Dearborn schools urged to ban Arabic

Schools in Dearborn, Michigan should ban the use of Arabic unless absolutely necessary to communicate with parents or students, concludes an independent report.  From the Detroit News:

A study commissioned by the Wayne County Regional Education Service Agency said the use of Arabic by students in the bilingual programs in Dearborn Public Schools slows the assimilation of students “into the school and American society in general” and fosters suspicion among students and teachers who don’t speak the language.

The report singled out Fordson High, which is 90 percent Arab. Fordson teaches all subjects in Arabic for newcomers who aren’t fluent in English.

“(Bilingual education) reinforces a perception by some that Fordson is an Arab School in America rather than an American school with Arab students,” the report stated.

District officials said they will explore ways to accelerate students into English-only classes over the next 18 months.

Via This Week in Education.

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Comments

  1. We have travelled this road before–first in attempts to stomp out vestiges of German culture, then to remove all persons of Japanese heritage.

    It has never served us well.

    Bilingualism is considered in most countries to be an asset. We consider it to be a handicapping condition. Many high performing countries consider teaching in “mother tongue” to be the most appropriate means of learning academic content, with a second language added at an early age with a goal of bilingualism.

    We nearly insist that anyone under the age of high school can only handle one single language–and this language should be English in all cases. Our half-hearted attempts to teach a second language to a few students in high school fall far short of what is required for basic global currency.

  2. Dearbornistan isn’t quite the same as Little Tokyo or Over the Rhine. I think there’s a good chance for homegrown jihadists springing up there, and the bad economy isn’t going to help.

    Second languages are great–my kids have that gene and speak a number, including Hungarian. But English is the language here, and speaking it poorly keeps you from fully participating in the culture. And not participating in the culture means you don’t value it, and then blowing it up is a whole lot easier.

  3. Bill Leonard says:

    Margo/Mom, many of us are products of environments where a “foreign” — usually, European — language was spoken in the home for generations. If the language languished, selected phrases, and sometimes snippets, continued to thrive. Somehow, it never interefered with the learning of, and public conversances in, English.

    I think that ethnocentricity that looks down on the language of the country of residence — and that is what is happening here with the somehow-innocent “arabic speakers” — is a different matter entirely.

    Bill

  4. Stomp out vestiges of German culture?

    Not quite which is why you have to conflate a failure to appropriate public monies to maintain the vestiges of a foreign culture with stomping out its vestiges.

    If the residents of Dearborn want to maintain their unique and colorful culture then by all means, go right ahead. But I’m opposed to spending a nickel of tax money to help them do so.

    Their unique and colorful culture means bupkus to me and probably doesn’t mean any more to anyone who isn’t Arabic with the exception of “progressives” who feel their superior cultural sensitivity creates a claim on the wealth of those less refined then they.

  5. Amy in Texas says:

    Bill- if it is all you hear at school, as well as home it does interfere.

    The situation in Dearborn sounds like Hispanic students trying to learn English in an ESL class in Texas. If you speak Spanish, and are in a 100% Spanish-speaking ESL class, there are few opportunities to even attempt to switch in to English.

    These kids can languish in ESL for years, unlike the Hindi or Arabic speakers in Texas who are forced to adapt into English.

    However, I don’t think banning a language is a good answer. Better to disperse those classes, somehow, into the English-speaking population.

  6. I am all for promoting real competence (starting in elementary school) in foreign languages, especially the strategic ones, including Arabic. However, competence in English comes first and I agree with the comment above about spending public money to maintain non-English, non-American traditions. This is particularly worrisome regarding Arabic,groups because of the Arabic/Muslim connection and because of their tendency to self-segregate. Whole areas of European cities are unsafe for non-Muslims, even police/fire/rescue personnel. We don’t need that here. Assimilation should be a primary focus in all American schools, as it has been in the past. Even in private schools, the desirability of “becoming American” was explicitly stressed, even as ethnic traditions were maintained at home and in community groups.

    Freedom of religion is one thing, but we have many enemies who act in the name of Islam and, unlike any other religion, Islam is inherently and explicitly a political system as well as a religious one. Not all Muslims are terrorists, but the current terrorists are all Muslims. Given the number of Muslims worldwide, if only one percent support (not even commit) terrorist acts, we have a problem. There are already problems in Somali communities with boys being radicalized in this country and we shouldn’t tolerate, let alone support, conditions likely to create more problems.

    As far as the usefulness of Arabic, there can be reliability issues with Muslim Arabic speakers. Since Islam teaches that it is acceptable to lie to infidels (their term), non-Muslims are seen as more trustworthy interpreters/translators. I would think that someone from a community like the Dearborn one would raise trust issues in some situations. Call that biased, if you will, but the costs of misplaced trust can be high, especially where public safety issues are concerned.

  7. Margo/Mom says:

    allen comments:

    “Stomp out vestiges of German culture?

    Not quite which is why you have to conflate a failure to appropriate public monies to maintain the vestiges of a foreign culture with stomping out its vestiges.”

    allen, in my midwestern capital, bilingual classes were cancelled (previously it was thought that teaching native German speakers in German while they learned English was the best way for them to learn content–currently the belief in many countries globally). In addition, parks and streets having German names (Schiller Park, Goethe Street) were renamed, and books reflective of German culture from schools and libraries were burned publicly. Since that time (1960s or so) much of this culture has been found to be quaint and put back in place.

  8. The following is from Mary Ann Zehr’s blog at Education Week:

    http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning-the-language/2009/01/how_much_use_of_the_native_lan.html

    “The article doesn’t mention the fact that, ironically, Dearborn schools are participating in a grant received by Michigan State University from the U.S. Department of Defense to produce graduates who are truly bilingual in both English and Arabic, which I reported on for Education Week in Oct. 2006. Before that grant was awarded, I wrote an article for Education Week, ” ‘Heritage Speakers’: Loss of a Treasure?,” about how Dearborn schools had to limit its offerings of Arabic classes (these were classes generally intended for English-dominant students who had exposure to Arabic at home, not the immigrant students) because of a lack of funds.

    It seems that the best-case scenario in Dearborn would be for the schools to figure out how to help students to learn English well—and also strengthen their skills in Arabic at the same time. The federal government has acknowledged for years that it has a huge demand for Arabic/English speakers.”

  9. Speaking in English has the ability to integrate cultures. The concern with native-born Arabic speakers is that they won’t identify the U.S. as their country because they can’t effectively communicate with other Americans.

    Islamic terrorist groups target young adults whose sense of identity is exclusively Middle-East-centric. This is not an education issue; this is a homeland security issue.

  10. I understand that there are many non-Muslim speakers of Arabic from various places around the Middle East, but the US DoD has a policy of not hiring them.  This suggests that Muslims (perhaps even the Muslim Brotherhood) have captured the hiring process, which means the foxes are running the Homeland Security henhouse.

  11. Dick Eagleson says:

    Margo/Mom,

    We have travelled this road before–first in attempts to stomp out vestiges of German culture, then to remove all persons of Japanese heritage.

    If you mean we interned immigrants and offspring who were currently or recently citizens of nations the U.S. wound up at war with, then this is true – Germans in 1917-18 and 1941-45 and Japanese and some Italians during the later period also. As for stomping out cultural vestiges, I think it is entirely appropriate for a nation at war to insist that goose-stepping parades with swastika banners – a favorite pastime of the German-American Bundt’s many active chapters in late 1930’s America – be deemed treasonous activity. Ditto public – or even published – American-resident Japanese celebration of Bushido. No such national-origin-based roundups are currently in place or likely to be, despite, arguably, equally odious provocations in recent years, so I don’t know what relevance you think these historical situations have to the present day.

    Immigrants often self-ghettoize to some degree upon arrival on these shores. Multi-generational estrangement from the mainstream culture has never proven beneficial anywhere to any people at any time, to my knowledge. Perhaps you know of relevant counterexamples that have escaped my attention. In any event, I find it unremarkable that many have misgivings about, in effect, subsidizing the artificial continuation of a culture (Arabian, in its various forms) that has found it uniformly impossible to thrive and succeed in the modern world in its native lands. There is a great deal that is flagrantly stupid, vicious and dysfunctional in Arabian culture – and others. None of these cultural elements are capable of continued existence in close juxtaposition to normative American culture. In short, if Arabs want to be unreservedly Arabian – in whatever fashion they so define such – they have no need to travel to these shores and take up residence here in order to do so. We don’t permit Hindu immigrants to burn widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres and I see nothing wrong in enforcing American cultural norms on Arabs or any other immigrant groups with tribal barbarian pedigrees. I also see no point whatever in establishing an officially-endorsed and subsidized pretense that things are otherwise.

    Bilingualism is considered in most countries to be an asset. We consider it to be a handicapping condition.

    No, we don’t. Bilingualism is an asset. We consider so-called bilingual education to be a handicapping condition. We do so because it demonstrably fails to produce bilingualism. Here in California, where this idiocy was finally spiked by citizen initiative over the vehement objections of the teacher unions and the rest of the ideologically hard-left “multicultural” education establishment, it produced dropouts who were functionally illiterate in both English and their native languages – usually, but not always, Spanish.

    Many high performing countries consider teaching in “mother tongue” to be the most appropriate means of learning academic content, with a second language added at an early age with a goal of bilingualism.

    If by “mother tongue” you mean the native language of recent immigrants and their children then this statement is utter nonsense. To the best of my knowledge only the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K. have ever tried so-called “bilingual education” of this type. The U.S., leading the world in absolute numbers of non-English-speaking immigrants as it does, has done more of it than all other countries combined. It’s been a complete failure here and everywhere else it’s been tried. I’m unaware of any country in which the dominant native language is other than English in which this approach has ever been tried on any significant scale – and I’ve looked. Except for the modest resurgence of instruction in historically suppressed minority languages such as Andalusian and Irish Gaelic, there seems to be no significant “bilingual education” in Europe, though the EU educrats do make earnest official noises about encouraging such. Note that the two cases cited have to do with populations that are long-resident in their countries, not immigrant populations. Interestingly, we may see Kurdish similarly emerge as a legal alternative language of instruction in parts of Eastern Turkey. Again, this has nothing to do with the teaching of recent immigrants and their children.

    Since that time (1960s or so) much of this culture has been found to be quaint and put back in place.

    The part of any foreign culture the U.S. tends to adopt most enthusiastically is food. We Yanks love us some good eats – place of origin no object.

    Further down the popularity scale come folk beliefs/religion. A significant number of Americans who are openly scornful of long-established domestic religious institutions enthusiastically take up exotic religions and superstitions based – it seems to me – mainly on their being free of any taint of Euro-American-ness. Hare Krishna, Zen Bhuddism, Feng Shui, etc. – the list goes on. For some, the foreign is always cool and the familiar is always square.

    At roughly this same level are selected linguistic borrowings. Schmuck, gung ho and schadenfreude are familiar terms to most Americans. English has by far the largest vocabulary of any human language because it is a sponge for worthy foreignisms.

    Below this level are native dances, music, festivals, games, etc. I can eat haggis, watch cabers being tossed and sing ‘Scotland the Brave’ once a year and feel very Scottish without in any way confusing myself with one of William Wallace’s highland warriors. Those with less distant connections to “the old country” – whatever that country may be – seem sometimes to still imagine themselves citizens of their former geography rather than Americans. A quick trip back to the ancestral stomping grounds can spoil this illusion fairly quickly. People who’ve been in America awhile tend to soak up more of the culture than they think. Their unreconstructed ethnic cousins tend to see this fairly quickly and recognize the cultural gap that has opened up.

    American public policy should be to encourage assilimation by foreign-born arrivals – who intend to stay – to American cultural norms as expeditiously as possible. Such policy should explicitly not be based on multiculturalist nonsense such as the currently quite widespread ideas that all cultures are of equal moral and practical standing and that one can both remain a full-fledged Dinka, Armenian, Mongolian, Guarani or whatever and, at the same time, be a fully functional American.

  12. “I understand that there are many non-Muslim speakers of Arabic from various places around the Middle East, but the US DoD has a policy of not hiring them.”

    Could you provide a link supporting this? If so, it’s deeply worrisome and highly counter-productive. It’s my understanding that there are now significantly more Arab Christians in the US (mostly Maronite Catholics from Lebanon and Orthodox Copts from Egypt, but substantial groups from Syria and Iraq as well) than are left in the Middle East, and if that’s a talent pool being turned away, something is going very wrong.

  13. The reference is from WingNut Daily, but it seems legit:

    The FBI’s New York office in October 2001 asked a local charity that works with Arab Jews to submit applications for the linguist jobs, which are crucial to anti-terrorism investigations.

    But not one of the more than 90 applicants was hired, even though some had helped translate Arabic for Israeli radio and TV news stations and the Israeli army before coming to America, the charity’s director says.

    This is not just worrisome but outrageous if it is also true that Arab translators cheered the 9/11 attacks.

  14. Dick Eagalson got there ahead me but if you’re going to offer up incidents that occurred under the conditions of war in which our national survival was in doubt then you’re being either naive or dishonest.

    By the way, internment wasn’t just visited on Japanese immigrants and Americans of Japanese descent. Turns out that American civilians of Italian and German descent were also interned.

    My only point of disagreement with Dick is in the advisability of making assimilation a distinct policy.

    I believe the “policy” of benign neglect, of simply ignoring languages other then English in any tax-supported setting, is the best policy. Such a policy calls for no decisions on the part of government bureaucracy, no legislative clarification and requires no tax money.

    If your particular culture is important to you then you should carry the burden of maintaining it.

  15. Margo/Mom says:

    Dick (and allen):

    You might want to look into Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore–all of which have a good bit to say about bilingualism in education, and the role of mother tongue in teaching. One of the lessons from Hong Kong is that the quality of the bilingual education matters quite a bit. In their case the government spent several decades moving instruction away from poorly taught (mixed codes) English instruction (a language with international currency) to an emphasis on “mother tongue” or Cantonese for most students. English or bilinugal instruction survives but with a much higher quality.

    Singapore has had to deal with a multi-lingual population–and in fact has worked to encourage the unification of the various Chinese dialects–urging parents to adopt Mandarin as their home language so that students will have a home experience in one of the two “school language,” the other being English (selected as being fairly neutral amongst the other three language groups populating the country–and for its utility in science and industry).

    Finland is officially a bilingual country (as is Canada) and aims for bilingual fluency at an early age–teaching in the “mother tongue,” and adopting a second national language. What is interesting is that they have applied this when possible to recent immigrant groups–again, with the understanding of the efficiency of teaching content in the mother tongue, but with early, consistent and ongoing instruction in the second language.

    BTW–“the incidents that occurred under the conditions of war in which our national survival was in doubt” have been officially and nearly universally renounced, and official reparations legislated. I rather suspect that it will take some time before we are fully acquainted with the degree to which such actions (rounding up citizens based on heritage) have taken place during the current war-time condition. Meanwhile, one of the conditions that has placed us at risk to be victimized by terrorists has been our lack of knowledge and understanding of other languages and cultures.

  16. Having lived near the Canadian border, I can tell you that there is significant friction between the English and French speakers, to the point of an actual French separatist movement, so I would not use Canada as an example to emulate. As far as Singapore is concerned, English was specifically chosen as a commercially and socially useful bridge between the Chinese and Malay populations. Hong Kong has been home to both British and Chinese since its first settlement as a British colony.

  17. Bilingualism in Canada cuts one way only: enforced equality in Anglophone Canada, absolute French supremacy in Quebec. In this way Quebec continues to regard itself as “more equal” than the other provinces and piss them off further.

  18. > BTW–”the incidents that occurred under the conditions of war in which our national survival was in doubt” have been officially and nearly universally renounced, and official reparations legislated.

    I’m not sure what “officially and nearly universally renounced” means since the people doing the renouncing had the luxury of doing that renouncing from a safe historical remove. Reparations are certainly justifiable the internees having been deprived of both liberty and property without due process but as you know a state of war existed and national survival was at stake. It’s easy to tut-tut now at the injustice of the internment but observing the niceties when a gun’s to your head really is asking a lot of people.

    We could have done more and sooner but in the sweep of human history I rather doubt that in other nations during other wars internees would’ve fared better or even as well.

    Momof4 got there ahead of me with regard to Canadian bilingualism, a subject with which I have some familiarity.

    Canada provides a nice case in point of the dangers of bilingualism inasmuch as the mandatory instruction and use of French creates a “tyranny of the minority” – the majority is saddled with the task of helping to maintain a culture which necessarily means little to them. Is French culture and language sufficiently worthwhile to mandate its use? I don’t think so.

    > I rather suspect that it will take some time before we are fully acquainted with the degree to which such actions (rounding up citizens based on heritage) have taken place during the current war-time condition.

    Oh, do you have any information that such internments have occurred at all let alone on the scale or using criteria similar to those used during WWII? Please, provide some information.

    > Meanwhile, one of the conditions that has placed us at risk to be victimized by terrorists has been our lack of knowledge and understanding of other languages and cultures.

    No, a lack of understanding of other languages and cultures hasn’t placed us at risk. Being a democracy has placed us at risk. I’d expand on my feelings about the type of person who’d invoke terrorism to justify support for their own, unrelated political cause but it’s late, I’m tired and if I get too worked up I’ll have trouble getting to sleep.

  19. Margo/Mom says:

    allen says:
    “Oh, do you have any information that such internments have occurred at all let alone on the scale or using criteria similar to those used during WWII? Please, provide some information.”

    I did not suggest the scale–in fact I said that we would likely not know the scale for a good many years. But we could start by talking about the extralegal detainees at Guantanamo and others in various other countries who don’t ban torture. Or we could think about the million or so names on the FBI anti-terrorism list. Or, if you are not disturbed by reading something produced by people who are Muslim, you might want to read reports of the Council on American-Islamic Relations: http://www.cair.com/CivilRights/CivilRightsReports/2004Report.aspx

  20. I wouldn’t believe a word from CAIR, including “and” and “the”.  CAIR is an extremely litigious organization, working very hard to suppress free speech both in the USA and Canada.  Losing doesn’t bother them; they are financed from abroad, and their goal is to intimidate.

    A lot of “anti-Muslim hate crimes” are faked outright.  There was zero evidence of a crime in the much-ballyhooed Dayton mosque incident, and other purported hate crimes are hoaxes.

  21. Dick Eagleson says:

    Margo/Mom,

    Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore are odd choices as sources of evidence to boost bilingual education as a useful approach for the U.S. The U.S. is a transcontinental nation with the fourth largest national land area in the world and a growing population in excess of 300 million. Singapore is a tiny city-state. Until legal reunification with mainland China 10 years ago, so was Hong Kong. Finland is physically larger, but has a tiny population. At 5.3 million, and shrinking, Finland’s headcount is just about exactly midway between the 2.5 million of Singapore and the 7 million of Hong Kong.

    The populations of small countries – as measured by either geographic area or population – are nearly always more polylingual than the citizens of larger nations. I have observed this effect personally as I worked in Western Europe for a couple of years. In Belgium, The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, typical citizens – at least the city-dwellers – were quite likely to speak English and at least one of the other European languages in addition to their native languages. When you are part of a small linguistic population living in a physically small country, you literally cannot take a trip of any great length without crossing someone else’s border. People from such countries learn second, third and even more foreign languages as matters of significant personal and economic convenience to themselves. Citizens of larger nations (Germany, France) and/or of nations in which foreign travel is less a routine part of everyday life (Spain, Italy) are much less likely to speak languages other than their native tongues.

    Americans are not mostly unilingual because we are ignorant philistines – however much the Euro-philic Anerican Left may prefer to imagine otherwise – but because we have no significant economic or personal incentives to be even bilingual, let along polyglot. An American on the West Coast can drive east for a week and be understood everywhere along the way by speaking just English. A Dane or a Dutchman might need as many as a half-dozen languages to manage well on a journey of similar length. Finland’s educational/linguistic policies, thus, hold no useful lessons for America.

    Your Finnish example is doubly wrongheaded because it confuses bilingual education with what is, mainly, foreign language instruction. Finnish schools do indeed offer classroom instruction in many subjects in languages other than Finnish, but the list of languages on offer – English, Russian, German, Arabic and Spanish being the main ones – all share one characteristic; they are all spoken by many more people in the world than there are speakers of the Finns’ own native language. The Finnish government is not, with the notable exception of Arabic, targeting non-Finnish instruction at immigrants, but at native citizens it wishes to provide with maximized opportunities to make their ways in a world that mainly does not speak Finnish and isn’t about to start.

    As to the Arabic instruction – which is the medium of Finnish bilingual education in the American sense of the phrase – the results have been similar to the dismal outcomes we have experienced here in America, but made even worse by the tribal jihadist arrogance and hostility that have become the norm in the resolutely non-assimilating Islamic minorities that now afflict every European country. Once again, quite emphatically, there is nothing in this experience that America would be avantaged by emulating. Quite the contrary.

    Hong Kong and Singapore, as even you have acknowledged, are not teaching in multiple languages because they wish to increase linguistic diversity, but are doing so as a transitional measure that is part of a long-term policy of reducing or eliminating linguistic diversity. Chinese is a language that has a common written form, but dozens of mutually incomprehensible dialects in spoken forms. The leaders of Singapore are attempting to parallel the far larger effort that has long been underway in mainland China to advance Mandarin at the expense of other dialects with a view to eventually rendering “Chinese” and “Mandarin” into synonyms. How the Hong Kongers long-time efforts to do likewise with the majority (in Hong Kong) Cantonese dialect will fare, given that such efforts fly directly in the face of Beijing’s Mandarin uber alles push, will be interesting to observe. I expect a lot of linguistic friction on this front. Yet again, one looks in vain for usable lessons applicable to American education.

    Bottom line? Bilingual education is a failure educationally and is contrary to the preservation and future health of American culture and national identity. For both reasons it should be abandoned everywhere it remains in place in these United States and replaced with intensive ESL and cultural assimilation instruction for immigrants and their children.

    As to other matters:

    I rather suspect that it will take some time before we are fully acquainted with the degree to which such actions (rounding up citizens based on heritage) have taken place during the current war-time condition.

    What? You think there are tens of thousands of disappeared Arabian immigrants who’ve been snatched off the streets in the dead of night and sent to languish in secret prison camps inside, say, Area 51? Your history of posts on this site marks you plainly as a Woman of the Left, but I’ll confess to no particuarly accurate impression of how far into the Neo-Marxian fever swamp you have wandered. Do you think GWB “stole” the 2000 election? Are you a “9/11 Truther?”

    Meanwhile, one of the conditions that has placed us at risk to be victimized by terrorists has been our lack of knowledge and understanding of other languages and cultures.

    On the contrary. Those of us concerned with preserving and protecting the United States of America are pretty well informed about a lot of foreign languages and cultures – especially those that have announced their intentions to destroy us. With some things – the myriad dysfunctions and pathologies that characterize Islamic “culture” in general, and Arabian “culture” in particular – the more you truly understand, the more you are galvanized to oppose and, indeed, to seek to extinguish.

    It is, in my experience, people of your ideologocal bent who tend to be jaw-droppingly ignorant of the history and viewpoints of other nations. To an American leftist about the only important piece of information about a foreign culture is whether or not its citizens are darker complected than the average American. If so, then whatever they do and think – regardless of how aggressive and barbaric – is taken to be axiomatically justifiable. White/American = Bad. Non-White/Foreign = Good. Simple, really. From this premise, the leap to supporting American public subsidy of foreign cultural practices – including the preservation and promotion of the speaking of non-Englsh languages – by recent immigrants to these shores follows more or less automatically.