• Joanne Jacobs

Raising not-so-American kids


The International School of Portland offers Japanese, Chinese and Spanish immersion programs.

College-educated parents want their children taught in Japanese, Mandarin, French and Spanish, writes Abigail Shrier on Substack. They say bilingualism is good for kids' brains, but she suspects it's more than that. They want their children to be less immersed in American culture.

Over the last two decades, matriculation at dual-language curricula in both public and private schools has skyrocketed. In 2000, there were roughly 260 dual-language programs in the U.S. By 2011, Harvard Graduate School of education estimated the number at 2,000.
The American Councils Research Center estimates that in 2010, there were about 1,000 dual-language programs in public-schools in the U.S. A decade later, there were more than three times that many. American parents are signing up their kids for instruction in languages they can’t speak and immersion in cultures to which they have no native connection.

Some parents see dual immersion as a way to "inject gravitas into their children’s education," Shrier writes. Some may admire a culture that's not their own. "But I suspect they don’t want their kids to be Japanese; they just want them to be a whole lot less American."


“Being American-born and raised to American parents is a major risk factor for anxiety, depression, disengagement from school" and other bad outcomes, argues Leonard Sax, author of The Collapse of Parenting. Children of immigrants who speak their parents' language at home do much better because they're partially insulated from America's "culture of disrespect" for parents, he told Shrier.


"Some parents who sign their children up for foreign language instruction in a language they do not speak may simply hope to produce kids more orderly and respectful than the typical American adolescents," she writes. "But they may also have a humbler ambition: raising kids who are less lethargic and sad, less screen-obsessed, less anti-social — less adrift than American kids seem to be."

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