Saturday, July 12, 2008

Obama's French

By Jim Simpson

“It’s embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is merci beaucoup.” Barack Obama, July 8, 2008.

Like his “clinging to religion and guns” comment, that statement again demonstrates Obama’s smug, condescending, arrogant attitude toward his fellow Americans, while at the same time revealing how stunningly backwards his priorities are.

For starters, the reason Europeans, Asians, Africans and others place so much emphasis on learning the English language is that they have to. Likewise, Americans have not emphasized learning foreign languages as much because they haven’t had to. Most foreigners understand that to get ahead, it is critical that they speak English.

Just as the U.S. dollar has been the financial currency of the world for decades, English is the linguistic currency of the world. Both circumstances reflect the success of the American experiment and implicitly recognize the United States as a world leader. Is Obama ridiculing that? I doubt if he understands it. And unlike certain other world powers, we welcome foreigners with open arms. We are a generous nation, willing to share our prosperity with anyone who will meet us on our terms. Would Russia, China, or even Obama’s beloved French, be so generous?

Now, should we place more emphasis on foreign languages? Certainly. A practical example can be found in the critical lack of Middle Eastern language experts available to our intelligence agencies in the wake of 9-11. Would it be nice if Americans could converse in French as well as your average Brit? Sure. Like Obama, I clearly recognize that there are severe shortcomings in American public education, of which our lack in foreign language skills is but one.

Unlike Obama, however, I believe it is much more important that our public schools teach our children the basic building blocks of learning critical to success in higher education and the workforce. These skills are reading, writing and math. Before we begin to worry about how many phrases our children can put together in French – on the off chance that their education will enable them to earn the kind of income that can afford international travel – they need to become proficient in at least these most rudimentary of skills. As it stands now, many high school graduates aren’t.

The shortcomings in public education are many and glaring. But they are the direct consequence of liberal education policy, and the iron grip exerted by the teachers’ unions – to which Obama, and every other Democrat, owes his allegiance. Since the 1970s, liberal education policy has emphasized diversity over excellence, bureaucracy over initiative and self-esteem over self-improvement, while the Democrat Party’s union paymasters have sought to insure job security and higher income instead of rigorous teaching standards, ore even any standards at all. The consequences were predictable.

Is Obama really the candidate of “change?” If so the first thing he should do is knock off the snotty, arrogant, elitist remarks so typical of run-of-the-mill liberals, apologize for the abject ruin liberal education policies have bequeathed on our children, and start talking about real change. You know, like the kind liberals have been sabotaging for years. Vouchers? Charter Schools? Real, measurable, performance standards for students, teachers and schools, and all those other great ideas that threaten the National Education Association’s power monopoly?

I won’t hold my breath.