Coca-Colonization and the Cold War: The Cultural Mission of the United States in Austria after the Second World War

By Reinhold Wagnleitner; Diana M. Wolf | Go to book overview

6
Psychology instead of a Teacher's Pedestal: The U.S. Education Division, Exchange Programs, and the Propagation of the English Language

Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run.

-- Mark Twain, Sketches New and Old ( 1900)

The rise of English is a remarkable success story. When Julius Caesar landed in Britain nearly two thousand years ago, English did not exist. Five hundred years later, English, incomprehensible to modern ears, was probably spoken by about as few people as currently speak Cherokee--and with about as little influence. Nearly a thousand years later, at the end of the sixteenth century, when William Shakespeare was in his prime, English was the native speech of between five and seven million Englishmen and it was, in the words of a contemporary, "of small reatch, it stretcheth no further than this iland of ours, naie not there over all."

Four hundred years later, the contrast is extraordinary. Between 1600 and the present, in armies, navies, companies and expeditions, the speakers of English-- including Scots, Irish, Welsh, American and many more--travelled into every corner of the globe, carrying their language and culture with them. Today, English is used by at least 750 million people, and barely half of those speak it as a mother tongue. Some estimates have put that figure closer to one billion. Whatever the total, English at the end of the twentieth century is more widely scattered, more widely spoken and written, than any other language has ever been. It has become the language of the planet, the first truly global language.

-- Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil, The Story of English ( 1986)

Reforms of the education system in the occupied territories were highly important for the long-term securing of a positive climate of reception for U.S. culture. Most notably, this included the democratization of the school system, the development of English-language classes, the augmentation of U.S. topics in teaching curricula, and the support of American Studies. In total, the reform plans were exceptionally detailed and encompassed the following areas:

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