In late February, CBS Dallas reported that Mansfield ISD, located south of Forth Worth, was going to implement mandatory Arabic classes which received strong public reactions on the national level. The program was in accordance with a 1.3 million dollar government grant to help develop foreign language skills because, according to them, Arabic is one of the “languages of the future”.
While Mansfield ISD has issued a press release saying they would be optional, the question of whether or not a particular language, especially Arabic, should be a required part of a curriculum has been debated heavily in the national media.
Parents have a right to be mad about the idea of mandatory foreign language classes, which many people support. If a foreign language is an optional high school elective there isn’t a problem, but if it is a requirement for students, especially students kindergarten through sixth grade, then there is cause for concern.
Students and, more importantly, parents should choose what students are taught outside of the basic math, English, and science classes.
One of the main problems with making Arabic classes mandatory is whether or not it will be essential knowledge for a majority of the students. According to the state department Arabic is a “language of the future”, but it is doubtful if any of the students attending these schools will have use for it.
This would be implemented in a public school where not everyone will graduate high school, let alone attend college. Even for the people that do go on to college and graduate it is unlikely that they would have a job that entailed them speaking Arabic on a regular basis.
While it’s definitely true that many of America’s future workers will have to go around the world to do business, a majority of these locations will not be Arabic speaking places.
The largest economy in the Arabic world is Saudi Arabia where oil revenues represent over 90% of the exports of this country and 75% of the government revenues. The students may need this knowledge if they worked for an oil company; but, even then, it wouldn’t be necessary for a majority of the workers.
Foreign language shouldn’t be mandatory, but if any language is required then it should at least be a more relevant language for the American workforce.
The emerging and established global markets are in Western Europe and Eastern Asia making languages such as Chinese (largest Asian economy), German (largest European economy), and the other languages of these regions far more important to a global worker than Arabic.
Another argument in favor of creating a mandatory Arabic program is that learning the language and culture would help to stop hatred against Arab immigrants and their US-born descendants. While it is true that hate crimes against Arabs rose to all-time highs after the 9/11 attacks, it has since plummeted (down from 546 incidents in 2001 to 132 incidents in 2009) and is definitely not a major problem as far as the current state of race/religious relations in the US.
The main concern is that currently there is rampant “Islamophobia” in the US. Islam originates on the Arabian Peninsula and is the religion of a majority of Arabs. While it is definitely true that there is hate towards them in the US, the idea that it is the most problematic religious hatred, or is even rampant, is a vast misconception.
According to a 2009 FBI report only 8.4% of religiously motivated hate crimes were against Muslims living in the US (6.7% were against Christians, 71.9% were against Jews, and the other 8.3% were against the other religions and atheists).
Looking at these numbers we see that there not only isn’t a major problem with hatred against Muslims, but that they aren’t even close to being the most persecuted religious group in America.
I think schools should have classes on occasion that teach about religious/racial hate (of all religions not just Islam) but mandatory language classes every day for six years is a bit too much, especially when its focused on only one religion which is a victim of less than 10% of religious hate crimes.
These factors show why it makes more sense to make language a higher level elective. If a high school student at this school knows he wants to do work which involves Arabic then he can choose to take a class which will teach him Arabic. This makes a lot more sense than making every single student take it when a majority of them will never use it in their lives.