Eliminating language won’t fix dropout rate

Representatives across the state are debating the pros and cons of passing a bill to drop the foreign language requirement in Michigan high schools.

Proponents of the bill argue foreign language courses levy an enormous amount of stress on young students and push some to drop out of high school.

Michigan has one of the highest dropout rates in the country, with 24 percent of high school students dropping out of school each year.

Editorial Board

Emily Wilkins
Katie Harrington
Greg Olsen
Derek Blalock
Omari Sankofa II
Brytanie Killebrew

The necessity of foreign language in high school is something that can be debated — along with the benefits it presents compared to other courses — but connecting it to the dropout rate is unreasonable.

Proponents of the bill argue learning a foreign language better prepares Michigan students to work in a globalized economy. But this idea seems to have digressed during the last century.

In other countries, students learn English as a second language — not just as a school requirement, but as a way to succeed in the modern world.

As the ability to speak fluent English moves to the forefront as a much-needed skill in the professional world, the importance of understanding other languages loses some of its value.

But as accurate as parts of this statement might be, having this outlook toward other cultures makes Americans seem pompous and out of touch with the rest of the world.

It is easier to support making foreign language courses optional before considering the same for others, such as math, science or history. But not for the reasons specified by certain representatives.

Foreign language courses offer students the chance to learn about the customs and beliefs of a culture different from their own.

They have been linked to having positive effects on intellectual growth, giving students a new understanding of their own language and increasing job opportunities in many careers.

They can be a difficult part of a high school student’s curriculum and present course materials and homework that are challenging and time consuming.

But isn’t that what you should expect from any class in school?

Making foreign language classes optional to high school students has the potential to damage their educational potential for years to come.

There are many factors accounting for Michigan’s less-than-stellar dropout rate, but granting students an easier ride to earning their diplomas shouldn’t be the agreed upon measure in reversing this trend.

Despite being difficult, learning a foreign language is an easy way to stand out professionally from peers.

Students who take a foreign language have the potential to communicate with people from different cultures. They have the ability to work for companies not confined to the U.S. and take on challenges those who don’t speak the language wouldn’t be able to manage.

Figuring out why 24 percent of Michigan’s teens are choosing not to receive an education should be a top priority of our state’s policy makers — not finding new ways for them to cut corners to succeed.

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