Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Arizona Senators kill international studies proposal

Arizona State Senators Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) and Karen Johnson (R-Mesa) have killed a proposal to create three K-12 schools with an international focus, including teaching a second language starting at the kindergarten level. The proposal, from Rep. Mark Anderson (R-Mesa), would have created one K-12 school in each of Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff, and created international studies programs at seven high schools. Global businesses and universities promised to provide assistance, so the total cost was $2.3 million for the first year of the program.

Why'd they kill it? Not because of the cost, but because studying and understanding the rest of the world is evil and un-American. The opposition from some legislators was so strong that the bill was changed to refer to the schools as "American competitiveness project schools" instead of "international schools." Karen Johnson brought in former Minnesota legislator and Bethany Lutheran College professor Allen Quist to testify against the bill on the grounds that "International Baccalaureate's links to the United Nations are disturbing and that its sense of right and wrong is ambiguous" and "It teaches students to see the American system of government as one of many, not as the only one that protects universal and God-given rights to property, to bear arms and free speech" (to quote the Arizona Republic's paraphrase of his remarks).

This kind of blinkered provincialism and ignorance hurts U.S. competitiveness--if global businesses can't find people with the knowledge and experience needed to run their operations from the U.S., they'll find them elsewhere, like among foreign-born immigrants, or just run their operations from other countries. (Economics and demographics are more powerful than politics, so ultimately this problem will solve itself, and English-only and white-only areas of the U.S. will continue to shrink.)

My employer, Global Crossing, just acquired another company in South America, with the result that about a quarter of our employees are now Spanish and Portuguese speakers. This makes multilingual employees extremely valuable. I would have loved to have been taught Spanish as a second language starting in kindergarten.

Pearce and Johnson are politicians whose previous idiocy has been commented on at this blog. Both are Senators who have worked with the Church of Scientology on its anti-psychiatry efforts. Pearce is an anti-immigration activist who has shown poor judgment in what email he forwards to his constituents. Johnson is a senator who doesn't understand the U.S. Constitution, thinking that as a state legislator she has the power to prevent the federal courts from ruling on separation of church and state cases.

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