Sunday, February 15, 2015

Esperanto by Act of Congress

Proposed Esperanto for
D.C. schools
One of the odd bits about Washington, D.C. is that Congress gets some say over some things that anywhere else would be wholly local decision. And so, when in 1908, Sara (Mrs. Wilbur) Crafts went to the D.C. school board to urge that Esperanto be taught (there was some opposition to the idea), maybe she should have taken things up with Congress.

If she were looking for a sympathetic member of Congress, her best best would have been the gentleman from Missouri, Richard Bartholdt. In 1910, Mr. Bartholdt took up Esperanto. Maybe Mrs. Crofts could have convinced him to start earlier.

But it’s not until 1914, nearly seven years after Mrs. Crofts went to the D.C. school board, that Mr. Bartholdt came up with his own proposal. As a member of Congress, he didn’t have to convince the school board, just the other members of Congress. His resolution was H.Res 415, “Providing for the study of Esperanto as an auxiliary language.” The resolution was introduced on February 14, 1914, and was in the newspapers on February 15.

The Evening Star reported:
Provides Teaching of Esperanto.
Esperanto would be taught in the public schools of the District of Columbia if the bill introduced yesterday by Representative Barholdt of Missouri should be enacted. The measures was referred to the House committee on the District of Columbia.
The Washington Post reported at slightly greater length:
Seeks Esperanto’s Recognition.
In asking Congress yesterday to pass legislation directing that Esperanto be taught as an auxiliary language in the Washington public schools, Representative Bartholdt, of Missouri, was also seeking official recognition by the United States of this so-called universal language. A bill introduced by Mr. Bartholdt was referred to the District committee, where its author expects to obtain early consideration.
According to the Congressional Record, Mr. Bartholdt introduced it as a member of the Education committee. Although the subject matter was appropriate for his committee, clearly the District committee also got to have a say. Then there’s the matter of the asterisk.

At the bottom of many of the pages of the index to the 1914 Congressional Record is a note. “The * indicates bills acted upton. See ‘History of Bills.’” House Resolution 415 does not have an asterisk. It was duly entered as a proposed resolution on Saturday, February 14, 1914 (Mr. Bartholdt’s little valentine to the Esperanto movment) and that is the end of the story. While Mr. Bartholdt may have told the Post that he expected the resolution to “obtain early consideration,” the matter seems to have ended there.

It seems strange that Congress could decide what gets taught in the D.C. schools. Subsequently, the District has managed to obtain greater powers of self-governance, under current circumstances it would seem that no current or future Representative from Missouri could compel the D.C. schools to teach a particular subject, so there’s no need to lobby your Congressional representative to have the children of Washington, D.C. learn Esperanto.

Still, considering some of the things that happen in Congress these days, maybe we’d be better off if they were talking about mandating the study of Esperanto.
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1 comment:

  1. Ah, kiel domaĝo, ke tio ne okazis...

    Mi aŭdis, ke kelkaj homoj kredas, ke se la mondo estus uzinta Esperanto, la indiĝenaj lingvoj de Usono estus pli bone konservitaj.


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