“Whether or not [sic] it is advisable to completely [sic] shut the door on native-language instruction is a decision that has to be made at the point of instruction,” U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said on a recent trip to Denver, where he stopped to promote President George W. Bush’s educational-reform agenda.

Colorado voters will likely be asked to decide this November on a proposal that would amend the state constitution to guarantee that public schools put non-English-speaking students in one-year immersion courses rather than the bilingual-education programs favored by the education establishment.  Paige’s opposition to the amendment should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the Bush administration’s general “Que Bueno” stance.  But few expected the administration to take sides against the pro-English reformers in such a dramatic and public way.

The Denver Post depicted the Colorado debate as pitting those who favor local control of bilingual education against the supporters of the amendment, who “would remove that choice from local schools and districts.”  I don’t have a dog in a fight between bilingualists and centralizers.  My dog is the one the Post’s reporters somehow manage not to hear barking: immigration reform.  Why on earth would anyone prefer to consolidate control of education when a far more reasonable alternative is at hand?

The fight in Colorado is just one example of how mass immigration is reshaping our country.  Terrorist immigrants beget the burgeoning national-security state.  Illegal workers lead to a push for national identity cards.  Increasing numbers of non-English speakers create a demand for a government-sanctioned “official language.”  The loss of a common culture or heritage has many calling for state-sponsored “Americanization” programs.

Any of these innovations would replace settled communal and traditional practices of the American people with bureaucratic, managerial, and homogenizing mechanisms.  Yet, for the most part, these are somehow considered “conservative” measures.  Any dissent on the right typically denies that there are serious problems arising from mass immigration, because ours is a “nation of ideas.”  I often imagine this phrase as the epitaph on our country’s tombstone, set back beyond the cemetery on the part of the hill reserved for suicides.  In my more charitable moods, however, I am tempted to observe that this willful blindness is a nearly understandable reaction against the proposed neoconservative kultur-kampf, which ought to be anathema in a free country.

The left at least recognizes that mass immigration entails the dissolution of our traditions; the reorganization of our economic, educational, and political institutions; and an abandonment of our inherited ways of life.  After decades of mass immigration, it was inevitable that something like multiculturalism and political correctness would take hold.  As immigration renders reliance on tacit consent to traditional rules of conduct impossible, new and explicit rules governing the way we live are put in place.  Multiculturalism and political correctness are simply techniques to manage a population when traditional community has dissolved.

It can be hard to see beyond the distortions of the managerial techniques of the right and left.  Secretary Paige may pose as a defender of localism, but he is nothing of the sort.  It’s a strange sort of localism that requires the head of a department of a federal agency to intervene in a debate over a state constitutional amendment.  And Paige is hardly a consistent supporter of local school districts against statewide mandates.  The education program he promotes for the Bush administration would require the states to force local school districts to meet a host of statewide standards.  So why does Paige insist on defending local prerogatives when it comes to bilingualism?  

Take a closer look at Paige’s statewide standards, which will not be set by the elected officials of Colorado, much less by voters in a state referendum.  Instead, the standards will be set by educational professionals.  That is why there is no contradiction between supporting state-wide standards and opposing the proposed amendment to Colorado’s constitution.  Both positions share the principle of the autonomy of the public-education profession.  Both positions seek to avoid democratic or parental authority over educational choices, leaving education under the control of government teachers and administrators.  Paige wants decisions about language education to be “made at the point of instruction”—which is to say, not by parents or even by elected school-board members.  Localism is just a rhetorical connivance in service of this principle.

I’m not surprised to discover the head of the Department of Education taking sides with the educational establishment.  The people of Colorado may build the schools, pay the teachers, and have nominal parental authority over their children, but they certainly are not going to be permitted actually to run things.  And, truth be told, they probably do not want to and would most likely fail if they tried.  An important aspect of what James Burnham termed the “managerial revolution” has been the arrangement of civil society in ways that require the mastery of managerial skills and the ability to perform certain types of routines within an organization.  Who else but bureaucrats can run a modern state bureaucracy, a corporation, or a school system?

Every bureaucrat must daydream a version of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  Only, in this fantasy, it is the bureaucrats who go on strike.  Let all the CEO’s and CFO’s, assistant undersecretaries, union vice presidents and university vice provosts leave their desks for a few months’ vacation on a Cuban beach, where they can watch the rest of us struggle to recall how our civilization might ever have functioned without their ministrations.  That would teach the ornery citizens, stockholders, and parents.

Naturally, the managerial class is not about to launch a general strike.  The rewards of power, prestige, and wealth are too great.  What’s more, there is always the danger that people left to their own devices might seize upon a way to gain control of their communities and country.  They might notice, for instance, that the crisis of bilingualism in California and Colorado is really a crisis of immigration.  They might see that the dilemma John O’Sullivan used to call the “National Question” will not be solved by entrusting one set of administrators or another with more authority.  Perhaps they might even ask whether it is advisable to permit millions of foreigners to live among us if this forces us to choose between consolidating control of our schools or giving up English as our common tongue.  

I guess the experts aren’t the only ones who have daydreams.