Massachusetts Mainstream Media Upset That Lowell Sun Wants Immigrants To Learn English

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The Lowell Sun recently put out an editorial piece calling for American immigrants to learn English and received sharp backlash online for it — including from members of the mainstream media in Massachusetts.

In the editorial titled “New arrivals, your job is to learn English,” the Sun argued that learning English is a key step to reaching financial independence for immigrants in the United States, earning more money, and assimilating into American society

“Unemployed individuals with prior U.S. work experience who enrolled in an employment-focused English course boosted their earnings by an average of more than $7,100 annually two years after starting the program, compared with unemployed non-English speakers not in the program,” the Lowell Sun editorial stated, citing a November 2020 study from the Economic Mobility Corporation.

The study cited looked at about 800 participants over three years. The participants took free classes in Boston, Lawrence, Lowell, and Lynn that included career counseling and interview training.

The editorial closes out by saying that people who do not speak English can be a strain on the state’s economy due to diminished job prospects and that learning English helps them earn more money and find a job.

The editorial elicited many responses from fellow members of the media over the past few days on Twitter.

That includes a four-tweet thread from MassLive reporter Steph Solis:

I can’t count the number of times people who say/yell ‘learn English!’ complain about immigrants who work 2-3 jobs raising families in entirely unfamiliar countries with few resources. Too many to count.

I get looks here for speaking Spanish on the phone, sometimes with a source, sometimes with my mom on the other line. In retrospect, I’m glad it’s just a glare. But in the moment I wonder if the glare will turn into Qs about why I’m not speaking English or a physical attack

Some of you who parrot this question/command about speaking English grew up in affluent school districts and had lofty family connections yet still confuse ‘your/you’re’ and fail to use critical thinking skills to detect misinformation, but go off.

Not enough characters to go into how this editorial ignores the dearth of language education resources for people who don’t have reliable computer and internet access, for those who would want to try to squeeze that in between working, raising a family, religious commitments, etc

Sarah Betancourt, a reporter for CommonWealth Magazine, also did not like the editorial.

“Grandparents used to get this in Vermont at their physician’s office. It was bulls***,” she tweeted. “And way too common. [Pouting face] what a thing to read in 2020.”

WBUR multi-platform editor Meghan B. Kelly disliked the premise as well, noting that the Pilgrims and other American settlers did not speak the languages of Native American tribes when they came to the United States about 400 years ago.

“pretty rich considering the indigenous people who lived here during colonization didn’t speak English either,” she wrote.

GBH political reporter Adam Reilly kept his opinion brief, writing, “Ffs”. That’s short for “for f***’s sake”.

Meanwhile, WBSM news anchor Mary Serreze, and NBC Boston managing editor Asher Klein mocked the editorial for what they saw as grammatical errors.

“‘… has been shown to be arguably …’ Huh? Odd that an editorial touting touting the virtues of the English language deploys it so poorly,” Serreze wrote.

And Klein wrote, “That editorial’s writers:  learn proper English!! Also that editorial’s writers:  don’t mind us, we’re just gonna misuse a couple of commas in the lede.”

Additionally, Worcester Business Journal reporter Monica Bush argued that the editorial piece hurt the media’s credibility in the state.

“this is shameful and deeply embarrassing and makes it that much harder to defend our local news ecosystem,” she wrote.

And Amaris Castillo, a former Lowell Sun employee who works as a research/writing assistant for National Public Radio’s Public Editor office, also chimed in.

“As a former employee of the Lowell Sun and as a child of immigrants, I’m absolutely horrified and disgusted by the recent editorial that further alienates immigrants in a city I care deeply about,” she wrote. “It’s distressing to see this.”

Immigrants account for about 26 percent of Lowell’s population, according to George Mason University’s Institute for Immigration Research. Of those foreign-born residents, 42 percent are proficient and English and 58 percent are not proficient. Across the state, 57 percent of foreign-born individuals in Massachusetts are proficient and 43 percent are not proficient.

Additionally, 30 percent of foreign-born individuals over the age of 25 in Lowell lack a high school diploma. The overall high school graduation rate among all Bay State students is 88 percent, according to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.