Friday, October 25, 2013

Speech to Baldwin County Board of Education Re: Arabic as a Foreign Language

When my son was 10 or 11, I drove his friend Kareem home from our house. Kareem’s family is from Egypt, and I asked him if he spoke Arabic in his home.  He hesitated.  I could see him struggling with an answer.  He was afraid to tell me.  At 10 years old, he had learned to fear the reactions of others to who he was.
The fact that we are even having this conversation today, the fact that anyone could equate learning a foreign language or learning about a culture different from their own to indoctrination into a culture of hate is one of the very and many reasons we MUST continue to teach these subjects.
I have five children whom I am teaching to be informed, open minded, and tolerant of everyone alike or different.
Open- mindedness is taught by exposing children to different people, cultures, and viewpoints. By allowing them access to language and culture from around the world, you are reinforcing the idea that it is okay to be different from each other.
Tolerance is taught by example. By allowing children access to different culture, language and religion through education, you are teaching them to embrace those who are or believe differently and encouraging open and respectful discussion.
Our country was founded by immigrants.  We are a country of many languages, cultures, religions and traditions.  By learning about all of our cultures and roots, by learning about all of our histories, by learning about all of our religions, we teach our children to live with an understanding of others rather than a fear or hatred of them.
Providing children information from every perspective gives them the belief and the tools to change their futures and impact the world. By teaching them an understanding and practical knowledge of a different and globally significant culture and language, you are empowering our children to participate in a global market, to embrace a global perspective and to teach others these same skills thereby changing the future...maybe even reducing hate and fear bred by ignorance.
A 2009 article in USA Today reported that CIA officials were recruiting first and second generation Americans in areas with large Arab-American populations and providing $35,000 signing bonuses  to recruits with “mission critical” languages that included Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Korean and more.  It also reported that President Bush ordered the CIA to boost ranks for foreign language speakers by 50% following 9/11.
In 2004, the BBC interviewed Henry Pavlovich, Director of the Institute of Linguists who state that “good Arabic speakers are very, very heavily in demand and because of that, a lot are very highly paid.”
To those who disagree with me, I would encourage you to take a look at the Vision Statement for Daphne High School.  It reads:
The vision of Daphne High School is to provide strong academic press and a highly developed sense of community emphasizing civic-mindedness, international consciousness, and entrepreneurship.
The mission statement for the IB program goes further:
"The International Baccalaureate Organization aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organization works with schools, governments, and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right."

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