Utilizing the Immigrant
The CONFERENCE of the actual workers in the various phases of Americanization, that out of their experiences in the past may come the best methods for the future to be incorporated into national, state and community plans" was what the Americanization Division of the Bureau of Education- called in Washington, May 12-15. School people, industrial folk, settlement workers, representatives of the national organizations of the foreign-born, librarians, housing experts, government officials from many departments, representatives of the various religious and racial groups and interested foreign-born citizens came together, to the number of about three hundred, to thresh out some of the problems which confront them all in their efforts to assist in the process of assimilation of the peoples who come to the United States from other countries. Considerable attention was devoted to the methods of teaching English and American ideas, conducting classes of various kinds in day schools, night schools, factories, and in the teaching in the homes of the newcomers. The need for specially trained teachers was repeatedly pointed out. How individuals, private agencies, cities, states and the central government could help was the burden of most of the papers. Every one agreed that the job was big enough to furnish plenty of work to every agency now in the field and to a good many more, but that with the present
(313) resources better coordination of the activities now carried on would yield improved results.
It was emphasized many times that the peoples who are coming to this country from abroad bring much more than labor assets to the national life. Art, beauty, an outside point of view, experience in other forms of social organization, a better knowledge of other peoples, a new sense of the inherent similarity of all peoples, a new faith in America—these were recognized as the gifts which the would-be American citizens bring in addition to their hands. Americanization was described not as a little ceremony of naturalization, not as learning English, not as learning to answer properly the questions put to candidates for citizenship, not as a patronizing interest of Americans in these newcomers, but rather as a searching to find out how these people can enrich our life, strengthen our political and social institutions, help us to keep the world at peace, broaden our outlook and contribute to our understanding. The job for America is to get at the good which they bring and to see that it is represented and utilized in every phase of national life. It was generally thought that the process of getting acquainted with the newest immigrants could best be accomplished by the Americanized people of their own race or nationality. As for the various handicaps which make the way of the immigrant hard, it was the sense of the meeting that these are not peculiar to the state of being an immigrant, though they may be intensified for those people. Immigrants are not the only illiterate people here; they are not the only people exploited by politicians, by profiteers, or by fakirs. A broad program of social advancement for everyone should automatically protect, educate and provide opportunity for the immigrant. Altogether, the conference was best described by Secretary Lane when he said : " This is not a social stunt; it is a social philosophy."