I love teachers. Have I mentioned that? I love teachers. I think education is one of the most underfunded sectors of our economy. If I had more patience, I would have considered becoming a teacher.
I was trolling around the Internet at work the other day, and stumbled on this article from NPR. Seems a school district in Georgia has decided to make Mandarin mandatory for pre-K through twelfth grade.
The superintendent of Bibb County schools set about making some major changes after he took the position last year. In a county were half the students don’t graduate from high school, there’s now year-round schooling and longer school days. Oh. And Mandarin.
It’s not really “mandatory.” There is an opt-out clause for students, and the high schools still offer the traditional Spanish and French in addition to Mandarin. The plan is for the language to be taught at every grade level within three years.
Superintendent Romain Dallemand’s idea tells me he’s a pretty smart man. China’s position amongst the global powers is growing, and the man is right: by the time the youngest of these students reach career high points, China’s GDP could very well be at 50% or higher. Mandarin, an incredibly complex language (seriously. Five different tones. You say a word in the wrong tone and it changes its meaning) should be learned young, and by having these kids learn it now, they’re being given an advantage when it comes to compete for jobs.
But the parents have a point as well. When you’ve got a situation where most of the kids can barely speak proper English, isn’t insisting they learn a foreign language kind of a moot point? And why Mandarin? Why not Spanish, in a country whose Hispanic population is growing by leaps and bounds? Or French, the preferred language (other than English) of international business? Why insist that all students learn it in the first place?
I would love to meet Dallemand. He totally seems like my kind of guy. His points about not educating to our past, but our future (in relation to the question of why not teach Spanish) and the need for the type of education to be provided to every student, not just some of them, have me throwing confetti and cheering. He believes every child could be successful if the people (i.e. the adults) around them would create a community for success. It hurts to see how many parents think that education stops and starts at the schoolhouse doors. Education isn’t just about our teachers, teaching in school. Education is about parents making sure their kids not only understand right from wrong, but how to add and subtract. Parents have to step up, too, and it’s disappointing when I hear or see parents turning their backs on opportunities to continue the learning experience outside of the classroom.
Every child should be given the exact same opportunities, regardless of their background. It looks like Dallemand is taking steps in the right direction.
Although I’d really like to know how to say “You want fries with that?” in Mandarin.