In June, the Arlington County, Virginia, School Board voted to add more languages for teaching in local grammar and high schools.
Arlington schools already offer Latin, Spanish and French. Parents and students were given the opportunity to vote on one additional language to add to the curriculum: Italian, Chinese, Russian, or Japanese.
Take one guess which language won out. I figure that a lot of Arlington soccer moms must want their trust-fund kids prepared to order off the menu during their senior trips to Venice.
Under pressure from language advocates as well as U.S. Representative Frank Wolf, apparently the School Board is open to re-examining the wisdom of this choice, stating that they may consider Chinese and Arabic for inclusion in the future. In the meantime, however, Italian will still be taught.
Personally, I don't think there should be much of a choice in the matter. Yes, local school boards should owe allegiance to parental wishes, but can anyone doubt the wisdom of incorporating Chinese and Arabic instruction? Hell, I'd throw in Hindi just for good measure, and ditch both French and Italian. I'd keep Latin around because it still has use for English, as well as for it's value in promoting historical literacy.
But hey, no one will listen to me-- I have no children in the school system, so my opinion is meaningless to the County. Yet, ten years from now, does anyone expect that we will really have this huge unquenched demand for proficient French and Italian speakers?