Driving the other day, I had the distinct pleasure of having someone's asinine conception of the way things should be, thrown at me courtesy of their bumper sticker. The sticker read along the lines of how they wished our schools had millions of dollars and our Air Force had to throw bake sales. I'm still trying to figure out exactly where this person has their head. They're obviously living in an alternate reality and I must admit, it might be nice to escape to a place where protractors are needed more than F-22s. This, however, is not the case.
The bumper sticker's point seemed to be that fascist, ring-wing, war-mongering, pro-life, fundamentalist, tree-hating Republicans could care less about school. While it is fun being so hideously evil, I wouldn't say I could care less about school. If there's one thing this country should focus on internally, it's education.
This topic came to mind the other day in one of my classes when a woman said she couldn't stand Mexicans who come to our country and expect us to learn their language and accept their culture. While the statement sparked a rather lively discussion/roasting, it reminded me of how far behind this country is when it comes to education. When I was 11 years old, my family moved to Spain and I was put into a Spanish school. I had to learn Spanish or else I wasn't going to have much fun, much less pass my classes. While the first few weeks were a bit difficult, I eventually became fluent in the language and adapted to the new culture that I lived in while still speaking English at home.
The transition was easier for me than it is for many Spanish-speakers that come to our country. This is because all of the kids I was going to school with took English since they were in kindergarten. Multilingualism is a revered skill throughout Europe and is almost second nature to them. Spaniards take English all throughout their school careers and additionally start taking French when they get to junior high (you can imagine the fun I had learning French from someone speaking in Spanish). By the time they graduate from their equivalent to high school, they can speak two additional languages conversationally or better. Most Americans can't fathom this.
In a country where we have no official language, is it really too much for foreigners to expect us to speak at least part of another language? I think not. They should also be expected to make the effort to learn English, as it is the dominant language, but we shouldn't haughtily expect them to learn our language while we sit around shooting prairie dogs. If we'd start teaching Spanish at a young age, most high school graduates would be able to communicate with the majority of the world. I've been on trains with people who didn't speak English but were able to communicate with me through Spanish. The odds of someone knowing either one of these languages is pretty favorable. Being multilingual encourages people to explore the world around them and appreciate other cultures. The world's only getting smaller these days with the Internet, globalization, etc., and knowing more than one language opens a host of opportunities.
President Bush called for the training of more science and math teachers during this year's State of the Union address and rightfully so, this is another area where we're falling behind. I was doing math at the age of 12 in Spain that I didn't encounter again until I was a junior in high school here in the States. It's pathetic and goes to show that languages aren't the only area that U.S. schools could improve on. It's time for massive education reform so that we can start playing catch-up with the world around us. I understand these things don't pay for themselves, but unless you want state-controlled television and censored Google search results, I'd recommend letting the Air Force keep their bombs and F-22s.
Tyler Wittman is a senior speech communication major. His column runs every Tuesday in the Collegian.