Monday, March 24, 2008

The Argus Observes: Americanization classes draw 16 different nationalities

By Don Lynch
From The Argus-Observer, March 19, 1953

We’ve had an outstanding example of America at its best right here in Ontario in recent weeks.

The Americanization classes conducted in evenings at the high school aided a historic national function almost forgotten in this generation.

Time was when we regarded this nation as the melting pot of many peoples and we learned in sociology classes that from this cross section of nationalities bringing new blood to these shores came much of America’s rugged strength.

Most of us would have thought of that assimilation as a process of an earlier generation. Who would have thought that here in Ontario 16 different nationalities all sought training to become American citizens?

And yet that is just what happened.

It is not so surprising that there should be a large class of Japanese because many of them have located here and their right to citizenship was established for the first time in December by the McCarran Act. But it is surprising that almost half of this large class would be made up of persons of 15 other different nationalities.

There are two especially interesting angles to the story. One is the almost touching eagerness of these people to learn about America. And how they must have learned. In many instances they doubtless grasped the significant meaning of political liberty and economic freedom in more realistic terms than are understood by many of us who have taken these things for granted as part of our birthright.

They have learned firsthand, for the first time some of the simple fundamentals that are the very heart of America. Because they are so much more ready to learn than we were when we learned the same lessons as school children, they may well understand them more clearly and with greater insight than most of the rest of us do.

The other interesting angle relates to the service their instructors have given to make these classes possible. These teachers gave freely of their time, spending energy without pay, in a cause truly above and beyond the call of duty.

They were doing a work close to their hearts. Teachers are dedicated to education in most instances or they wouldn’t be teachers. Here they answered a high call not often afforded and performed a unique and valuable service to their community and their nation.

They deserve the thanks, not only of the students in the classes but of all the community, for their work on behalf of eager would-be citizens has served us all.

With classes now completed for this season, students are already looking forward hopefully to the chance that similar classes may be conducted another year.

These classes have been a big, significant story, the sort of thing that is material for an interesting magazine article.

If someone in Ontario were a Fulton Oursler or a John Gunther or even a Richard Neuberger, the classes would be the subject of a feature story in a national magazine.

Without such an author the opportunity will be missed. If I can just help the effort to be appreciated in Ontario, I shall be pleased.

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