This Is Alabama. By Golly, We Speak English!

Posted: April 27, 2010 in Current Events, Politics
Tags: , , , , , ,

The local political season is heating up, and this is the time we get to see those oh so wonderful local politician commercials.  Being as I’m in Alabama, most politician commercials that run here attempt to tie the opponent to Obama, Pelosi, or some combination of the two in any way possible.  It doesn’t have to make sense.  But you also get commercials like this gem by Tim James who is running for governor.

Wow!  Looks like somebody wants Alabama to give Arizona a run for its money.

Now I do hear of cases from time to time where I do believe that maybe we are bending over a little too much for non-English speaking residents.  However, it is important to note that we do not have an official language in this country, English or otherwise.  And also since this is a free nation, I would think that would include the freedom to speak any language you would like.

But I would also point out that the purpose of the driver’s examination is not to test English proficiency, but to test vehicle operators’ understanding of the rules of the road.  Given that non-English speaking people may occasionally operate motor vehicles, it might not be a bad idea to check to make sure they know what they are doing.  So I think it is OK to try to accommodate that if you can.  Also, getting a job can be difficult without the ability to drive.  Getting a job helps people assimilate into our society, and it’s a good chance those who have immigrated will start picking up English just by doing that.

I also wonder if we would actually save any money by offering the exam only in English, rather than in the “12 languages” (actually it is 13, but in fairness to Mr. James, he never made any claims about this state’s mathematic skills! ).  There may be costs to change the system from what it is currently.  I don’t know.  Mr. James probably doesn’t either.

Oh, check out the awkward pause at the end!  He has another commercial too.  The awkward pause is apparently his trademark!

4/29 UPDATE:

Found some interesting information at this blog:

Tim James Might Want To Learn The History Of “English Only” Driver’s License Examinations In Alabama

So it turns out that we tried the “English Only” route before as a state and was rewarded with a lawsuit.  The Supreme Court technically said that the individual suing had no standing to enforce Title VI, but also explicitly said that the federal government could withdraw federal funding if a state is found in violation of Title VI.  So the state decided it wasn’t worth that risk and went back to offering the exam in multiple languages (as it was originally).

OK, here’s the thing.  If we only offered the test in English, I wouldn’t necessarily think we should be obligated to offer the test in multiple languages.  However, if it wasn’t that cost prohibitive to do so, I wouldn’t have a problem with doing it.  That said, we already offer the test in multiple languages.  It’s done.  If we want to do away with it, then I think it has to be based on a cost/benefit analysis.  The costs have to include a provision for the risk that we lose federal funding.  As far as benefits go, I really just don’t see many.  I just don’t see how inconveniencing Pedro at the driver’s examination center is going to make my life better.  Really, at the end of the day, what’s the point?

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