There’s an easy way to encourage xenophobia — remove fruitful access to the acquisition and temptation of a language.  You kill the meme by removing it from memory.  Another way to discourage the foreign is to poke it with a stick or, more simply, use a budget axe to cleave the learning from the cleansed mind.

THE bad news was not unexpected: sweeping cutbacks at the State University of New York at Albany, prompted by sweeping cutbacks in state aid. … The university announced this fall that it would stop letting new students major in French, Italian, Russian and the classics. …

“There’s no way on earth we should be cutting these languages,” said John M. Hamilton, executive vice chancellor and provost at Louisiana State University, where officials this year decided to phase out majors in German and Latin, as well as basic instruction in Portuguese, Russian, Swahili and Japanese, after losing $42 million in public financing over the last two years.

The University of Maine’s president, Robert A. Kennedy, has recommended suspending undergraduate degree programs in German and Latin. This fall at the University of Nevada, Reno, students can no longer declare majors in German Studies or minors in Italian. At Winona State University in Minnesota, officials have placed a moratorium on new majors in French and German while it challenges the faculty to make those disciplines more relevant to the contemporary world.

Other schools, public and private, have recently eliminated or diluted the foreign-language component of their core curriculums. Starting next fall at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at the George Washington University, students will no longer have to take a foreign language to graduate, although they may use language courses to help fulfill a broader humanities requirement. …

This news is uncomfortably shocking.  We’re giving up the European side of us while other parts of the world rise above us and enter the classroom:

One reason is a surge of interest in languages like Arabic and Spanish, which is thriving on campus in response to the nation’s growing Latino population. China’s rising importance has prompted more college programs in Mandarin, and the Chinese government has been generous in financing them.

What sort of American education system do we want? Do we prefer to change with the wilds of the wind and sway in the effervescent, but not everlasting, breeze of what’s popular in the world? Or do we want to keep what we know while adding what we don’t yet know?

Giving up one program to profit another is another example of how a business mentality completely ruins the ongoing edification of the mind and when we bottom line overrules the learning curve, we cheapen everything around us in the devaluing of what was once precious.

10 Comments

      1. If one actually opens a dictionary and sees the origin of many words in the English language, one would see a majority of our common words are based on the Greek and Latin interpretations. Knowing the ‘root’ meaning of a word means one will use it more effectively and communicate more efficiently.

        1. I agree! We need to be really careful in a global economy and in a universal pool of knowledge to welcome all ideas and cultures and languages — because if we push people to choose only what we know, then they will know all that what we know, but will never know what they know.

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