Language Learning and National Security

By Lewis, Anne C. | Phi Delta Kappan, October 2007 | Go to article overview

Language Learning and National Security


Lewis, Anne C., Phi Delta Kappan


THE FRONT page of a newspaper or the TV news must seem like a foreign language to a huge percentage of K-12 students. Recent surveys of high school youths by National Geographic-Roper found in 2002 that only 17% could locate Afghanistan on a map; less than one-third could find Great Britain. Perhaps even more disturbing, in the most recent (2006) survey, just 37% could locate Iraq, though U.S. troops had been there since 2003.

While the rest of the world expects its students to be bilingual, or even trilingual, less than 40% of our youths consider themselves proficient in another language, despite the influx of immigrant students. It should not be surprising, then, that our young people are ignorant about the rest of the world. One of the primary benefits of studying another language is the knowledge one acquires of geography and different cultures.

A very revealing item in the Iraqi Study Commission report was the finding that of the 1,000 employees in the U.S. embassy in that country, only six were fluent in Arabic. Moreover, as our military moved from fighting a war to trying to win friends, it found itself terribly unprepared and inept in communicating with the people.

Until this century, the United States could thrive despite being isolated by geography and language. Today, knowing only one language and its culture is a national disgrace. And soon it will prove disastrous for our citizens, for the military, and for business interests.

Like so many challenges to our education system, policy makers are aware of the problems and are creating various answers. As with the shock of the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1 in 1957, the federal response is to frame the issue as one of security. Fifty years ago the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) focused on developing greater foreign language capacities in this country because of national security. Remnants of these efforts in the Higher Education Act have broadened the purposes to area studies and more general language studies. But the K-12 sector has remained largely unaffected, at least by federal action.

In marches the military, again. The Department of Defense has launched the National Security Education Program to provide a language pipeline beginning at the K-12 level, awarding its first grant to the University of Oregon and the Portland Public Schools for a program in Chinese. Now, four federal agencies are cooperating under the National Security Language Initiative, and the U.S. Department of Education's Foreign Language Assistance Program has awarded $22 million to expand language instruction in Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Korean, and Russian.

Dependent on shifting world events, interest in foreign languages in our schools and colleges grows only in spurts--from Japanese, to Chinese, to Arabic. Meanwhile, real bilingualism never takes hold. In fact, K-12 policies today show an almost xenophobic attitude toward different languages--as opposed to taking advantage of the language background of immigrants and building on that capacity to create a future expertise that the military and business leaders say is essential.

Policy makers say the right things. Even the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act includes foreign languages as part of a core curriculum. But tell me one district or school that has increased its offerings of foreign languages because of NCLB. If anything, resources and time have been diverted from subjects other than math and reading. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Language Learning and National Security
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.