Some people may consider this to be a politically incorrect column, but I believe it addresses an issue that should be discussed. It simply offers another view.

An Associated Press article last week informed us that less than 50 percent of our country’s students are white, 49.8 percent, in fact. Minorities are now the majority in our nation’s schools.

As we are constantly preached the virtues of cultural diversity, I sense a contradiction. How does our becoming a nation of minorities address the challenge of the vanishing middle class?

A Pew Research poll has found that 76 percent of people believe that their children will not enjoy the same quality of life their parents have had.

Is there an inconvenient truth, actually a downside, to diversity?

The AP story that prompted me to choose the subject of this column included the following facts: 25 percent of students are Hispanic, 15 percent are black, 5 percent Asian, a remaining small amount of the minorities are biracial and Native Americans.

This is the new face of America.

My question about the effect of all this on the middle-class is punctuated by the experience of a Pennsylvania school district. Parents there have sent their children across the state line to private schools in Delaware. Their district once had been mostly middle- and upper-class white but had become 40 percent Hispanic. The cause of the shift was migration of workers from Mexico and other countries.

Diversity has been costly in the district, as it needed to hire more English language teachers and translators, and hold summer school for those learning English. Additional help also was provided for students needing assistance with reading and math.

Here in Maine, Portland and Lewiston have experienced similar situations. We must address the costs in education, health care, welfare and to the economy.

The shift to minorities in our schools brings front and center the issues of diversity, poverty and inequity. Immigration is at the center of all this.

The United States has welcomed 50 million immigrants, more than any other country, with more than 700,000 arriving each year. And that number is growing as our border with Mexico resembles a sieve. Our president reportedly plans an executive order, bypassing Congress, giving unilateral amnesty to all immigrants already here, illegal or not, as more continue to pour in across our border.

Most of us recognize America is a land of immigrants, people who have memories of the land where they were born and retain its culture. Assimilation is not easy for these newcomers. In some parts of the country, fights between Hispanic and black students have exacerbated tensions of ethnic and racial differences.

The question may now be: Are we at a tipping point?

There is another, politically incorrect side to the diversity story. Extensive studies have been conducted at Harvard and elsewhere questioning whether cultural diversity really makes us stronger. A study of 30,000 people across America, conducted by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, questioned the strength of the diversity hypothesis. He published a book several years ago called “Bowling Alone.”

His study found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people who vote or volunteer. They give less to charity and to their community. In the most diverse communities, the study found, neighbors trust one another half as much as they do in more homogenous settings.

The shocking result of the survey and the work of several political scientists was the finding that virtually all measures of civic health was lowest in the most diverse settings.

The conclusion I have come to after digesting all this information is that we must come out of our shells.

Diversity is indeed uncomfortable, butit is not a bad thing. Culture clashes are one of the prices of diversity.

A dynamic debate will ensue as result of the burgeoning immigration problem, and likely will be a focus of the November elections.

The downside of diversity presents a challenge that can be overcome by people who care about each other and believe that the goal of diversity is worth working tirelessly for.

Meanwhile, it is essential to recognize the costs of cultural diversity and to address them. It is time for common sense, time for sensible caps on immigration.

Diversity should not mean conformity. The author of the study we quoted here, said, “people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’ — to pull in like a turtle.”

I suggest that therein lies the problem and a solution. We must come out of our shells and seek together to channel cultural diversity into the positive force it can and should be.

We understand that people come here to seek a better life. We want to provide them that opportunity.

The current flood of illegal immigration, however, pulls us dangerously in another direction, further dividing the country. Only 23 percent now think America is headed in the right direction, according to a recent Rasmussen poll.

Our grand experiment in diversity and multiculturalism is endangered. It is time to put things on hold. We must all work together to re-unify the country we love.

Our politicians need to deliver meaningful immigration reform — now.

Don Roberts is a former city councilor and vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta. He is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District, and a representative to the Legislative Policy Committee of Maine Municipal Association.

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