Friday, July 1, 2011

News: Federal Budget Cuts & Language Programs In Washington



Hello all, Chris here with your language learning news! A recent Seattle Times article focuses on Federal cuts to the University of Washington's global-language classes. Budget cuts are a persistent specter affecting language programs at all levels nationwide. You can read the full article here:


UW Federal Cuts

Editorial 

The common defense by those who try to fight federal/state/local budget cuts against language programs is that languages are a necessary component in the preparation of students for future jobs in a competitive global marketplace. This argument is seemingly the first and often only argument champions of language learning seem to be able to muster. It seems to be something of a mantra. While there is certainly no denying the validity of such arguments, it seems evident that we as language teachers, administrators, coordinators, and learners of the language must provide more varied and qualitative arguments for language study.

In today's global environment and with the economy being what it is we must provide firm arguments for maintaining language programs and language studies which clearly and unequivocally demonstrate their immediate and future financial necessity and benefits. For federal, state, and local governments to cease budget cuts we cannot simply state that language study is an important part of education or that it will help students be competitive on the job market. That argument seems rather self-evident and conjures an image of defeatism if it is truly the sole argument which can be mustered in the face of budget cuts each time the proverbial axe looms large over language programs.

Instead of falling back on the fact that language study is important it would seem more productive to offer demonstrable positive effects of language study. How will study of language X benefit student Y who is majoring in Z? What is the focus of language study? Are students able to attain fluency from a four years of high school study or a few more years at the university level? Are we preparing students to be functional speakers with a social and cultural awareness in whatever language(s) they are studying? Is language study at the university too frequently muddled by the inevitable necessity to switch from language courses to literature courses at the advanced levels? These are all questions which require serious answers and efforts to provide language study with goals and focus to meet budget cuts with concrete purpose and an active rather than passive stance when it comes to maintaining the very existence of our language programs.

What are your thoughts on budget cuts and issues with language teaching? Feel free to comment on the post!

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