Language is Often a Necessary, But Seldom a Sufficient, Condition of Inclusion – 2017


The City of Whitewater hopes to improve communications with Spanish-language residents. That goal is, of itself, a good one.  It’s a practical, worthy ambition.

Language, however, is not the cause of local government’s self-acknowledged problem of attracting plentiful participation on public boards and committees.  Greater facility with language, however admirable, is not the solution to government’s low participation rate.

The problem is a perimeter fence that’s too narrow, and a wider and more permeable perimeter fence requires far better outreach than facility with another language.   See, The Perimeter Fence.  

How can one be so sure that picking up a language alone (however good the idea) will not solve Whitewater’s perimeter fence problem?

One can be sure because even now, when the majority of the town consists of native English speakers, there’s a problem with participation from among that English-speaking majority.

Inclusion is more than translation: Whitewater will only increase participation meaningfully when she discards the narrow, relatively impermeable fence of politics and culture she has long maintained.   See, The Solution to the ‘Same Ten People Problem’.  

Measures short of that are half-measures, at best.  

Hoping to maintain old ways in a new tongue is simply whistling past the graveyard.  

Fundamental change in politics and culture will come to this city, and they will involve far more than a choice of language.  

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