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Rethink Mandarin. Consider Arabic.

Original post made by Daisy on Jan 8, 2007

World News ABC reported last evening that the US Government desperately needs people who are fluent in Arabic. They are needed in the military, in the diplomatic corps, in the service providers to the Middle East, and I'm guessing, in every area, for every reason cited by PACE for implementing Mandarin Immersion. Arabic is certainly a strategic language, and the US Government, according to the report, has lots of money to help those who want to teach it. So why not choose Arabic as the next language to "go immersion" in this district? Wouldn't it be interchangeable? The feasibility study would hold true. The proponents of immersion would get what they want. The values imparted to students by learning a second language at the elementary level would still exist, wouldn't they. Who says that Mandarin should be next in line? And why?

Comments (12)

Posted by One good idea deserves another, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2007 at 1:56 pm

This actually sounds like quite a feasibile idea. I wonder if anyone has any OPEC contacts or big oil interests that would like to buy 1/2 of a school in PAUSD? I understand the cost is quite reasonable... $66K, and the Palo Alto tax payers are happy to pick up the difference.

I'm serious, does anyone have any contacts in the oil industry? Or know any politicians who tend to support oil interests? The school district seems quite ready to jump on an immersion academy, they have a spot all lined up. Time is of the essence.

I'm sure all it would take would be for one person to show up waving a check around at a board meeting. This sounds promising, I'm all agush envisioning the bright June day in 2020 when we have our first Arabic biliterate bicultural graduating class. It brings tears to my eyes.

What a wonderfully flat world we live in.


Posted by Daisy, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2007 at 2:05 pm

My proposal was a serious one. I don't think the question of which language to proceed with was explored thoroughly. Mandarin seems to be a foregone conclusion, but why? The Middle East region seems to be where the global attention is focused and where it will remain for years to come. The district seems intent on graduating global citizens, ready to function in the global economy. As I stated before, all the benefits attributed to Mandarin Immersion can be attributed to Arabic Immersion as well. All feasibility studies are completed to the satisfaction of the staff and possibly the BOE and apparently to PACE. Just switch the word Arabic for Mandarin and you can see that it makes sense.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 8, 2007 at 4:32 pm

You have some good points - I don't know for sure (nor does anyone else, really) what will be the "hot" language to know in future. Is this a practical move to approve MI???


Posted by Daisy, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 8, 2007 at 5:24 pm

I wonder if the current timetable for implementation is too aggressive and perhaps we need to slow things down, take the time to evaluate all the possibilities for immersion. If it's good for fall of 07, why won't it be good in '08 or '09? It seems, from the news report, that the grant funds are plentiful and will probably continue to be available for Arabic for a long time.


Posted by James Taylor, a resident of Ohlone School
on Jan 8, 2007 at 9:58 pm

If PAUSD really wants to design an excellent school district, rather than posture, it should figure out how to bring good foreign language instruction to elementary schools - Spanish, Chinese and Arabic for starters. Pretending that immersion for a few is a substitute is pitiful.


Posted by it's too late, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 8, 2007 at 10:30 pm

The reason Mandarin is being considered is simple; it's the only language that has been pushed by a group of interested parents. If someone wants Arabic then fine but they need to go through the same process that the proponents of MI when through.

There is no debate about "which language", the debate is whether or not to introduce MI.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 8, 2007 at 11:24 pm

I hope it's not too late to stop the Mandarin juggernaut. We need to give ALL kids a good language program with a choice of languages. Arabic seems a reasonable possibility.

I know the comments about the $66,000 for the MI feasibility study are cynical -- but I'm in complete agreement. Particularly since the PAUSD board has no idea who put up that money. Apparently neither do the school administrators. And certainly the public has not been told where the money came from.

A dangerous precedent has been set, whereby it appears that anyone with enough money can buy influence or programs or class content in our PUBLIC schools.

Superintendent Callan affirms this possibility. She doesn't think the district should have to restore cuts and assure adequate funding before launching any new initiative or program.

In other words, anyone with enough money can push to the head of the line. Callan is willing to ignore the priorities that have been set and agreed to by the board, the administrators, the teachers and the parents -- and the taxpayers who approved Measure A.

No wonder there's a trust issue in the district.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 9, 2007 at 2:16 pm

It's Mandarin IMMERSION! If there are enough arabic speakers so half of the students speak arabic at home, then it makes sense for those parents to advocate for an Arabic IMMERSION program. This isn't designed to be just another foreign language program in which students are exposed to a foreign language and do not master it.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2007 at 5:07 pm

Anonymous: If kids already speak Mandarin at home, why do they need an immersion program?

You say, "This isn't designed to be just another foreign language program in which students are exposed to a foreign language and do not master it."

I think that's a big part of the problem. There isn't any foreign language program for ALL the kids. What evidence is there for saying kids in other programs don't master a language?



Posted by Pauline, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jan 10, 2007 at 7:42 am

re:Anonymous comment that is
"This isn't designed to be just another foreign language program in which students are exposed to a foreign language and do not master it."

This presumes that early Immersion is the only way to master a language. An 'either we give this to our kids now or they will never learn another language". We need to remember that prior to this immersion idea, and even still now, the vast majority of people in the world, and here, learn a second language or third etc...NOT by immersion, but by consistent study starting at various ages. It isn't as good as immersion as early as possible for accent reasons, but it obviously works.

Witness all the people who move here from another country, even as adults, and learn the language. My father is one. Accent and all, but is that the point?


Posted by Angel, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 30, 2008 at 5:27 pm

If one has a choice between Mandarin and Arabic, one should choose Mandarin, as commercial opportunities are going to be far more significant with China in the future. The Middle East is largely burdened by cultural constraints that mitigate against free-floating invention. This is true of China to some degree as well, but the Chinese are doing something about it.


Posted by Interested Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2009 at 8:02 am

What parent in their right mind would want their *daughters* to learn Arabic?


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