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senate Bill S. 2307

Should the Feds Support Elementary & Secondary School Foreign Language Programs With Grants?

Argument in favor

Americans’ low rate of foreign language fluency is a problem for many branches of the U.S. military, intelligence community, and foreign service. To create a pipeline of foreign language-speaking employees for these agencies, it’s important to invest in foreign language programs at the elementary and secondary school levels now.

burrkitty's Opinion
···
08/21/2019
The normal human brains ability to pick up linguistics easily is confined to under the age of 8. After that it becomes progressively and progressively harder to pick up foreign language. Waiting until junior high or high school to start teaching foreign language is waiting 10 years later than the natural human ability to pick up language evolved. So the time to teach foreign language is the very earliest possible. Preferably in preschool and kindergarten and elementary school because that is when the human brain is most keyed to absorb linguistic information. Children that are bilingual or poly lingual inevitably were exposed to those languages very young. Either by having a family language that was spoken in the house that was different than the main language spoken outside. Or by having grandparents or a family members or domestic servants that spoke different languages. But intrinsically the human brain evolved to pick up languages young and so that is when we should teach it because that takes advantage of a natural evolutionary process to the benefit of children.
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William 's Opinion
···
08/21/2019
I’m all for kids knowing two or more languages. Start as early as possible and it will be easier for the student. I’m not quite sure why the Secretary of Defense is involved but the Congress can sort that out.
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jimK's Opinion
···
08/21/2019
I support language skills training for youth- but for different reasons than cited in the preamble. Our country has often made grievous mistakes in dealing with other countries whose cultures and values are different than our own. We think that they have the same cultural norms as we do- and that leads us to presuppose our 'approaches' are best for their societies, when in fact, they are not. Early language skills opens channels for meaningful dialogue and understanding. For example, in a casual gathering an exiled Iranian engineer and naturalized citizen was asked: " If you had to choose between your children or your parents, who would you choose? His answer without hesitation, was that he would choose his parents, since he could always have more children. I don't know if that is generally reflective of Iranian culture, but this shocked most of us with Western values of protecting our children first. It is not a 'wrong' view- it is one I do not personally accept (sorry Mom!). I could never have begun understand his views if I were not able to openly speak with him. That is why early language skills are valuable for our youth- particularly in a world that is getting ‘smaller’ and increasingly interdependent.
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Argument opposed

School classrooms are a poor place for meaningful language acquisition, as evidenced by the fact that less than 1% of students who take a foreign language in high school attain fluency. The government should instead find ways to encourage parents to teach foreign languages at home, which has been much more effective than classroom instruction.

Tritia's Opinion
···
08/21/2019
Because the government is doing so well with the basic 4. Math, English, Science and History. Fix the broken structure you’re trying to leave for someone else to deal with. That’s what every politician signs up for when they run for office.
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Gopin2020's Opinion
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08/21/2019
Get the Federal government out of education and return it to the states. #MAGA
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DougM's Opinion
···
08/21/2019
No. The Fedeeral Government(Us) should just make a required and level playing field for all students of a certain grade or level. This assuring that the students are all at that basic level. Then if the State wants to go further in the advancement of the students education, then by all means do it. This is one way a State can attract the citizens to their State. This should be up to that particular State. Sorry to say this, but this should be a States Rights matter.
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What is Senate Bill S. 2307?

This bill would direct the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Secretary of Education, to authorize three-year competitive grants to support local and state education agencies in establishing, improving, or expanding innovative programs in world language learning at the elementary and secondary school levels. For the purposes of this bill, “world language” is defined as any natural language other than English. This definition includes foreign languages, classical languages, American Sign Language (ASL) and Native American languages.

Impact

Elementary and secondary school students; elementary and secondary schools; foreign language programs in elementary and secondary schools; federal grants to support foreign language programs in elementary and secondary schools; and local and state education agencies.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 2307

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, introduced this bill to support, improve and expand critical foreign language programs in U.S. elementary and secondary schools.

Rep. David Price (D-NC), who is the sponsor of the House version of this bill, says

“The United States can no longer afford to neglect our deficiencies in foreign language and international education, which limit our economic and national security competitiveness. I’m pleased to introduce this bill with Rep. Young to give schools and students the resources they need to communicate and collaborate on the world stage and prepare the next generation of leaders to solve the international challenges that lie ahead.”

Original House cosponsor Rep. Don Young (R-AK) adds

“We should be doing all we can to ensure that America’s students are equipped to become leaders in business and civic life. Therefore, I am proud to introduce the World Language Advancement and Readiness Act with my good friend from across the aisle, Congressman David Price. Our bill helps America keep pace with other developed nations by providing the language education our students need to secure good jobs, achieve success in global marketplaces, and successfully navigate multi-lingual business environments. The legislation also helps build a pipeline for growing experts in languages that are critical to our national defense. I am grateful to Congressman Price for joining me in this important initiative, and I urge my colleagues to help us boost our national defense and global competitiveness by cosponsoring this legislation.”

Bill Rivers, the Executive Director of Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL-NCLIS), expresses his organization’s support for this bill

“The World Language Advancement and Readiness Act is an important step towards a real pipeline of bilingual and biliterate young Americans, who will improve our national security and foster economic growth with their language skills. The National Council for Languages and International Studies supports this Act wholeheartedly and commends Representatives Price and Young for their commitment to America’s Languages.”

Economist Bryan Caplan argues that learning a foreign language is a waste of time and money for most Americans, especially since most students — who take an average of two years studying a foreign language in high school — won’t end up being fluent anyway

“The average high school graduate spends two years studying a foreign language… The marginal product of two years of pain and suffering per high school graduate: less than one student in a hundred acquires fluency. (And that’s self-assessed fluency, which people almost surely exaggerate)... Fans of foreign languages will probably just respond, ‘That’s why we have to pour more resources into foreign languages.’  I say it would be far better to give fans of foreign languages a free economics lesson… Any honest scale will tell you that the costs of foreign language instruction dwarf the benefits. Think about it: Even ignoring teachers’ salaries, we’re currently burning two years of class time per graduate. The payoff? Making less than one student in a hundred fluent… The fact that two full years of instruction have almost zero effect implies that massive spending increases would be required to noticeably raise foreign language fluency… Foreign language fluency is more common in other countries for a reason. People around the world strive to learn English. Why? Because English fluency frequently helps them get good jobs, meet interesting people, and enjoy culture. Pretty obvious, right? To understand why Americans don’t learn foreign languages, simply reverse this reasoning.  We don’t learn foreign languages because foreign languages rarely helps us get good jobs, meet interesting people, or enjoy culture. Americans start in an unusually abundant and diverse economic, social, and cultural pool, so we have little reason to stray. And if Americans do decide to sample other pools, we can literally travel the world without needing to learn a word of another language… requiring Americans to learn foreign languages makes about as much sense as requiring them to hear operas. What inspires the few, torments the many. Elites who relish foreign languages… should show some tolerance for the rest of humanity instead of calling for government spending to correct a ‘problem’ that’s only in our minds.”

In a blog post on Education Week’s “Work in Progress” blog, Douglas Green, EdD, argues that achieving foreign language fluency for children is up to parents, not schools

“It is probably up to parents to make real fluency happen. If parents know another language, they should use it around the house as often as possible. If they have some motivation to learn another language themselves, they should include their children in the process. Also look for opportunities to go to places where only the other language is allowed. A semester abroad is often an opportunity for older students. If a student is placed in a home where the family wants to practice their English, however, they might not learn much. Look for a placement in a small town where English is not as common and at least the parents don't speak English… For many poor parents, English is a second language. Let them know that they should help their kids learn their native language. Tell them the effort is worth it as learning another language has been shown to be good for one's brain. Wealthy parents often hire child care workers whose first language is not English. If you are in this demographic, tell the caregiver to teach your child their first language.”

This legislation doesn’t have any Senate cosponsors. Its House version, sponsored by Rep. David Price (D-NC), has 25 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 23 Democrats and two Republicans. Both bills have yet to receive a committee vote. 

Last Congress, Rep. Price introduced this bill with 31 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 22 Democrats and nine Republicans, and it didn’t receive a committee vote. There was no Senate version of this legislation last Congress.

Leading international education and foreign language advocacy organizations, including the Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL-NCLIS) and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), support this bill.


Of NoteMultiple Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports have highlighted shortfalls in the U.S. military and intelligence community’s critical language and cultural skills. According to the GAO, the United States’ language deficit could eventually threaten U.S. priorities and missions around the world.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / hudienm)

AKA

World Language Advancement and Readiness Act of 2019

Official Title

A bill to authorize the Secretary of Defense to make grants to support the study of world languages in elementary schools and secondary schools.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Armed Services
    IntroducedJuly 29th, 2019
    The normal human brains ability to pick up linguistics easily is confined to under the age of 8. After that it becomes progressively and progressively harder to pick up foreign language. Waiting until junior high or high school to start teaching foreign language is waiting 10 years later than the natural human ability to pick up language evolved. So the time to teach foreign language is the very earliest possible. Preferably in preschool and kindergarten and elementary school because that is when the human brain is most keyed to absorb linguistic information. Children that are bilingual or poly lingual inevitably were exposed to those languages very young. Either by having a family language that was spoken in the house that was different than the main language spoken outside. Or by having grandparents or a family members or domestic servants that spoke different languages. But intrinsically the human brain evolved to pick up languages young and so that is when we should teach it because that takes advantage of a natural evolutionary process to the benefit of children.
    Like (80)
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    Because the government is doing so well with the basic 4. Math, English, Science and History. Fix the broken structure you’re trying to leave for someone else to deal with. That’s what every politician signs up for when they run for office.
    Like (23)
    Follow
    Share
    I’m all for kids knowing two or more languages. Start as early as possible and it will be easier for the student. I’m not quite sure why the Secretary of Defense is involved but the Congress can sort that out.
    Like (29)
    Follow
    Share
    I support language skills training for youth- but for different reasons than cited in the preamble. Our country has often made grievous mistakes in dealing with other countries whose cultures and values are different than our own. We think that they have the same cultural norms as we do- and that leads us to presuppose our 'approaches' are best for their societies, when in fact, they are not. Early language skills opens channels for meaningful dialogue and understanding. For example, in a casual gathering an exiled Iranian engineer and naturalized citizen was asked: " If you had to choose between your children or your parents, who would you choose? His answer without hesitation, was that he would choose his parents, since he could always have more children. I don't know if that is generally reflective of Iranian culture, but this shocked most of us with Western values of protecting our children first. It is not a 'wrong' view- it is one I do not personally accept (sorry Mom!). I could never have begun understand his views if I were not able to openly speak with him. That is why early language skills are valuable for our youth- particularly in a world that is getting ‘smaller’ and increasingly interdependent.
    Like (28)
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    Yes! Second languages help Americans more easily engage with the rest of the world and help with cognitive growth for children and teens. This helps students process information differently and have better memory and critical-thinking skills, listen better and be better able to concentrate and multitask. The need for bilingual professionals continues to grow, and this sets students up better for entering the workforce and better being able to support themselves and provide for any future family they may have. There are too many benefits to dismiss.
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    To compete in global economy we must speak many languages please pass this
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    Get the Federal government out of education and return it to the states. #MAGA
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    No. The Fedeeral Government(Us) should just make a required and level playing field for all students of a certain grade or level. This assuring that the students are all at that basic level. Then if the State wants to go further in the advancement of the students education, then by all means do it. This is one way a State can attract the citizens to their State. This should be up to that particular State. Sorry to say this, but this should be a States Rights matter.
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    Yes! Make Americans more globally competent by teaching them the value of learning another language
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    👍🏻I support children getting the opportunity of Foreign LanguageTraining Americans’ low rate of foreign language fluency is a problem for many branches of the U.S. military, intelligence community, and foreign service. To create a pipeline of foreign language-speaking employees for these agencies, it’s important to invest in foreign language programs at the elementary and secondary school levels now. SneakyPete............ 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻. 8.21.19...........
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    Foreign Language is part of what the US is missing in our education system. Every 1st & 2nd level country except for the US makes learning a foreign language mandatory. Foreign language is a very important part of: Understanding your own language Understanding world history Understanding of another culture which makes the person more accepting of other people Expands the ability to reason - comparing the uses of language And many more. So try learning a foreign language but only by the natural method like TPRS - Teaching Proficiency thru Reading & Storytelling.
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    Yes. Encourage citizens of USA to learn at least one foreign language. Travel around the world and you’ll see that many people around the world are multi-lingual. Americans would be better off for being at least bi-lingual. And languages are easier to learn if you start learning them before age 14.
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    The federal government needs to get out of education all together and let the states run the schools and get back to the basics.
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    No. Smaller government not bigger.
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    Fix the education children need: reading, writing, mathematics, history/social studies, biology, snd icivics//government before you statt adding to the curriculum.
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    The Feds need to get the hell out of education
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    In this day and age, learning at least one other language besides English should be a requirement for all high school graduates! The global dynamics are making it an absolute necessity! We can no longer stick our heads in the sand and demand everyone else in the world conform to our way of doing things if we want to compete effectively in the world. Besides which, increasing young folks knowledge of other countries’ languages and customs can broaden our perceptions overall as a people to the fact that we are only a small portion of the world, and if we intend to remain the one country where the experiment of democracy continues to function we need to foster understanding among our people for our leadership role in the world. Good leadership requires empathy and understanding, as well as strength and a strong market!
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    Speaking multiple languages makes you smarter. And the younger you are, your brain learns languages easier. Americans really need to stop being fearful of other languages.
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    That's exactly what Jim Hensen tried to do with Sesame Street....I remember my son, Dan, when he was 2 (both of my children were avid fans...in fact, my son knew most of the alphabet by the time he was 2, and here, I thought he was too young....I was having a cup of coffee and he was playing with his blocks and handed me one and said "B"...he was right! and I discovered he knew all but a few of the letters)...Anyway, once I gave him a cookie and instead of sayin' "thanks", he said "merci"!.....Might as well teach them when their little minds are like sponges. Only "American's" think others are stupid, if they don;t speak English.
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    Yes. As a child, in first grade over seventy years ago we began learning Polish along with our other first grade studies. After Christmas break it was discontinued because the powers that be at the time, decided speaking English was to be our only language. WWII had just ended. Still remember what we learned and regret we weren't allowed to pursue it further. Learning a second language at an early is highly desirable and recommended.
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