Please realize these thoughts are mine and mine alone. They do not reflect the feelings of the school district my child attends and of which I am a member of the board of education.
We live in a global economy and a global social setting. While people in Greece may be experiencing economic issues, people around the world should be watching. While people in Germany celebrate Octoberfest, people around the world watch and, in some locations, mimic or celebrate themselves. What once was considered a large area – the world – is shrinking daily.
With this global shrinking and interdependence in view, the NYS Board of Regents cut the last of the foreign language Regents as a cost saving measure in May. A little background. In NYS, Regents are final exams. Many times these tests are cumulative with English being given in 11th grade, Global History being given after two years of study and foreign language being given at the end of three years of study. These tests are given across the state with no alterations, although students with IEPs may have some type of test accommodations if these are written into the IEP. The cutting of foreign language Regents has been a two year process. Last year the Board of Regents cut this exam in German, Hebrew, and Latin. This year was the last year that the exam will be given in French, Italian, and Spanish.
The NYS Regents in a foreign language is not simply a written exam. The exam contains a verbal portion and then written material. The exam is not easy to administer and is cumulative over three years of study. What message does ending these exams send to students? Regardless of what the ethnocentric US thinks, English is not the language of the world. The Board of Regents are sending a message that we should not prepare students for life in a global community. This message is not only the wrong message; it is dangerous.
Think of this in terms of raising a child. When a parent tells the child one thing and then does something opposite, what do you think sticks with the child? Usually, the actions stay around longer than the words. To draw the analogy, we – the adults in charge of the education system – tell students that a global economy and a global community are the ways of the future. We then take away a test that encourages learning about other cultures and other languages. A contradiction? Definitely. Good for the future? Definitely not.
Realize that NYS still requires a foreign language class for graduation from high school. The state is not totally ignoring foreign language. It is still a requirement for graduation. It is just not important enough to be a subject on which the state will test students’ knowledge.
To me, this position of the Board of Regents is a large contradiction. I am the type of person that took French when I was in 2nd through 4th grades. I took two years of Spanish in high school. In my first two years of college, I was close to the Quebec border with NYS. I would read the newspapers written in French in the library. When I started raising my children, I would buy picture books where I could get a copy in English and a copy in Spanish. I truly believe we need to educate ourselves, not only our children, on what goes on in other cultures and in how to speak other languages.
If you live in NYS, what are you thoughts on the end of foreign language Regents? If you are from another state, what type of foreign language requirements does your state have for high school students?