Let’s freak out about learning another language
I took three years of Spanish. I neither immigrated to Cuba nor fled to join the Contras in Nicaragua.
Yet when a school in Texas wants to take advantage of a $1.3 million federal grant and offer an Arabic program at a high school, 200 people show up at a meeting. Not all of them were freaking out, but many were.
"We don't want to discriminate against the entire Middle East," one parent told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "but [9-11] is hard to forget. They said they aren't going to teach religion, but I don't see how you can teach that culture without going into their beliefs."
Teach: To help students learn something.
Indoctrinate: To teach someone a set of beliefs so thoroughly that they do not accept any other ideas.
See? There's a difference. Granted, it's a distinction I don't think the Texas school board would get, but I had held out hope for the rest of the state.
The grant that would have funded the Arabic curriculum was from the U.S. Education Department's Foreign Language Assistance Program - no word if someone in Texas wants to eliminate that entire program. Probably, since it's, well, foreign. Of all the grants awarded nationwide, only five have gone to Arabic program, according to the blog K12 News Network.
Gee, it's not as if Arabic's a strategically important language that agencies ranging from the State Department to the military are in need of. Someone should have told those folks in Texas that if this country can't produce enough Arabic speakers to fill those jobs, the government will be forced to keep hiring "those people."
Yes, the Texas program also would have covered Arabic-speaking countries' culture, traditions and customs. Religion, even. But, again, telling a teen that Islam teaches X, Y and Z is not the same as saying, "you, too, shall live by X, Y and Z."
It says a lot about the climate in this country that a Russian class taught during the heart of the Cold War barely raised an eyebrow, while an Arabic curriculum today raises a huge hoo-ha.
It's sad that we're so fearful of other people and ideas that parents who likely wouldn't turn out for a school fund-raiser came out to protest the plan.
And it's frightening that so many today confuse education - learning about the world, even parts of it with which we have disagreements - with indoctrination. I thought we were smarter and stronger in our own beliefs than that.
It's tempting to call for parents in Texas to Stop Wasting America's Time with their needless fears. But, then, by the time you include all the people who agree with them it would have to be the SWAT heard 'round the country.
Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.