveals where and how the system of assimilation fell apart -- and lays out a specific plan of action for correcting the problem that conservatives, libertarians, and sensible liberals can support.

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Editorial Reviews

John Fonte
. . .Miller. . .concentrates on the issue of how best to assimilate the immigrants already here. . . .[he] calls for a return to 'Americanization': the attempt to assimilate immigrants. . . .The book is well written, lucid, and packed with useful information. . . .Miller captures the spirit of the Americanization saga in clear and lively prose. —National Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Miller, a former fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, is an unabashed critic of the notion that ethnic and racial minorities need to maintain their cultural identity. He argues that multiculturalism is a theory of elite intellectuals who have no feel for what it means to be an American. The result, he maintains, diminishes the values that have made this country great. Between 1880 and 1920, 25 million immigrants arrived here and assimilated by learning English, working hard and adopting the customs of the host country. This model has been replaced, Miller suggests, by government policies that encourage separatism and produce groups more concerned with their private interests than in participating in the American tradition. The author opposes affirmative action, bilingual education in public schools and what he charges is a watered-down process for becoming a citizen. He describes himself as a man of the centerin between the radical proponents of multiculturalism and nativist reactionaries who would bar immigrants completely. When not pursuing his ideology, Miller presents interesting historical data and cogent analysis of government programs, particularly concerning the negative effects of bilingual education on children's facility to master English. The ability to communicate in English, he concludes, is crucial to success in America and to understanding how our democratic system operates. (June)
Library Journal
How America should handle its immigrants is the central question of this book by the vice president of the Center for Equal Opportunity in Washington, who argues that the Americanization of immigrants no longer occurs. Miller blames multi-culturalism, which he believes is an amalgamation of bilingual education in public schools, the efforts of immigrants to preserve their cultural identity, and affirmative action programs, among other things. While the author feins a balanced critique, his criticisms of what may be described as the liberal position are far more severe, as when he labels multiculturalists 'global village people' and 'fellow travelers,' subtle references to gays and Communists. Miller advocates returning to the strong Americanization process of the early 20th century. But that was also when far too many immigrants felt the harsh bigotry of some native-born Americans. Though his ten policy recommendations resemble a conservative's wish list, this book will likely become to the immigration policy debate what Charles Murray's Losing Ground was to the welfare reform debate. It deserves a careful and critical reading by anyone interested in this important public policy issue. -- Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, PA
American Prospect
One of the brightest young thinkers on the right.
John Fonte
. . .Miller. . .concentrates on the issue of how best to assimilate the immigrants already here. . . .[he] calls for a return to 'Americanization': the attempt to assimilate immigrants. . . .The book is well written, lucid, and packed with useful information. . . .Miller captures the spirit of the Americanization saga in clear and lively prose. -- National Review
Washington Monthly
A rising star [among a] new generation of conservative thinkers and writers.
Kirkus Reviews
A predictable polemic against the multiculturalist threat to assimilation, or what the author, vice president of the Center for Equal Opportunity (and formerly a fellow with the Heritage Foundation), calls 'Americanization.' America is a land of immigrants. As a nation, says Miller, it has not only survived but prospered by following two simple rules: Citizens must agree that immigrants can and should become Americans; immigrants must agree to do so. Throughout an imperfect history, 'Americanization' has been our guiding principle. Immigrants must accept our founding ideas of liberty and equality; they must be law-abiding, lead productive lives, speak English, become citizens. Today, however, says Miller, this principle is under attack, on the Right by 'nativists' who believe immigrants cannot become truly American, on the Left by multi-culturalist elites who believe they should not. As the author aims most of his criticism at the Left, this is clearly what he considers to be the greater danger. Well-intentioned or not, Leftist elites have created policies and programs that have left millions of immigrants outside the American mainstream. We now have a demand for racial and ethnic entitlements ('the venomous cult of group rights'), bilingual education, foreign-language voting, and the cheapening of naturalization standards. The author calls for an end to all such policies and a return to the beliefs and practices of assimilation.

Some of Miller's thoughts are not without merit, but they're presented in a shrill and intolerant tone, and his logic is often simply bizarre. While claiming not to be defending McCarthyism, for example, he finds it was a 'triumph' forAmericanization/assimilation as people were attacked for their beliefs, which they could change, not for their race, ethnicity, religion, or place of birth, which was given. Multi-culturalism and connected issues are indeed contentious items on the American agenda. Discussion of them requires reasoned analysis and sensitive argumentation, neither of which is to be found in this decidedly odd manifesto.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684836225
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 5/6/1998
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction
1 Americanization and Its Enemies 3
2 The American Idea 22
3 The Rise of Americanization 42
4 The Fall of Americanization 64
5 Americanization's Resurgence and Undoing 87
6 The Problem of Group Rights 119
7 The Naturalizers 147
8 The Failure of Bilingual Education 174
9 Americanization on the Job 209
10 An Americanization Manifesto 236
Notes 251
Acknowledgments 281
Index 283
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