Tag Archives: Geno’s Steaks

Poor English Skills Cost Latinos $38 Billion in Missed Wages Annually

by Christopher Paslay

More needs to be done to break Latinos from the vicious cycle of linguistic isolation.

Remember the late great Joey Vento, owner of Geno’s Steaks,  and his infamous Speak English sign?  Well, a newly released study from the Lexington Institute shows that the inability to speak proper English is keeping Latinos from more than just South Philly Cheesesteaks:

Spanish-speaking Americans with poor English skills miss out on $38 billion in earnings each year, according to a new study by the Lexington Institute.

“The latest Census results show that we are seeing poor English skills passing down from one generation to the next, with Spanish speakers paying the heaviest price in economic terms,” said Don Soifer, Executive Vice President of the Lexington Institute and one of the authors of the study, The Value of English Proficiency to the United States Economy. “We need to do better at breaking these cycles of linguistic isolation.”

On average, each adult with poor English skills earns $3,000 per year less than he would have earned as a proficient English speaker. By comparison, the wage penalty facing Latinos who do not earn a high school diploma is $4,700.

The population of English learners in the United States has grown substantially in recent decades, to over 25 million, according to the 2010 Census. More than five million of these English learners are currently attending U.S. elementary and secondary schools. Only one in four is foreign-born — the rest are second- or third-generation Americans.

“When it comes to closing the language gap between English learners and other students, we are seeing widely varying results nationally, with small gains,” Soifer noted.

The report, The Value of English Proficiency to the United States Economy, is available online here.

States With Large English Learner Populations, 2010

State

LEP Population Percent Share

California

19.8%

Texas

14.4%

New York

13.5%

New Jersey

12.5%

Nevada

12.3%

Florida

11.9%

Hawaii

11.8%

Arizona

9.9%

Illinois

9.6%

 

Source: 2010 American Community Survey, Table B16001, “Language Spoken at Home by Ability to Speak English for the Population 5 Years and Over”

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Joey Vento, Multicultural Ideology, and the ‘Speak English’ Sign

by Christopher Paslay

(In memory of the recent passing of Joey Vento, I am re-posting this article which originally appeared on Chalk & Talk on 2/14/09.)

“This is America.  When ordering, please speak English.”

By now we know the story.  Joey Vento, owner of the famous Geno’s Steaks in South Philadelphia, placed a small sign in the window of his restaurant asking customers to order in English.  Although the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations filed a discrimination complaint against Geno’s (which the commission eventually lost), Vento said the sign was never meant to be offensive.

“This country is a melting pot, but what makes it work is the English language,” Vento told members of the commission.

How we react to this “speak English” sign says a lot about who we are and what we believe in.  Those who find it offensive are probably cultural pluralists.  Those who agree with its message are most likely assimilationists.

If you’re not familiar with these concepts, allow me to elaborate on their meanings.

According to James A. Banks, author of Cultural Diversity and Education, “It is extremely important, argues the pluralist, for individuals to develop a commitment to their culture and ethnic group, especially if that group is oppressed by more powerful groups within society. . . . each member of a culture or ethnic group has a moral obligation to join the liberation struggle.”

In other words, cultural pluralists believe you should not only be permitted to speak in your native tongue, but you should do it with pride, and resist anyone or anything that tells you otherwise.

On the other hand, according to Banks, assimilationists believe the following: “. . . strong ethnic attachments are dysfunctional in a modernized civic community.  The assimilationist sees integration as a societal goal in a modernized state, not ethnic segregation or separation.  The assimilationist thinks that the best way to promote the goals of society and to develop commitments to democratic ideals is to promote the full socialization of all individuals and groups into the shared national civic culture.”

In other words, This is America.  When ordering, speak English. 

Today, the debate between cultural pluralism and assimilation isn’t limited to chessesteak shops in South Philly.  America’s schools are jumping into the fray as well.  Educational policy makers and those interested in school reform are battling over ideas and curriculum in regards to multicultural education.  And like the heated debate over Vento’s sign, each camp has a set agenda and interprets research very differently.

When it comes to education, the pluralist believes that the cultures of ethnic groups are not deviant or deficient in any way, but are well ordered and highly structured—although different from the dominant culture.   To quote Banks, pluralists believe “curriculum should be revised to reflect the cognitive styles, cultural history, and experiences of cultural groups, especially students of color.”

Educational assimilationists believe that learning characteristics are universal across cultures, and that the socialization practices of the dominant culture enhances learning, while the socialization styles of ethnic groups hold their members back from succeeding in school.  “Emphasis should be on the shared culture within the nation-state because all citizens must learn to participate in a civic culture that requires universal skills and competencies,” Banks writes of the beliefs of assimilationists.

Both the cultural pluralist and assimilationist concepts have their drawbacks.  The pluralist theory is lacking because it often fails to prepare students to cope adequately with the real world beyond their ethnic or cultural community.  And because learning characteristics are not always universalistic, but to some extent, cultural-specific, the assimilationist theory is not completely foolproof.

The answer to curriculum reform is what Banks calls Multicultural Ideology.  Banks states, “. . . educational policy can best be guided by an eclectic ideology that reflects both the cultural pluralist position and the assimilation position, but avoids their extremes.”

In other words, we need educational policies that promote social cohesion and a minimum of mainstream socialization, but at the same time, take into consideration a student’s learning style based on his or her culture or ethnic background.

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Joey Vento, multicultural ideology, and the ‘speak English’ sign

 by Christopher Paslay

 This is America.  When ordering, speak English.” 

 

By now we know the story.  Joey Vento, owner of the famous Geno’s Steaks in South Philadelphia, placed a small sign in the window of his restaurant asking customers to order in English.  Although the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations filed a discrimination complaint against Geno’s (which the commission eventually lost), Vento said the sign was never meant to be offensive. 

 

“This country is a melting pot, but what makes it work is the English language,” Vento told members of the commission. 

 

How we react to this “speak English” sign says a lot about who we are and what we believe in.  Those who find it offensive are probably cultural pluralists.  Those who agree with its message are most likely assimilationists.           

 

If you’re not familiar with these concepts, allow me to elaborate on their meanings. 

 

According to James A. Banks, author of Cultural Diversity and Education, “It is extremely important, argues the pluralist, for individuals to develop a commitment to their culture and ethnic group, especially if that group is oppressed by more powerful groups within society.  The energies and skills of each member of a culture or ethnic group has a moral obligation to join the liberation struggle.” 

 

In other words, you should not only be permitted to speak in your native tongue, but you should do it with pride, and resist anyone or anything that tells you otherwise.

 

Assimilationists, on the other hand, “believe that strong ethnic attachments are dysfunctional in a modernized civic community.  The assimilationist sees integration as a societal goal in a modernized state, not ethnic segregation or separation.  The assimilationist thinks that the best way to promote the goals of society and to develop commitments to democratic ideals is to promote the full socialization of all individuals and groups into the shared national civic culture.”        

 

In other words, This is America.  When ordering, speak English. 

 

In 2009, the debate between cultural pluralism and assimilation isn’t limited to chessesteak shops in South Philly.  America’s schools are jumping into the fray as well.  Educational policy makers and those interested in school reform are battling over ideas and curriculum in regards to multicultural education.  And like the heated debate over Vento’s sign, each camp has a set agenda and interprets research very differently.

 

When it comes to education, the pluralist believes that the cultures of ethnic groups are not deviant or deficient in any way, but are well ordered and highly structured—although different from the dominant culture.   To quote Banks, “Pluralists believe that curriculum should be revised to reflect the cognitive styles, cultural history, and experiences of cultural groups, especially students of color.”

 

Educational assimilationists believe that learning characteristics are universal across cultures, and that the socialization practices of the dominant culture enhances learning, while the socialization styles of ethnic groups hold their members back from succeeding in school.  To quote Banks, “Emphasis should be on the shared culture within the nation-state because all citizens must learn to participate in a civic culture that requires universal skills and competencies.”            

 

THE MULTICULTURAL IDEOLOGY: A COMMON GROUND

 

Both cultural pluralist and assimilationist concepts have their drawbacks.  The pluralist theory is lacking because it often fails to prepare students to cope adequately with the real world beyond their ethnic or cultural community.  And because learning characteristics are not always universalistic, but to some extent, cultural-specific, the assimilationist theory is not completely foolproof. 

 

The answer to curriculum reform is what Banks calls multicultural ideology.  Banks states, “Educational policy can best be guided by an eclectic ideology that reflects both the cultural pluralist position and the assimilation position, but avoids their extremes.”

 

In other words, we need educational policies that promote social cohesion and a minimum of mainstream socialization, but at the same time, take into consideration a student’s learning style based on his or her culture or ethnic background. 

 

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