Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Studying the tough languages

One of the reasons I took a job in U.S. Department of Education in the Reagan administration was because the job I wanted--so I thought--was an important one: it was to direct the international education programs which originally were established in 1958 under the National Defense Education Act. I thought that it was doing something quite important, and I wanted to be part of it. The office encouraged the study of uncommonly taught foreign languages (Hungarian, Russian, Arabic, Pashtu, etc.) and I thought this was a good thing. Studying foreign languages is good for individuals and encouraging the study of such uncommonly taught languages is clearly in the national interest. I used to think that then and I still think it now. As my students know, I continue to encourage the study of any and all languages and some of my worthy students spend their time studying everything from Arabic and Chinese to French. Apparently there is a bit of an issue brewing with regard to these programs which my old boss and predecessor in international education, Kenneth D. Whitehead has outlined on NRO. It is worth reading in full. I think he is right, the Senate should pass the bill (the House has already done so) and include in it the re-constitution of a board of experts who could help set standards and priorities for language study. After all, in this age, is not one of the great needs of the country the study of such difficult languages as Arabic? Everyone admits the need, and we should do it right.

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