Advice to immigrants

            Many immigrants courageously come to the U.S. knowing little of the language and customs.  It takes them a long time to adapt. When I was their English teacher, social worker, roommate and friend, I used to advise them:


-          Consider living near your relatives, your ethnic group, a good climate (very important) and between a big city where the jobs are and the country where you’re more of an individual.

-          Learn about self-help groups.  If you can’t find one, start one.

-          Avoid welfare – the longer you’re on, the harder to get off.

-          Some people have more ability than others for learning a language.  Progress comes in levels.  You’re on one level for a while, seeming to make no progre­ss, then you suddenly move to a higher level, stay there for a long time, and later move up.

-          The 1st generation of immigrants works hard, the 2nd generation gets educated, the 3rd prospers.

-          Immigrants who have been here for a long time sometimes resent recent immigrants from their country as ‘fresh off the boat.’

-          Older immigrants want to preserve the customs, partly to retain some of the control and status they’ve lost.  This can be overdone.

-          There are differences among cultures – take the best from each.


Be realistic about the media (TV, magazines, newspapers).  They  promote myths.



Myths                                                                Reality


-          The U.S. is a melting pot ……. (false, it’s a salad bowl).

-          Time brings less prejudice ……………… (somewhat).

-          Being near another ethnic group brings goodwill …. (only some).

-           Discrimination is the main obstacle to minority advancement          ………..  (False, the Japanese and the Jews progressed the most when most discriminated against.)

-          Being Black holds one back ……….. (not black immigrants from the Caribbean).

-          Vocational education helps … (False, students in it change jobs, are out of work as much as anyone, and don’t earn more than those not in it.)

-           Whites are prejudiced ………… (Everyone has prejudices    about color, age, class, ethnicity, gender, income, education, occupation, race, religion, accents, lifestyles,  etc.)

-          The poor can avoid menial work with education and credentials       ……….. (Terrible advice as every group that got ahead in the U.S. did so by taking menial work and working harder than the class above.)

-          All social programs help …………………. (false.  Rent control is unfair and creates a housing shortage; guaranteed income hasn’t worked; welfare breaks up families and causes them to be resented by the working poor.)

-          There is no dignity in being poor ………. false.


Social workers

-          - Some get too emotional     -  with their talk about ‘compas­sion, caring, reaching out, dedica­tion, love, etc.’. 

-          Some get too friendly.  Keep a distance.

-          Some have no business sense – no address on the building, no sense of time, efficiency, cost, etc.  

-          Some have more problems than those they are trying to help.

-          Many use doubletalk and talk forever.

-          Most don’t believe in traditional values.


   A good one is sensible, clean cut, mature, uses plain English, is an agent – not a friend, is empathetic -not sympathetic, has something practical to offer, and meets you only half way. 


Many American poor                                           Immigrant poor


Live well compared to 3rd world ………. have seen real poverty.

Become homeless ……………………. most don’t.

Won’t take any job ………………….. will.

Panhandle …………………………….. don’t.

Often poor work habits …………… superb ones.

‘Can’t’ save money ……………… do & send it abroad to relatives.

Drop out …………………………….. study hard.

Rarely start a small business …….. often start one.

Look to government ………………. to selves.

Self-pity, resentment ……………. gratitude.

Bored ………………………………… never enough time.

Disprove the American dream ………. prove it (despite limited English).




Spokesmen for the Am. poor say               Immigrants say


Crowded living is subhuman ……….. is tolerable.

More handouts …………………… fewer in the long run.

Welfare is a right ………………… a cancer.

‘Decent, living’ wages & benefits …. any wage.

The poor are ‘oppressed’ …………. look at other countries for real oppression – no freedom of speech, press, protest, business, etc. 

Am. is discrimination, exploitation ……. opportunity.

Schools ‘fail’ the poor ………………. they are a blessing.

Crime, drugs, alcohol, illegitimacy, etc. are due to poverty ………… no excuse for these. 




College credit for this?

closingoftheamericanmindFrom what I read, community colleges today are like they were in the early 80s when I took a writing class.Then the instructor suggested we buy two books, but few students did and no assignments were given from them.Some writing was assigned and almost anything could have used.It was gone over gently in class.If anyone had done a poor job, it was never brought up.

The classes were mostly discussion; there were few notes taken and no tests.I missed many classes and assignments and easily earned 3 units of credit.(I had worked harder in junior high school.)

A feel-good survey from the administration was taken; it was designed to elicitpablum.

Compared to when I was in college in the early 60s, this course was a joke.



Japan bashing in the 90s


In the early 90s we were told the Japanese had caused our trade deficit, were ‘buying’ America, were getting ahead at our expense, and we shouldn’t take it.But were we in a position to criticize them?

Their high school students studied so much they slept less than 6 hours a day.20% of ours averaged that for TV.Their dropout rate was 1%; ours was 30%.Their students graduated with 3 more years of school­ing than ours; 1/3 of ours graduated functional­ly il­literate.Japanese adults worked 6 weeks more/yr. than us.They saved; we spent.They produced; we consumed. They had a surplus; we had a deficit.They had little crime; we had a lot.They studied our language; we didn’t study theirs.We condemned their trade surplus, but not ours with other countries.They had the best manners.They bought our failing companies, saved them, and provided jobs for us.Their cars had caused a big rise in the quality of ours.Their competi­tion had caused us to make better products and become more effi­cient.They were1st in foreign aid, 1st in technol­ogy, and chief creditor.All this, yet our problems were their fault.

When the English bought Holiday Inn, no one cared; but when the Japanese invested here, we resented it.We hadn’t resented lobbyists from other countries, but we resented those from Japan.Other countries had conducted hostile takeovers; the Japanese had not. The Dutch owned about as much of the American assets as the Japanese; no one com­plained about them.The British owned twice as many and no one complained.

Any foreigner could buy here, and they had to conform to our laws.When the Japanese bought our real estate and companies, they were helping us.They couldn’t walk off with real estate, and no one was forced to sell to them at a loss.As it happened, we owned seven times as many foreign assets as foreig­ners owned of ours.

Some of the Japanese students studied here and returned to produce there.Some of us called in ’91 for Japan to ‘compensate’ by giving us $l00 million.

Our bashing was sour grapes, envy, scapegoating, self-delusion, ar­rogance, pettiness, xenophob­ia, hypocrisy, double stan­dards, and prejudice.

The Japanese resented this more than we realized or cared.They and other Asians remember it, as we moved toward the century of the pacific rim.Not our best chapter.

Social work in the 19th century

            After frustrating years in social work, I came across an article I wished I’d seen when I was in school, about social work in the past.  In those days social workers saw some of the poor as improvident and irresponsible.  If a man came to a social agency hungry, he had to chop wood to get a meal.  If a woman came, she had to sew to get a meal.  This sorted out those who wouldn’t work, and made those who would, feel they had done something to earn their meal.


            If a person needed further aid, his background was checked and he was categorized as:

-          a   Unwilling to work.

-          b   Willing to work.

-          c   Unable to work, through no fault of his own, and worthy of relief.


            When giving short term relief, the charity gave:   in small quantities,  the minimum,  what was least susceptible to abuse,  less than what the person could get by working, and for the shortest period of time.


            When the relief was long term, the charity would: 

-          Restore the ties between the person and his family and friends.

-          Get their assistance.

-          Assign a volunteer to the person. 

-          Require the person to work.  This helped those who were motivated.  Nothing was more demoralizing to those who worked than loafers or the criminal poor who got by or ahead without working.

-          Meet the person only 1/2 way.  Handouts were seen to be as dangerous as drugs; dependency was ‘slavery with a smiling mask.’  Welfare was the worst as it came to be regarded as a right.  [In England it had to be set below the lowest wage so people would  look for work.]


In those days, knowing when not to give assistance was seen as important as when to give it.  This also helped fund-raising efforts, as donors knew their money was used efficiently.


            These practices continued until the l890s when the ‘Social Gospel’ emerged, claiming:

-          None of the poor were improvident, intemperate, lazy, or irresponsible.

-          Charity must be universal and unconditional. 

-          Requiring a person to work for a meal was cruel.

-          A person would not change if challenged, but would change when put in a pleasant material environment where his benevolent nature could come out.  Thus government was to provide agreeable housing.

-          Compassion equaled money.

-          Raising money through taxes forced compassion from the public.

-          Professional social workers were best; volunteers got in the way.

-          Private charities were bad as they made it easy for government to evade responsibility.


            The l960s accelerated this.  Welfare was given on the basis of entitlement, not need, with the result that the poor in the long run were worse off, with less hope, less pride, less reason to work, and greater resentment over being dependent. 

            Welfare has broken up families, set fatherless boys on the streets, and polarized those who work against those who don’t.  Bad charity (welfare) has driven out good.  The list goes on.  We’d do well to study the past.