To The Daily Sun,
I am currently thousands of miles away from Laconia and perhaps this letter is a bit late but I had to respond to Bob Meade's fairly recent column regarding the assimilation of immigrants. The column, as well as other things Mr. Meade writes, was ethnocentric at best and bordered on racist.
I know Mr. Meade assumes that academics do not know what we are talking about, but often we do know what we are talking about. Doctors know what they are talking about when it comes to vaccination and climatologists know what they are talking about regarding climate change. Too many writers to The Sun regard their opinions just as valid as real facts that can be demonstrated and that is not so. Perhaps all men and women are created equal, but it does not follow that all ideas and opinions are created equal.
Of course, Mr. Meade often calls for the firing of academics who do not agree with him. He does not respect the fact that educators have the same First Amendment rights that he enjoys.
Well, Mr. Mead, I guess you got your way with my friend Dave Pollak, a good professor who I have known for years who always had respect for students, even those who do not agree with him. Mr. Meade is right: students do read my letters and others but I challenge him to name one case where I graded a student on the basis of their opinions. Like Professor Pollak, I grade on the basis of whether or not they know the course material. And, Mr. Meade should know better. After all, I have invited him to my campus as a guest speaker.
Mr. Meade, you have claimed to be my friend in the past, but do friends wish people who disagree with them to lose their livelihoods? I do not think so. I know you are retired, but I would have never wished that on you.
Getting back to the original point, Mr. Meade often writes about things he knows little about. I suppose, as Professor Pollak has implied, there is a note of humor in his recent diatribe about immigrants. His information about Islamic sharia law being imposed in Dearborn, Mich., came from a satirical website. I suppose Professor Pollak should forgive Mr. Meade inasmuch that the current political climate has made it difficult to discern satire from reality.
Mr. Meade and other writers to The Sun engage in a lot of misinformation and disinformation. The difference is that with misinformation, people simply do not have the facts. Disinformation is disseminating information that one knows in wrong to perpetuate an agenda. I am still trying to decide into which category Mr. Meade fits.
Many politicians who do not want to work on real problems are trying to pass laws banning sharia law in their states. If they or Mr. Meade knew anything about sharia law, they would know that it would never become national, state, or local law because its provisions would violate many other laws as well as our state and federal Constitutions.
As with all effective ¨Big Lie," fear-mongering propaganda, the rumors about sharia law contain a very small element of truth. Yes, in some Muslim communities some Muslims to have their personal, business, and family dispute arbitrated by religious leaders.
These are only civil cases and the litigants always have recourse to our regular civil courts. No sharia court has — or can — impose criminal sentences.
This is not any different than some Orthodox Jewish communities where members of the community take personal and family disputes to Rabbinical courts. I even know of some fundamentalist Christian churches where fellow-believers do the same because they think it is wrong for a Christian to sue another Christian. I am not sure, but I think a similar process exists in Amish communities. Even many couples decide to take their divorces to mediation.
At least no Muslim I know of has had their small claims issues adjudicated by quasi-judicial versions of the "Jerry Springer Show" such as Judge Judy and Judge Joe!
As for Mr. Mead´s rant about assimilation, I will address just one point that I do think I know more about than he does: Language. Have you ever studied a language other than English, Mr. Mead? How much do you really know about neurolinguistics and language learning? I have studied three foreign languages with varying degrees of fluency. My wife is a trained linguist who speaks three languages fluently. She has also taught ESL abroad and in this country (in case you are not familiar with the term, Mr. Mead, ESL stands of English as a Second Language). I also hold a certificate in ESL and have taught it as a volunteer. So, with all humility, I think we know a bit more about language and language learning than you do, Mr. Meade. For all your criticism of foreigners, have you even volunteered your time to help one improve his or her English? We have.
Those who immigrate to this country do try to learn English and ESL classes are full.
But, as any linguist will tell you, you will never speak a language as well as the one you learned as a kid. Therefore, adult immigrants have more difficulty but they do try. Those who are exposed to English as a kid do much better. That has been our history for generations, the adult immigrants send their kids to school and soon they are speaking English like a native speaker. But, it is hard to lose an accent completely after the age of 14, even those who come from cultures where they speak another dialect of English.
In my own family, my mom and dad were from the Deep South and moved to Michigan and never lost their "Southern accents". My family was stationed in Germany when dad was in the Air Force. German was the first foreign language I was exposed to and learning it as a kid, it was easier even though it is a much more grammatically complex language than some others. Spanish is said to be the easiest foreign language for an English-speaker to learn but, I started learning Spanish as an adult so that is harder for me.
Sometimes, in his calls for the firing of academics who do not agree with him, Mr. Meade reminds me of Senator Joe McCarthy, an alcoholic and sociopathic politician I suspect he admires. So, I will end this letter with the words to Mr. Meade that a brave Boston lawyer had the guts to speak to Senator McCarthy: ¨Have you no decency sir? At long last do you have no sense of decency?"
E. Scott Cracraft
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