Highlights & reactions to MI school board meeting?
Original post made
by Ohlone parent, Old Palo Alto,
on Jan 9, 2007
I wasn't able to attend the meeting on the Mandarin immersion proposal tonight and would love to hear about it. What was the tone of the public input and do more people seem inclined to support the recommendation to start the program up at Ohlone or oppose it? Did the school board members say anything, or did they just listen to the testimony?
Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 10, 2007 at 9:57 pm
I don't think I said anything about you being anti-asian language. If it was somehow implied in my post, I apologize.
I think your question comes down to how important is language in the scheme of things. I wasn't trying to put you down, I was trying to sway your opinion on the relative importance of language. I think it's pretty important; I think a lot of other people feel the same way.
Now, I happen to think math, science, English, history, physical education and music are more important, but I think there's still room for something as important as foreign language. (And hey, if we combine the learning of those things in two languages, we get a two-fer. Hmmm....)
We do live in a global village. Being able to communicate in a different language is a pretty powerful thing. Even if your only concern is having an employee pool for national security and diplomacy, the earlier our citizens have some facility with foreign language, the easier it is later on. As to the ancient Greek v Chinese, I have studied quite a few languages, and I don't know how the material I was given fits in the history of the world, but I have been able to draw on other language knowledge to read (admittedly with only superficial understanding) ancient Greek passages without actually studying Greek. Chinese syntax (among other things) is so vastly different than western language syntax, I could not do the same, it's not really an issue of "difficulty".
Learning an asian language at a young age isn't such a hard thing, and it opens up immense possibilities later in life that just aren't nearly so easy without this early experience. It's just an issue of internalizing something very, very different at a time when it's relatively easy to do because it's extraordinary useful. There may be developmental and hardwiring issues around language acquisition and the brain, too. Having that extra wiring is probably a good thing. I have a relative whose dementia took away the ability to speak in native tongue, who could still communicate in an acquired language.
I'm not suggesting that's an advantage in choosing asian v western, but if a native western-language-speaker has any predisposition to spending any time in that part of the world or for any other reason needs to know how to speak an asian language, learning one early on is a huge advantage because the language families are so different and the ability to internalize such a different language is so vastly better early on. You may not have any reason to spend time in asia, but you have to admit that a large segment of our community does, and thus if language instruction is important, some kind of asian language instruction is important.
I'm not holding that out as the only reason to learn language, there are many, many reasons. I can go to virtually any corner of the globe and communicate and feel at ease in a way that I never could if I knew English only, even in places where I don't speak the language fluently, having some facility makes a huge difference (not just for enjoyment, but education, socialization, safety, etc.) Knowing foreign language opens up employment opportunities in our increasingly competitive global economy. Hey, having that background from k-12 leaves all the more time for working on the scientific dissertation down the line (or do they still require candidates to read journals in foreign languages? Frankly, I'm seeing far more important scientific and medical research these days that isn't being translated into English, it wouldn't be a bad idea to go back to that requirement if it's gone.)
For most of my adult life, I'd say my knowledge of foreign language has been considerably more important than my facility with, say, differential equations (which, btw, I am not knocking, I'm pointing out how important language is in life!)
I also feel the board made a responsible decision. I hope this energizes those of us in the community who value our first class school system, and value the importance of language instruction in it, so that we do our maintenance, housekeeping, and additions in a responsible and ambitious way.