I'm still on Kindergarten Quest with associated freak-out ongoing. I had a lovely discussion with Meg about schools and she told me about the charter school in the district that I hadn't known had existed, and it sounded pretty darn good. There was one exception I found when I got home though: they emphasize reading, math, and Spanish.
What is it with every school everywhere teaching Spanish and no other foreign language? I am all for my kids learning foreign languages. We're about to get our second Mandarin speaking au pair, so obviously I value being bilingual. I just want to get some choice as to what they are bilingual in. To my way of thinking Mandarin >> Spanish. Think about it, there are 1.3 billion people in China, which in case you hadn't noticed is well on track to be the next superpower if they aren't there already. Meanwhile every school in the district is talking about how they teach Spanish.
I get that Spanish is easy to teach, though I suspect that if one were actively looking for Mandarin speakers to teach in the schools one would find a ready supply in Chinatown. Of course Spanish does use mostly the same alphabet as English, which makes it easier, but so does French, German, Italian, etc.
I hear the pro-Spanish camp say is that we should all learn Spanish because the country on our border speaks it, as do many immigrants. I would counter that here in greater Boston most of the non-english speaking immigrants from Latin America are from Brazil, where they speak Portuguese, and that we are a seven hour car ride from Montreal, where they speak French. Why then must all the local schools teach Spanish to all the kids? I could really go for French or even Portuguese.
It seems like part of the pro-Spanish push comes from a desire to be helpful and/or sympathetic to the Hispanic population who seem to be struggling academically and not becoming proficient in English. I don't think forcing everyone to learn Spanish is going to help with that. I spent a long time combing through the accountability data on the local district schools, and while most seemed to be struggling with the Hispanics not a one of them was accused of failing Asian students, who seem to be outperforming whites in the district. What is the difference between the two groups? I'm guessing it's Tiger Moms. So I want Margaret to learn her Mandarin, and maybe some French as well. It seems like she'll have no choice but to learn some Spanish as well, but unless there's some pretty radical change she's likely to end up using her Spanish for exactly the same thing her Auntie Margaret uses her Spanish for: talking to the cleaning lady and the mechanic.