[lg policy] The Critical Language Needs of the United States

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 18 14:19:43 UTC 2010

[Caveat:  some of these messages about national language needs have
been found to contain
hidden spam in the form of advertisements about shoes.  I have tried
to delete the obvious ones.
They show up differently in different email systems, I have found.
Still, the messages seem useful.  (HS)]

 The Critical Language Needs of the United States
By: endeavor l Sep 17,

Significantly, several major higher education associations  have
enthusiastically expressed their support for the NSLI, viewing the
legislation as an opportunity with the federal funding attached to it
for schools to redesign undergraduate and graduate education to
prepare students to respond to the political, economic, scientific,
and social challenges facing the world.

For example, the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the
American Council on Education's Coalition for International Education
(CIE) both applaud the government's efforts to expand foreign language
and study abroad programs, even as they explain that, for the desired
ends to be reached, the federal government must increase its basic
funding of science, mathematics, and foreign language research by 8 to
10 percent annually for the next seven years.

The CIE in particular recommends that, rather than appropriate NSLI
funds to create new programs, Congress should redirect this money to
bolster programs that have already been established through both Title
VI of the Higher Education Act, which specifically targets
international education programs, and the Fulbright-Hays legislation,
Wholesale Shoes which provides material support for study abroad
The National Research Council, meanwhile, notes the necessity of the
NSLI and declares that "universities must be ready partners willing to
refine and direct their programs toward mutual goals" (Committee 9).
At the same time, however, the Council calls on the federal government
to initiate more dialogue with higher education institutions to
identify these mutual goals and to determine the conditions that are
needed to meet them.

As these examples suggest, major higher education associations support
the federal investment in university research and educational
programs, seeing the mission of universities and colleges in part to
be using their research and teaching skills in the public interest. At
the same time, these associations demand that the government provide
the material resources needed to address the nation's challenges in a
substantive, sustained way.

Along with this federal money and universities' commitment to serving
the public interest come obligations for many students to use their
language skills in service of the nation's military and intelligence
needs. For example, David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships, which
are part of the National Security Education Program, fund
undergraduate and graduate students to travel to countries that are
critical to U.S.national security interests and to study the languages
written and spoken there through practical, academic, and research
experiences. In exchange, award recipients must commit to at least one
year of U.S. government service after completing their program of
study. Certainly, one thing that a national language policy should do
is address the government's language needs, and not all programs under
the national language policy would be tied to government service.

Nevertheless, a national language policy should create material
conditions that enable motivated students to learn any language that
helps them achieve their own personal, professional, and civic goals,
not just those goals stipulated by government agencies. English
scholars committed to promoting multilingualism have a stake in this
national language policy debate because of the potential for
government funding to alter the infrastructure and influence the
responsibilities of U.S. language arts education.

Engaging this debate entails proposing alternative definitions of the
nation's "foreign" languages and its critical language needs that
account for the linguistic diversity of the U.S. populace, the social
needs and resources located within the nation's linguistic minority
communities, and the ways in which non English languages reinvigorate
democratic participation in the United States.

Advancing these types of definitional arguments can be an important
step in English scholars' efforts to promote multilingual language
arts education as a means for students to acquire the linguistic and
rhetorical skills that enable them to participate in public and
professional life in any way that they find meaningful, whether that
involves serving local communities' medical needs, working in national
security, exploring one's familial or communal histories, or
contributing to public policy debates about the critical language
needs of the United States.


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