Is superintendent Scott Bean a fool because he proposes two foreign languages "to cram down the throats of our children," as one Mr. Lang of Bountiful complained?
Hardly so. There is another view. First, Emerson (Ralph Waldo) claimed the first sign of an educated person is his skill in the use of language. How does one gain this? Goethe, the German answered: "To know only one language is to know none at all." This is especially true of English, which is a blend of Anglo-Saxon (German) and Old French (Latin).Second, learning another language is valuable mental discipline. Top universities are wise. They require doctoral candidates learn foreign languages for sound reasons. The process can apply to other subjects such as physics, history of medicine.
Third, American high school graduates are two years behind their international counterparts. This is true especially of Japan and some European countries. For example, the Japanese student goes to school six full days a week. There are no inter-school athletics or cheerleading. He cannot afford to work on the side because he must study in every available hour or he won't pass. To not pass is tragic. Here it is not so tragic. All pass, even those who cannot read or write.
Fourth, we Americans are linguistic snobs. We insult our foreign friends by suggesting their language is not worth learning even if we want to sell them our airplanes, snowblowers or golf clubs.
If our high schools are to be vocational schools only, then let them be. But, if it is to mean some form of education, then it must teach not just how to make a living but how to live - with a broader view, an understanding of the world and how to live in it well. To learn two foreign languages at high school level is hardly more than a meek beginning.
Paul Lewis Harmon
Salt Lake City