Right Wing Conservatives Attack a Middle School Foreign Language Program

We all know we need to learn to compete better with China.  You would think.  But when school board members at California’s Hacienda La Puente Unified voted in April 2010 to approve a Mandarin Chinese class for Cedarlane Middle School, little did they know they’d be attacked as “communist sympathizers” and accomplices to “brainwashing.”

The resistance was clearly over the top relative to the uncontroversial language instruction, The Daily Show had School Board member Jay Chen on as a guest to poke fun at the claims of those who opposed the classes.

But the same people who objected to the initial approval of plans to teach schoolkids Mandarin Chinese are right now in the process of launching a recall effort aimed at four of the five School Board members. It’s estimated the Notice of Recall, filing with the clerk, and gathering signatures to vote on the recall will cost the city and the Hacienda La Puente school system $150,000 to administer. Needless to say, the city and school district are both already cash-strapped because of statewide budget shortfalls not under their control.

Reject the Recall Petition — Sign here to support global language learning for all!

The Confucius Classroom is a project originated by the People’s Republic of China to foster appreciation of Chinese language and culture. In purpose and scope, it’s very similar to the French government’s promotion of its language and culture via Alliance Francaise or the German government support of cultural exchange through the Goethe Institute. 
Asia Society is partnerThe Confucius Classroom partners with the Asia Society (based in NYC and San Francisco) to provide teaching materials, curriculum, and sometimes instructors to more than 80 schools nationwide. The program offered $30,000 to Hacienda La Puente to cover the expenses of hiring a teacher from the community and course materials for the students. The school board voted to use the course materials but without accepting the funding because of the outcry from opponents in April of last year.

According to Cedarlane Middle School, the Mandarin Chinese classes are extremely popular and students and parents alike are happy that they’re available.

Hacienda Heights, CA, students can now learn the language spoken by a rising global power and America’s largest trading partner, which will open up lucrative business opportunities for them. Moreover, many other school districts eagerly seek Confucius Classrooms in their cities and towns.

In a nutshell, the recall movement’s accusations are baseless. The effort is costly and a nuisance in a time of economic hardship for the city, and they ignore the educational satisfaction reported by many students actually enrolled in the classes.

It would seem sensible that, if China’s economy challenges us so exceptionally, instead of fanning the flames of xenophobia and intolerance, we should be celebrating the curiosity and exploration of young people who are eager to learn about the world, seize new opportunities and even add to the US economic future.

Reject the Recall Petition — Sign here to support global language learning for all!

By user:Nazki_rhetorica (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Kaitlin Carney
Kaitlin Carney6 years ago

Almost all universities now require at least two years of instruction in a second language for admission. Learning different languages is an all around advantage and in a lot of ways it teaches more about social studies than actual social science courses. This course sounds like a great idea to me, combining social studies with a second language. That would've gotten my interest piqued in middle or high school. And it was going to be paid for by a grant, this school district is so silly for not accepting this opportunity.

Lindsey DTSW
.6 years ago

The title of this piece is deceptive. Because the program isn't just about teaching the Chinese language - it's about the desire to "foster appreciation of Chinese language AND culture."

The Chinese language is neutral (and learning the language very useful) - but fostering appreciation of Communist Chinese culture is not. And I suspect that's what the Board members are objecting to.

As the article states, the program is sponsored by the People's Republic of China. Do we really want our children being taught 'appreciation' of their culture? Knowledge of it, yes. Appreciation, no.

Carole Cherne
Carole Cherne6 years ago

Conservative extremists fighting against children receiving an education. What's new here?

Dan B.
Dan Brook6 years ago

The regressive Republican Party of No is mean-spirited, thuggish, religiously fanatical, scientifically ignorant, corrupt, hypocritical, xenophobic, racist, sexist, homophobic, evolution and global warming denying, authoritarian, selfish, greedy, lacking compassion, warmongering, and otherwise dangerous.

NEVER vote for Republicans.

Jeff Markus
Jeff Markus6 years ago

The high school I attended REQUIRED 2 years of foriegn language. Spanish, German, Russian and French were offered. No one protested the teaching of Facist German or Spanish or the Communist Russian but many of the children taking those languages had to be cautioned not to speak the language with their parents because the 'high' forms being taught were significantly different from the dialects spoken in the home.
The uproar over Chinese (once again in a classic Mandrin) being taught is a sign of demented isolationist thinking without consideration of the need to make the USA a functional player in the world society and market. This is the very problem that is making it so difficult to win the hearts and minds of the Islamic countries that see the USA as uncommunicative because we don't speak to them in their languages.
The Chicagoan

Lakisha Melendrez

Children should learn a different language, this gives them a better view on the world.

Eva Orta
Eva O6 years ago

I think learning a new language helps people develop a lot of different skills. Learning English and thus, some of the sayings, learning French, German... It all helped me in broadening my horizons, learning new cultures, being able to read specific books in their original languages... I can not imagine why someone would want their child from stopping to learn another language and thus being able to (better?) communicate with a whole new group of people :)

J C Bro
J C Brou6 years ago

other children globally know at least two different languages. kids here now curse words [in english, of course].

Kai Chen
Kai Chen6 years ago

District Attorney's Office looking into China trips sponsored by Hacienda-La Puente Unified

By J.D. Velasco, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/06/2011 07:02:23 AM PST

The Los Angeles District Attorney's office has opened an inquiry into allegations that a member of the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District Board of Education has been using district employees and resources to organize private trips to China, officials said.

Dave Demerjian, head of the Division of Public Integrity, could not provide any specifics about the inquiry, but Kai Chen, the anti-Chinese government activist who made the complaint, alleges that longtime board member Norman Hsu has for 15 years been using district time and resources to organize the trips.

"The tours he organized using school facilities had nothing to do with education," Chen said.

According to district documents, of nine people who took a trip to Tibet last year, only three worked in education. The other six included a pharmacist, court employee, cosmetologist and a ballet instructor.

"(They're) using public facilities, staff and resources to run a private enterprise," Chen said.

Superintendent Barbara Nakaoka disagreed, saying that the trips allow community members to learn about Chinese culture - an important thing in a district with many students of Chinese descent.


Michael Kirkby
.6 years ago

China is going to be a world player for many years to come. What better way to give a child an advantage than by having them learn Mandarin?
The Chinese don't have to invade America to take it over. Due to the lack of trade tariffs and taxes against Chinese goods and services, American business can't compete on a fair playing field. The trade deficit it huge. Goldman Sachs and the other international banking/trading houses actually run the world anyway. It is their policies that have been carried out through the macro economic programs of the IMF/WTO around the world since the sixties.
At one point they even told the US Government to back out of the international price settings. They set up their own controls which resulted in the stock exchange meltdowns of 1987, 1991 and 1997. We are due for another kick in the head shortly.
I fear this is the commencement of xenophobia and acute myopia starting to develop in the country. The POTUS and the top echelon politicians of both parties are nothing more than marionettes dancing to the Shadow Master's song.
Meanwhile stupidity and mediocrity prevail and the students fall farther behind their international peers. Learn everything you can about everything kids. Remember that China of the fifties, even the eighties is not the China of today, and will not be the China of tomorrow. Everything is done slowly but change does come. I have had sixty years to watch and learn; and I learn something new every day. If I don't I feel cheated