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Student op-ed: U. Maryland’s English-only alert system might make some feel ‘inferior’

The University of Maryland needs to implement a Spanish-language version of its campus alert system, a student argues, in part because of the “dangerous” belief that English is a superior language.

Writing in The Diamondback, Liyanga de Silva blasts then-candidate Donald Trump’s 2015 remarks about speaking English in the United States, implying the now-president believes only English should be spoken no matter the circumstance.

“[Trump’s] is the opinion of someone in a position of privilege who doesn’t understand how destructive it is that English has become the language of power,” de Silva writes. “Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon opinion.”

According to the link she provides, here’s what Trump actually said:

“We’re a nation that speaks English. I think that, while we’re in this nation, we should be speaking English,” and “Whether people like it or not, that’s how we assimilate.”

Believe it or not, not so long ago such statements weren’t at all controversial.

From the op-ed:

Being able to speak English, particularly the English spoken in academia or the government, often provides access to higher education, better jobs, socioeconomic mobility and, in this recent case, physical safety. The attitude of people like Trump purposely makes certain aspects of American life inaccessible to those who don’t speak English. It also upholds the incorrect and dangerous mindset that English is a superior language, and those who don’t speak it are inferior. …

When University Police send out alerts in English only, a portion of our campus population may not be able to understand them, and therefore are put in harm’s way. For example, anyone who could not understand the alerts on Thursday would not know that they should not approach the area. While University Police are “researching options around this topic,” according to police spokeswoman Sgt. Rosanne Hoaas, it’s important that we prioritize this issue for the safety of those at this university.

That first paragraph is the epitome of a typical “critical studies” analysis. De Silva rightly points out that a person’s chances improve in the areas noted if English is spoken, but this is a bad thing … because such reinforces a marginalizing idiomatic hierarchy that makes people feel bad.

Regarding the second, a commenter to the piece breaks it down perfectly:

“Do you think students who are taking classes here can’t understand English well enough to understand these alerts? Do you think faculty who are teaching classes here can’t? If you do think they can understand English why bring them up?”

Because these days everyone has to be angry about something.

Read more.

MORE: ‘Latinx’: More debate on the gender ‘exclusiveness’ of Spanish

MORE: Lawsuit: College stops Spanish speakers from reading the Constitution

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 18 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.