California is a concentrated example of the time-honored idea that America is an immigrant nation. From its beginnings as a territory through the twentieth century, California comprised a riotous variety of ethnic groups, nationalities, and religions. The whole world, it seemed, was coming and contributing to the states ethnic tapestry: Mexicans, Irish, Australians, South Sea Islanders, Italians, Basques, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Armenians, Volga Germans, Filipinos, Hmong, Laotians, Punjabis, Vietnamese. And for a long time, immigration worked, because everyone was expected to assimilate, more or less, to the American paradigm. For an example of how that assimilation took place, consider the rural San Joaquin Valley, where I grew up. Since it offered plenty of opportunities to own farmland and to find agricultural work, the valley became a place where the theory of assimilation met the practice. Assimilation didnt mean that an immigrant had to discard his native culture or language. Indeed, most immigrants took pride in their origins, as evidenced by fraternal organizations, religious guilds, holidays, festivals, recipes, native costumes, and scores of other ways of honoring their homelands. Some, like my Italian grandmother, kept their native tongues and never became fluent in English. Some, like my wifes Volga German grandfather, never even became citizens. Yet whatever the degree of assimilation, most accepted a fundamental truth: that whatever affection they had for their homes, for their native tongue, or for their old ways and customs, those cultures had in some significant way failed them. Thus they had made a difficult, costly choice: to become Americans. If Americas core principlessuch as individual rights, freedom of speech, the rule of law, and religious toleranceconflicted with those of the old country, then the latter had to be modified or abandoned. The choice was hard, at times even brutal. Racism, ethnocentrism, and prejudice could make the work of becoming American notoriously difficult. But people understood that to have a nation composed of immigrants, there had to be a unifying common culture in the public sphere. Transmitting that common culture was the job of the schools. My mothers mother came from Maschito, an Albanian village in southern Italy. Many Maschitans settled in Fresno, where every year they celebrated the feast of their ancestral villages patron saint, Santa Elia. But I never heard a word about any of this in school. We were busy learning about George Washington and the Constitution, Valley Forge and the Gettysburg Address, the nations history and heroes, its virtues and idealsand, crucially, those core American principles. It was at school that the immigrant learned American history and celebrated the leaders who had created the country, fought in its defense, and embodied its most cherished values. In short, he learned how to be what he or his parents had freely chosen to become: American. Read more: How Assimilation Works by Bruce S. Thornton - City Journal --------------------------------------------------------- What ever happened to the teaching of American History? It now has to be approved by the head porchsitter at LA RAZA's headquarters for the sensitive ears of Latino children. God forbid they learn that their people are just a bunch of lazy deadbeat dirt scratchers who leech off of the country to the north for charity.