Facebook Twitter

No language problem here

SHARE No language problem here

This is in response to your reprint of Ariel Dorman's New York Times piece (June 27 editorial page) in which he, like Scott Bean (state education superintendent), promotes the notion that "acquiring a second language not only gives people an economic and political edge but is also the best way to understand someone else's culture." And, of course, the only other "second language" for this New York Times liberal is Spanish, although he feels we should all become multilinguistic.

Shortly after the Russians launched their "Sputnik" space vehicle in 1957, Congress passed what became known as the "National Defense Act of 1958." This was a program to improve the teaching of math, science and "modern foreign languages" in America's classroom. To access these programs, states had to develop a "plan" consistent with what federal bureaucrats wrote into rules and regulations to implement the statutes.As Alaska commissioner of education at the time, it was my lot to negotiate those plans with Office of Education people. Not only did I find that "modern foreign languages" did not include the native languages of Alaska, but the "language specialists," like Dorman, did not like Alaska's "immersion" approach to teaching Eskimos, Aleuts and Indians the English language, notwithstanding the fact that an Alaska-wide testing program (performed under contract with an outside organization) found that by the fourth grade, achievement tests showed that Alaska natives who entered first grade speaking few if any words in English compared favorably in communication skills with children in the city schools who spoke only English.

Moreover, contrary to both Bean and Dorman's assertions about the need for bilingual people in international affairs, the written reports on three international conferences at which I presented papers on behalf of the United States make absolutely no reference to there being any language barrier to a multinational corporation's economic or political affairs on the international scene.

So, what is really the problem?

Howard A. Matthews