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Teach Chinese in area schools

Yes! We are getting worn down by the constant bad news of doom and gloom. We see scant hope or positive notes from our national and global economic slide and turmoil. How about our own local positive stimulus plan in the midst of all this? This may well be the best time to move on to prepare for and invest in the future right here. We are talking about volunteering some nonpartisan citizen grassroots time. This can have profound valued added purpose and effect now and more so in the years ahead. We need to form a local Citizen World Language Advisory Committee for our schools.

In 2007 a few of us with interest in global and educational matters decided to see what could be done to introduce Chinese Language and Culture to our local area K-12 as well as our Community Technical College. An increasing number of local area citizens have been to China as tourists, or with the Concordia College Global Village teacher program, or with local area business groups. We decided on grassroots, bottom up interviews and research. In time we wanted to present our report to the District and Tech College administration and our local school board.

We developed a draft prospectus for a World Language Program with a focus on Chinese Language and Culture. Our interview base included input from our local building principals, parent and area professional leaders. We had strong interest and encouragement. Here are some key points that we have in our draft report.

1. The State Legislature in 2007 did approve a $500,000 World Language Pilot Grant Program with a new focus on Chinese Language and Culture for the 2009 school year and local boards needed to apply. Five schools were awarded $100,000 each.

2. There are now 26 districts out of 500 in Minnesota that have Chinese programs. Twenty-three of these are in the Metro area and only three outstate. In addition, eight private schools, all in the Metro area have such programs.

3. There are some 200 million Chinese (out of 1.3 billion) who are studying English that is required, but only some 100,000 (out of 300 million) U.S. citizens who are studying Chinese. There are only 5,000 in the state of Minnesota. Chinese is on the critical language list of our State Department. There are now new federal and state programs also, as well as foundation grant sources to vastly expand efforts.

4. The greater Detroit Lakes area has a high level of potential and a growing regional center for innovative manufacturing, progressive development in commerce, engineering, education, environment, medicine/healthcare, recreation, tourism, retail marketing and more. We need to broaden our global outreach base. Yes, we will have exchange here with Chinese teachers, students, tourists, business and professional persons in our midst. Ours will go there.

5. With a new focus on Chinese and our World Language Programs our community and schools will be more attractive to new and varied economic development and a work force eager to leave the large metro area to live here and raise their families. Our students will be more competitive when they apply for post secondary college and university admission that now favors the metro area.

6. At a time when our focus is on improving math and science to be more competitive on the global market, it is equally important that we study world languages for urgent international communication in business, diplomacy, education, military, and a growing myriad of nonprofit service outreach organizations.

It is clear that the 21st century will be marked by a major shift in global interaction that is irreversible. We are entering a new world of cooperation and connection. Enough said? We need your participation in a volunteer citizens committee at the grassroots to work with our District K-12 leadership and our school board. We have set Wednesday May 27, 7:00-9:00 p.m at the Detroit Lakes Library to form a Citizens World Language Advisory Committee. You are needed. Come help us to better serve others. -- Tom Faix, Detroit Lakes

(Tom Faix, PhD is a former public elementary and high school teacher, principal of the Porcupine Day School of the Pine Ridge, SD (Sioux) the Circle of Life School (Ojibwe) at White Earth, MN, a faculty member at Macalester College and adjunct at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He lives in Detroit Lakes.)