Your Government of the United States Making New Americans
[The Washington Office of the WORLD'S WORK (in the Wilkins Building) will answer readers' questions about the work of any department of the Government --THE EDITORS]
ENGLAND, since the war began, has been placarded with posters urging men of military age to enlist " For King and Country."
Throughout the United States a poster has recently been distributed which in eight different languages calls recruits for America and for sound Americanism. You will find it hanging at the railroad stations, pasted on the bulletin boards of country post offices, in mining-town hotels, and printed in alien newspapers. In English, Bohemian, German, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Yiddish, this is what it says:
- It means a better opportunity and a better home in America.
- lt means a better job.
- It means a better chance for your children.
- It means a better America.
- " It" means citizenship. Not the fake, half-baked basis for registration which has filled our cities with unintelligent alien votes, but citizenship as the Government understands it, educated, responsible, responsive, productive.
For the first time in its history, the United States Government is intelligently concerned with making the right sort of citizen out of its adult immigrant material. It is no longer enough that hordes of aliens shall be added yearly to the heterogeneous and unassimilated population already with. in our boundaries.
It is neither policy nor wisdom merely to leave the immigrant, as in former years, to his own resources; to lay down, as among the requirements for naturalization, that an alien must speak the English language, love our institutions, and be attached to the principles of our Constitution, and yet provide no facilities which will enable the alien to meet these requirements.
On the contrary, your Government is awake to the realization that the best remedy for an "overtaxed melting-pot" is an efficient machinery for the Americanization of every able-bodied foreigner who casts his lot among us.
Such a machinery has recently been created by the Government out of the material that was nearest at hand and most obviously appropriate for the purpose. Attention was briefly called to this in the WORLD'S WORK last month: the story is worth telling in more detail.
The Bureau of Naturalization has made our public school system the instru-mentality through which thousands of adult immigrants are now being prepared for intelligent and efficient citizenship.
After two years of planning and preparation, the Bureau last October launched a definite programme of Americanization, which is already being carried forward under its direction in the public schools of 637 cities in 45 states.
The fundamental purpose of this programme is to prepare the foreign-born and -bred to perform intelligently the duties of a citizen in a democracy whose sovereign power is citizenship.
That the alien who is thus edu-cated, who knows our language, laws, and institutions will be a more efficient job-getter and money-maker than his non-English-speaking brother is obvious.
In the light of those social, industrial, and political problems to which a large and unassimilated foreign population has given rise in this country within the last two decades and especially during the last two years, the work of the Naturalization Bureau becomes a patriotic enterprise.
At the time of the last census, in 1910, our alien population was 13,500,000. The latest figures obtainable from the Bureau of Immigration show that this alien element now numbers approximately 16,500,000.
In other words, one person out of every six in the United States is a foreigner. Or, to state these figures in terms of still greater impressiveness, one person out of every three in our country is either foreign-born or the child of foreign-born parents.
The census of 1910 reported as natural-ized 3,040,302 white males over twenty-one yearn of age. Since that time this number has only grown to 3,436,202.
Left to his own resources by our Government, our civic agencies, and our native population after his arrival in this country, it is small wonder that the immigrant has not here-tofore availed himself of the privilege of citizenship in greater numbers.
Still less is it strange that a large proportion of those who make their declaration of intent to become citizens of the United States lose heart and interest before the two years elapse that must pass before they can petition for citizenship.
Until the Federal Government, with the cooperation of the public schools, instituted its work for these would-be citizens and other foreigners, no organized attempt had ever been made to effect a definite programme of American-ization for the adult immigrant.
There was no systematic effort on the part of any agency to provide adequate facilities for his education and assimilation, and then to connect him with the facilities provided.
AMERICANIZING THE IMMIGRANTS
The plan by which the Bureau of Naturalization works to such an end is as follows: By a provision of our naturalization law, the clerk of every court exercising jurisdiction in naturalization matters is required to forward to the Bureau the name, address, nationality, and occupation of every resident alien who declares his intention to become a citizen, and of each petitioner for naturalization, within thirty days after the declaration or petition has been filed. In this way, information concerning 40,000 or more adult immigrants is received every month at headquarters in Washington.
Immediately upon the receipt of the in-formation, the name, address, nationality, and occupation of each immigrant is transcribed upon a naturalization-education card printed for the purpose.
These cards are then sorted by cities, and are mailed to superintendents of schools in the respective cities in which the aliens live. The card is so printed that it may be returned to the Bureau at the end of the school year giving the school record of the immigrant.
There are blanks in which the teacher is to insert the date of his school entrance; his total attendance for the year at the night schools provided for him; to what extent he is illiterate upon entrance; what his previous education, if any, has been; and whether or not he speaks, reads, or writes English.
Before the first monthly instalment of these cards was sent out, every city school superintendent in the country was enlisted in the campaign of Americanization. In the majority of cases, the school authorities in the larger cities were personally visited by the Deputy Commissioner of Naturalization, Mr. Raymond F. Grist, to whose genius for organization the success of the present plan is largely due.
Where many cities had provided facilities for less than one out of ten of its adult foreigners, arrangements were made for the opening of more night classes as soon as there should be found pupils ready and willing to enter them.
Superintendents were instructed to have their supervising principals keep the school record of every immigrant on the card made out for him. At the end of the present school year these cards will be returned to the Bureau of Naturalization in order that it may accredit to each city the educational advancement of the foreign population.
Later the Bureau will present the entire national education movement for adult immigrants in a report by states and cities to Congress.
The card system devised by the Naturalization Bureau is a simple and inexpensive one that has the added virtue of not imposing a burden upon the individual school official.
Each city superintendent has the naturalization-education cards which he receives from Washington every month assorted according to the various school districts, being guided by the addresses on the cards.
Those cards relating to a cer-tain district are then sent to the supervising principal of that district, and by him assorted according to the addresses, and sent to the various schools under his supervision.
The principal of the school hands them to the teacher of one of the night classes for immigrants, who retains the cards that bear the names of the students in that class.
The other cards are then sent from class to class until all the cards bearing the names of students have been removed. The names on the cards that still remain are then called off, and where they are known such cards are taken out and students are assigned to prevail upon these to attend the class on the next class night.
When this has been done in all the classes, the remaining names are assigned to the students by nationalities and location of residence.
The students are instructed to visit those whose names they are given, and induce them to come to the school at the earliest possible moment.
This is done in the case of all immigrants whose names and addresses the Bureau of Naturalization secures each month, whether or not they need the course offered by the night schools, so as to complete the records in the cases where the course is not needed by the immigrant.
Though a personal contact between the United States Government and the alien interested in securing citizenship is indirectly brought about by such a card system, the naturalization authorities do not cease their efforts here. They realize that once night schools are provided for the immigrant, no effort must be spared to bring him to them.
Therefore, every immigrant whose name is sent to a school superintendent receives a personal letter which shows him the interest this Government feels in his getting the advantages that will make him a more efficient citizen, job seeker, and money-maker.
This is the sort of letter which the Commissioner of Naturalization, Mr. Richard K. Camp-bell, writes to 40,000 aliens every month:
You have just declared your intention to become a citizen of the United States, and because of this the United States Bureau of Naturalization is sending this letter to you, as it desires to show you how you can become an American citizen.
It also wants to help you get a better position that pays you more money for your work. In order to help you better yourser it has sent your name to the public schools in your city, and the superintendent of those schools has promised to teach you the things which you should knowto help you get a better position.
If you will go to the public school building nearest where you live, the teacher will tell you what nights you can go to school, and the best school for you to go to.
You will not be put in a class with boys and girls, but with grown people. It will not cost you anything for the teaching which you will receive in the school, and it will help you get a better job, and also make you able to pass the examination in court when you come to get your citizen's papers.
You should call at the school house as soon as you receive this letters.
IMMIGRANT INTEREST IN NATURALIZATION
The response by immigrants to the cooperative efforts of the school authorities and the Bureau of Naturalization has sur-passed the highest hopes of all interested. In San Diego, Cal., where there were no night classes whatever for adult foreigners, the Bureau prevailed upon the commercial organizations of the city to launch its programme of educational work in the public schools.
Approximately 1,700 adult immigrants enrolled there as students during the first month. In each of thirty-two public school buildings of Chicago, several night classes in citizenship are being conducted for foreigners, the total regular attendance in these classes alone reaching into the thousands. Of all the students attending the night schools throughout the country only about 18 percent have made their declarations of intent to become citizens of the United States, and only 2 percent have been naturalized.
The remaining 80 percent. are those who, until the cooperative efforts of the Federal Government and the public schools were instituted, had shown no interest in obtaining educational advantages of any sort.
The gratitude of foreigners in all parts of America for the work being done for them by our Government is expressed in thousands of letters that have been added to the files of the Naturalization Bureau since last October. Of these the following are typical:
" am expressing my thanks to you."
says one, "for your writting me such valuable advices. Very often I realize how happy I ought to feel, being at the free country of the United States. I am now since your letter studying at night school, not only for getting a better job, or to make more money, but with the hope to become some day a truly citizen of the United States and to be a useful member of the humanity."
Another reads thus: "I do not know how to thank you, undeed, for the favor you made me by your kind letter showing me how to prepare myself for the citizenship.
As soon as I received your estimated (letter) I went and showed it to Mr. Anthony sub principal of the loth ave and 59th street school He did his best to arrange my program with such a kindness and good will that l shall never forget. Thanking you again for your high protection and hoping that I will be able to serve my new country as I wish, I am, Etc."
"I am exceedingly happy," runs a third, "to read your letter and am very thank-ful to you for good advice which you have sent by the letter. Since receiving the advice I am attending night school in the city of Rochester. I shall keep your ad-vice. I am working for my living since fortten years a boy, for very small money and long hours. So you advise very good and kind to me I never heard before that some one would say there is a chance to get more money or a better job."
FOR THE WOMEN IMMIGRANTS
The work done by the Bureau of Natur-alization for foreign women, though it can be but barely touched upon within the scope of the present article, is in itself a fascinating story.
In many states a wife becomes a voter with the naturalization of her husband. In no instance can a foreign family become truly Americanized unless the wife and mother keeps pace with the progress of her husband and children.
Realizing this, the naturalization authori-ties have changed the form of declaration of intent to become a citizen, so that this now includes the name of the declarant's wife. In this way about 225,000 women will, during the present year, be brought within the province of the Bureau's educational work for adult immigrants.
A naturalization-education card is printed especially for each of these women, and is mailed to the school superintendent with that of her husband.
At the same time, she receives from the Commissioner of Naturalization a personal letter urging her to enter the night school when her husband does.
It is suggested to her that in order not to be left behind in the proms of Americanization, she should learn how to conduct an American home, in which American standards of living may be followed by herself and her family.
Foreign women have responded in gratifying numbers to the Government's effort in their behalf. To meet their needs, simplified courses of domestic science have been introduced in the majority of night schools.
It is no uncommon thing for mothers to bring their babies to school, and while these sleep to take their first lessons in English, cooking, and sewing.
In January of the present year, the Bureau of Naturalization placed in the public schools of the country a specially prepared "Outline Course in Citizenship," for use by immigrants.
To every foreigner completing a course in citizenship, the United States Government will award a certificate of graduation. The Outline is so illuminating in some respects that it might be studied with profit by our native-born men and women, many of whom are ignorant of the essential principles of American government.
In it, original methods of teaching foreigners the English language, American history, and the forms of government are emphasized.
It also outlines a course in civics for the alien. This course calls for lectures at the night schools by city officials upon the functions of their respective offices, and for the organization of the students into miniature governments, for the practical demonstration of governmental organization and purposes.
To develop further and to standardize its Course in Citizenship, the Bureau of Naturalization will assemble the educators of the country in Washington next July immediately following the con-vention of the National Education Associa-tion in New York.
"Your Government of the United States: Making New Americans," in The World's Work, Volume XXXII, No. 1, May 1916, p. 30-33.