Thursday, June 22, 2006

Freedom Fries

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 -- or

Choices not czars,



jdsqrd said...

Will this school teach the children the proper way to wave a white flag?

butterflybutterfly said...

You can visit my blog, L'toile du Nord (cloth of the north, with this spelling - star of the north is spelt differently) for occasional comments on Yinghua Academy, the new 100% Chinese immersion (in Mandarin) charter school over in St. Paul.

My older son is now attending the school, so occasionally I will be posting regarding it, as well as my adventures in gardening (I started YAG, the Yinghua Academy Gardeners, community garden there in the late summer,

This is a school designed, in large part, to be able to address the growing global need for more Chinese-speakers/writer/etc.

However, in many ways it seems to be a release valve for those in the predominantly-white communities around the Twin Cities who have adopted Chinese daughters.

I did not - my husband is Chinese and I am mainly Norwegian-bred Minnesotan - and there are some other mixed-race families associated with the school. There are even a number of completely non-Asian families associated with the school, and I believe the non-adoptive families will eventually comprise a large part of the school's population, once we get past the first 2-3 years and it expands towards it goal of K-8 grades.

Currently YA is K-3, with grades 2/3 being combined (small class size), and using English most of the day with a Chinese language teacher coming in each day for language class - we are told this is to maintain good testing levels for those children who are almost up for the state tests.

It's too bad, really: Thanks to "No Child Left Behind" we again have children being left behind by a year of immersion schooling, since the current 2nd graders won't have immersion until next year, and the same for the 3rd graders (not until they're in 4th grade).

But that's also bureaucracy for you.

My son continues to build on his Chinese (we have attempted to teach our children some Mandarin, difficult since I barely know any, my husband primarily speaks English and Cantonese, and there isn't much out there for small children in the way of Mandarin language tools/dvd's/tapes/etc.).

I do wonder, though, what the standard American response is to your idea of a cancer-research "magnate" school. Would this be applauded here, as the city in China which only has one business, that of teaching children kung fu is? That city survives because those that achieve the certification from one of the elite schools there can get jobs, in martial arts coaching, the military and the police - and graduates thereby get job security, virtually for life.

Would that kind of forward-thinking for our children, putting them into a "journeyman" program essentially, be acceptable here, especially in Minnesota?

My husband, had he stayed in New York, would have continued in the computers-oriented school he attended there - and he had to test-into it, because they didn't take those with poor testing scores - so I know that the concept is here in the States. Those specialty schools in NY are geared to getting students into the big Ivy League schools, and that almost promises you job security right there.

But in Minnesota??

I doubt it would be considered acceptable, "robbing the children of their childhoods" and such.

But if we don't prepare them to hold down a job, of whatever sort, how can they survive as adults? And, with our continuing rise in senior-age citizens, how are we going to survive if our children are not financially able to supplement if not directly support our lifestyles when we are aged?

~ bb