When the US-led coalition invaded Iraq I was living in London, United Kingdom so I saw first hand the anti-war protesters (nearly 500,000 by some estimates) that marched to Hyde Park to have their voice heard. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean some Americans reacted to the lack of support from France for this invasion by boycotting French products which included the practice of "French fries" being re-named "Freedom fries" by food vendors. Personally I have never had any complaints against the French people other than the country's political/trade union/government culture which is clearly destroying their economy by locking people into a form of "entitlement slavery" manifested in the current welfare state but that clearly deserves a stand alone blog posting.
I was reminded of the "Freedom fries" controversy last week while reading my local newspaper, the Pioneer Press of June 15, 2006, which carried the article, "Students, staff bid teary farewell". This article focused on the closing of Parkway Elementary School in St. Paul, Minnesota which is being closed to "make way for the district's growing French-immersion magnet school, which will serve more than 400 students this fall."
Now since the State of Minnesota's motto is "L'toile du Nord" (French for Star of the North if you don't know AND the name of this magnet school) I should not be surprised by such a local interest in the French language given the impact French explorers had on this region. But the mere fact that a "French"-immersion school would see such substantial growth at all generates the observations noted below:
- Market decisions - while Minnesota does not have a wide open, school choice system there is indeed some amount of choice for parents and students. This French immersion school is booming because families chose it over other options. Tell me again why we need the US Department of Education with its multiple layers of bureaucrats to dictate what local school districts should do? If there is indeed some enlightened Education Department employee in Washington DC that saw the market interest in such a school and made it happen for students please tell me who this person is so I can congratulate them!!!
- Languages -- when I attended high school in the 1980's the only foreign language offered was "French" which seemed to really limit us given the rise of Spanish in the USA. I simply find it amazing that a French-immersion school would be successful in today's world given the decline of French globally and the rise of languages such as Chinese and Arabic in terms of geo-political importance and given the anti-French sentiment expressed via the "Freedom fries" protest.
It is developments such as this one that convinces me that even more school choice is needed so local citizens can create an even wider variety of magnet and immersion schools. Imagine a high school devoted to literature, welfare reform, or even cancer research -- the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota would be an ideal partner in such a venture devoted to cancer. For more on school choice please visit my friends at -- www.heartland.org or www.ij.org
Choices not czars,