Friday, September 3, 2010

Is an "English Only" Policy in America's Best Interest?

As a logical follow up to the previous post on "Fear and Prejudice," addressing the issue of linguistic diversity seems appropriate. What drives those believing we should only speak one language in the United States? Would our children REALLY be harmed by having the ability to speak multiple languages? Karl Fisch, a high school administrator from Littleton, Colorado, originally developed a powerpoint for teachers at his school involving shifting paradigms due to the impact of globalization and technology. Later, Scott Mcleod, a professor at Univ. of Minnesota, generalized the presentation. Three years and 20+ million online views later, the evolution (4.0) of the Did You Know? (Shift Happens) video continues to help raise awareness of the need to think critically upon the current policies and practices related to education and the economy. Comparing version 4.0 to the original 2007 Shift Happens video, exemplifies just how quickly technology is changing and its impact upon future education and economic choices.

The need to become a multilingual country should be central to any discussion related to educational reform. China has a plan in place for its 1.2 billion people to become proficient in both Mandarin and English within five years. More importantly, China is helping Mandarin replace English as the language of diplomacy and trade throughout Asia. We cannot confront such a challenging educational and economic reality with the usual partisan fear mongering. The United States should instead look upon this as an opportunity. Contrary to the belief of many motivational speakers, the Mandarin word for "crisis" is not truly comprised of two symbols individually meaning "danger" and "opportunity." However, it is apropos to hope the crisis imposed by a dangerous status quo regarding "English Only" will inspire the great American spirit to see the opportunity to become multilinguistic as a great benefit to its children.
An example of what is possible can be seen through the Patchworks Films documentary: "Speaking In Tongues." At a time when 31 states have passed "English Only" laws, four pioneering families put their children in public schools where, from the first day of kindergarten, their teachers speak mostly Chinese or Spanish. Speaking in Tongues follows four diverse kids on a journey to become bilingual. The film is a winner of the Audience Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival. The story will challenge you to rethink the skills that Americans need in the 21st century.

A schedule of information follows: Watch Speaking in Tongues on PBS WNET, New York City on Saturday September 4, at 1:00 p.m. Tune to your local PBS affiliate for other viewing options.

From September 3 through September 17, PBS will stream the program in three different languages: English, Spanish and Chinese on the PBS website . Check its website during those dates for the direct URL.

Watch the trailer:

San Francisco International Film Festival

Find a screening near you :