Arabic: Making it Mandatory?

(Photo courtesy of Yael)

Forget just making foreign language credit mandatory, Mansfield ISD in Texas is making Arabic classes mandatory. Or at least they tried. Protesting parents have put the plan to a temporary halt. The proposed 2012 Arabic course offering is due to a $1.3 million Foreign Language Assistance Program grant from the Department of Education to carry out the “languages of the future,” which the DoE defines as Arabic and Mandarin Chinese. Apparently, students in elementary and middle schools would take language and culture classes, with an elective option in high school.

At a public school, it does seem a bit weird to take Arabic as a mandatory course. Unfortunately, this story overshadows an important point: this Arabic course offering represents a stride forward in the American education system, by broadening foreign language opportunities and opening young minds to a global viewpoint. We need to find a balance in foreign language offerings. Mandatory is not the way, but not offering languages like Arabic and Mandarin Chinese is no longer an option either.

Where is the balance? How do we offer the “languages of the future” without causing uproar?

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