In that largely forgotten book, erecting the Tower of Babel with the subsequent disintegration of language was severe punishment: ‘Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’
It’s a safe assumption that most of our ‘educators’ are unfamiliar with scriptural texts. It’s an even safer one that they haven’t set out to re-enact Biblical disasters. Yet something inside them prompts them to do just that.
Witness the fact that for more than a million British schoolchildren English is now only a second language, and native speakers are a minority in one out of 13 schools. In our financially strained times, one ought to point out that a pupil for whom English is second language costs six times more to educate. Yet this is the least of our problems.
For in the absence of a unifying religion and shared culture, language looms even larger as social adhesive. And society needs some kind of glue to be, well, a society, rather than an aggregate of atomised individuals who happen to inhabit the same geographical space.
Back in the 1930s the Texas legislature first passed the bill making bilingualism mandatory in both politics and education. However, Governor Miriam Ferguson vetoed it, saying ‘If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas.’ This goes to show that even somewhat ill-informed Texans may understand things British ‘educators’ don’t.
Mercifully, English in Britain is spared a single powerful linguistic rival, as is the case in Texas or Canada. Competing with English here are dozens of tongues, falling into numerous language groups. The opposition is thus fractured: there’s little danger that Polish, Urdu and Portuguese will form a united front against English in our schools. Nor are foreign children likely to do any more damage to English than native speakers aren’t already inflicting so successfully. Why, even our Education Secretary’s rallying cries for better learning are full of most unfortunate solecisms.
The problem then isn’t so much linguistic as social: a shared first language makes children of both Polish and Pakistani ancestry British – it’s what can bring a smile of recognition on their faces when they bump into each other in, say, Paris. It doesn’t even matter that for the first few years of their lives they spoke something else. What matters is what they become, not what they used to be.
It’s important to realise that one’s native language doesn’t necessarily remain one’s first. I’ve observed numerous examples (including, at close quarters, my own) of people who grow up speaking one language and then relegate it to a lower status when English takes over. For grown-ups such a shift requires more effort and aptitude than for children. But neither will effect the shift unless the desire to do so is strong.
It’s this desire that’s aggressively discouraged in Britain by our ruling multiculti omnivores. It takes self-confidence for a society to declare unequivocally that it stands for certain things, and won’t be budged. No society can survive without believing, with what outsiders may regard as pigheaded obtuseness, that its ways aren’t just the best but the only ones possible. Differences ought to be respected, but such respect must not turn into a suicide pact.
This doesn’t presuppose intolerance of other cultures or religions. On the contrary, they should be welcomed, for as long as they don’t present a direct threat. A well-rounded culture can’t be monocentric, but a society has to be just that in order to persevere. It’s a big bonus for a British child, provided he reads anything at all, to be able to read Hafiz, Camões or Pushkin in the original. But he won’t be a British child if his response to Shakespeare is less immediate and intimate. And nor will our society remain British if the number of such children goes beyond a certain critical mass.
Alas, the requisite self-belief, a sine qua non of survival, is now in short supply. Yet history provides ample proof that when this belief is eroded, societies crumble and civilisations disappear. No one has understood this better than R.G. Collingwood, one of Britain’s finest minds:
‘Civilisations sometimes perish because they are forcibly broken up by the armed attack of enemies without or revolutionaries within; but never from this cause alone. Such attacks never succeed unless the thing that is attacked is weakened by doubt as to whether the end which it sets before itself, the form of life which it tries to realise, is worth achieving. On the other hand, this doubt is quite capable of destroying a civilisation without any help whatever. If the people who share a civilisation are no longer on the whole convinced that the form of life which it tries to realise is worth realising, nothing can save it.’
The Babel being inflicted upon Britain is therefore not the disease; it’s a symptom. And symptoms are the most reliable diagnostic tool – they tell us that something is wrong. Doctors don’t ignore such telltale signs. Too bad our ‘educators’ do.