Last month I received a letter home asking me to fill out a form to "choose" my child's language for the 7th grade. The options were French, Spanish, and Latin. The form also said that my child might not get his or her first choice.
I was appalled.
Why is the school even teaching French at this point? Shouldn't schools be leaders in education? Shouldn't they help point the way towards the skills that the child will need when they finally graduate? Unless you have close relatives that are French, plan to emigrate to Quebec, or have the money to bask on the Riviera every year, there is no reason to learn French in the US. With government spending at 54% of GDP and a growth rate of 1.4% (the US rate is 3.5%, beating estimates of 3.3%) France isn't going to be creating lots of jobs in the foreseeable future -- especially for Americans. English is the universal diplomatic and business language now and not French.
For a true long-term earnings bump, Chinese is the language to learn (projected 9.1% growth in GDP). Or how about Russian? Russia (7.1% 2004 GDP growth) has a better chance for long-term development than France, and we happen to have more native Russian speakers in my town (hundreds) than French speakers (one that I know of).
Spanish, of course, has plenty of relevance in the US. And unless you want to be a scientist and take Latin, it is the only legitimate option for kids out of the three languages offered.
The Charter School in my town only offers French, with no signs of changing, so I didn't even consider them for my oldest child. Any school system that still teaches French is doing it for the short-term benefit of the currently employed teachers and the ease of administration. It is not for the long-term benefit of the children.
Most children have one shot at a language -- let's give them one that they can use.
Here is the letter that I wrote in extreme haste (slightly edited) to the school. I'll let you know whether or not my child gets Spanish next year.
To Whom It May Concern:
If my daughter does not get Spanish, please give her a study hall so she can do her homework in school and I can homeschool her in Spanish. I specifically chose this public school for my daughter because of the strong music program and the fact that it offered Spanish and the Charter school only offers French. French is not an option for my daughter for numerous reasons.
I took the French program through this town's schools. I even took a year in college. I could read Moliere in French. It does me absolutely no good in my working environment or my personal environment.
1. I do work for a CANADIAN company, and it is more important for me to know Spanish because South America and Mexico are developing at a much faster clip than their own province of Quebec. I deal with people from Mexico and it would enhance my position if I knew the language.
2. I have many young adults in my church whose parents only speak Spanish. I feel like an idiot not knowing the language so I can communicate with them about their children.
3. France’s economy is on a steep decline. The international business language is English. Large French conglomerates speak English and the smaller companies won’t be hiring Americans anytime soon.
4. The support for Spanish is overwhelming. I remember having to go into Boston to a special language store and buying outrageously priced books to supplement my French. With Spanish, you can turn the television set to multiple channels to hear native speakers, go to Target to buy Spanish rock CDs, or talk to friends at church. There are few, if any, French resources available in the home that could counter the sheer multitude of resources.
I feel that kids in the US have one shot at learning a language. I want my daughter to learn Spanish and not waste time on French. And the argument that any language is better than no language doesn’t fly with me. I gave the High School graduation speech on the advantages of a liberal arts education. Spending hours and hours on a language that you will never use at the expense of learning a language that you probably will use and will most likely enhance your earning power and social experiences is a travesty. I also have done occupational analysis. Spanish is useful. French is not.
Thank you for your understanding in this matter.
Update: Love the comments on this post! Please read them for some wide-ranging views, including some insults, but I guess that comes with the territory. There are a couple of points that people seem to be missing; outside support for learning Spanish is overwhelming, including compute games, TV shows, music. Furthermore, if you are going to learn a language that doesn't have much outside support such as French, why not learn Russian or Chinese and get two for one; the advantage of learning another language and potential resume building over the long term?