Thanks to a bill filed by state Senator Les Miller, D-Tampa, there’s something more substantial to debate educationally than religious holidays, class-size loopholes and choice-plan cosmetics. He has proposed mandatory Spanish instruction for all students in kindergarten through second grade.
Make no mistake; this is not some by-the-numbers paean to diversity.
There are serious – but not deal-breaking — questions about cost and personnel, but not about timing, priorities and value.
Children learn a foreign language easier than adults; it’s not a debatable point. For most Americans, it’s early on or never. As a result, never.
What also should not be up for debate: the value of being privy to a more expansive world and another means of communicating in the global village. It’s never been more important.
And if you want to get downright pragmatic, students with a foreign language arrow in their career quivers are at a decided advantage in the marketplace. The converse, increasingly, is also true.
Especially in Florida, especially in Spanish.
What mustn’t happen here, however, is for the foreign language issue to be blindsided and undermined by other agendas. It’s not, for example, at cross purposes with the effort to get all students to speak English. The goal to mainstream the non-English speaking and prevent immigrant balkanization must remain a priority.
But it must not lead to an ethnocentric over-reaction that sells short the prospects of those who are our future.