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Mandatory Arabic Classes for American Elementary Public School Students?

Updated on September 19, 2014
CCO Public Domain
CCO Public Domain | Source

Mansfield ISD in Texas Puts Mandatory Study of Arabic Language and Culture on Hold after Parents Object

According to CBSDFW, the Mansfield ISD got a federal grant for Cross Timbers Intermediate School and Kenneth Davis Elementary School to have required classes in Arabic. The Arabic classes would be optionally available for students at T. A. Howard Middle School and Summit High School. Along with the Arabic language, students would study the culture, government, traditions, and history of those who speak Arabic. In the past two hours this was put on hold.Many parents were upset that they were not informed about this grant and its implementation until it seemed to be a done deal. They think they should have been told when the school board was considering the grant, not just after it was received. Many parents fear that teaching Arabic culture is a way to sneak the study of Islam into their public schools when other religions cannot be taught there. Other parents believe this is a great opportunity for their children to be more culturally literate in a diverse world. Some of the Muslim parents felt it offered their children a chance to study their own culture.The image in this section is from pixabay. com

America was intended to be a melting pot, not a confederation of cultural ghettos.

What do you think?

As you can see, not everyone agrees on the subject of mandatory study of Arabic in the Texas public schools. Four other school districts in the United States also received this grant. Perhaps something similar will arrive at a school district near you. How do you feel about this use of taxpayer money?

Do you think taxpayers across the United States should be funding the mandatory study of Arabic in selected school districts?

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This Primary School In New York Offers a Choice

Do you think the mandatory study of any language besides English should be required in any American public school?

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Does Teaching Arabic Culture Mean Teaching Islam?

Girl writing on board in Iraq.
Girl writing on board in Iraq. | Source

Does teaching Arabic language and culture necessarily involve teaching Islam?

Some people believe the Arabic language and Islam are in separable and that you can't teach one without the other. The superintendent of the Mansfield ISD, Dr. Bob Morrison, states that Arabic culture as part of the study of Arabic language wouldn't have any more religion in it than the the study of Spanish language and culture, which is also a part of the curriculum.

I never took Spanish. I studied Latin and German instead, so I don't know how much religion is mixed into the cultural part of the study. In Latin, we studied classical, not church Latin. In German we read some paragraphs written by Martin Luther along with philosophers and poets, and some might consider that teaching Christianity. In studying the history of the world, we learned about the influences of both Christianity and Islam, because you cannot properly understand history without knowing how major religions have played a part in it.

This was different than teaching religious dogma, even though religious dogmas (and also politics) are what motivated the religious leaders to act as they did. Some may have used religion to gain and / or maintain political power in the way they led their people or country or empire.My view is that language and culture are two sides of the same coin. That will include some mention of religion. The question is how the people teaching the courses will treat the study of the religious aspects.

This is a controversial subject. I have read hundreds of comments on the news article. I commented on it and subscribed to the responses. I often do this and get a few emails back. I posted my comment early this morning before I went to bed, and woke up to over 626 emails in my in box. I was sure someone must have not filtered the spam out, but all the comments were actual opinions. Some felt it was wonderful to prepare enough speakers of Arabic to meet the needs of the government for translators and military intelligence. Others felt the study of no language, no matter how useful, should be mandatory except English in American public schools. Many thought this grant was a way to sneak the teaching of Islam into the curriculum as a step down the slippery slope to adopting or tolerating Sharia law in the United States, in spite of Constitutional protection. As you can imagine, there were many variations of these arguments stated in the so far over 800 emails I have received on this topic. I'm more interested in what you think.

News report on parent meeting at Cross Timbers Intermediate School

This video reports on the reactions of some parents of students at the schools that would be affected by the new Arabic curriculum.

Texas Parents Discuss Mandatory Arabic Classes

Mandatory German in 1940 in American Schools?

CCO Public Domain
CCO Public Domain | Source

What place should Arabic have in the American public schools? - Should Arabic language study be mandatory U.S schools?

You can express opinions on any aspect of this subject -- whether the federal government should be using tax dollars for this, whether it's a guise for teaching Islam in America's schools, whether Arabic is a language of the future, whether we must mandate that more students speak and understand Arabic to compete in the world and acquire the translators and military intelligence people our government needs -- whatever.

I'm wondering what would have happened if studying German or Japanese had been a mandatory subject in an American public school in 1940. Is this a similar situation? Even though it was just reported that this new curriculum is on hold in Mansfield, if they don't use this federal grant money, it may be used in some other district, so this issue is still worthy of discussion. Four other districts have also received this grant money.

What do You Think About Mandatory Arabic Classes in America?

Should the study of Arabic language and culture be mandatory in any American public school? This article was transferred from Squidoo, where it was presented as duel. The format here doesn't support that same structure, so instead of being side by side, the opposing answers are on top of each other. Feel free to add to your side anyway.

Links Related to Mandatory Teaching of Arabic in Mansfiled ISD

The links below show that involved parents can do something to change a situation they don't like. During the hour I took a lunch break, things appear to have changed.

Manfield ISD Appears to be Listening to Parents.

Do you think the Manfield ISD should have given into parental pressure to stop mandatory teaching of Arabic?

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I'd appreciate your feedback on the importance of education about the Arabic speaking people. their language, and their culture, in American public schools. If you'd been a parent at one of the schools that was about to mandate students be taught the new social studies curriculum that included instruction in Arabic language and culture, how would you have reacted when you found it might not happen after all?

Other comments on the mandatory teaching of Arabic in U.S. schools

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    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 3 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Totally agree, Sandy, though I think the parents should make the decision. Children that young don't always know what's best for their future.

    • ReviewsfromSandy profile image

      Sandy Mertens 3 years ago from Wisconsin

      Nothing wrong with children learning new languages. But the English language should be the only mandatory language to learn for the elementary children. If they want to learn another language, then it should be up to them.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Thank you for the reply and appreciate the reaction but wanted to deal with the equation of Arabic equalling Islam it doesn't.

      Here in NZ because we are a bicultural nation (actually in law) Kids have to learn Maori in school

      I can understand people wanting a say in what their Kids are learning

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 3 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Thank you for your input, Lawrence. I'm only against the mandatory aspect of teaching Arabic.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 3 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Spongy, I believe I stated the same thing in this hub. We need to know how religious movements and religions have influenced their cultures and historical events. I just don't believe religious beliefs and dogmas should be taught as such in public schools. All teaching should be objective and anything the teacher may personally believe that's related should be expressed as an opinion, not a fact, when teaching.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I came across this hub and just had to say something. I'm English, I spent a number of years as a Missionary in the Arab world and I used to be pretty fluent in three dialects of Arabic.

      I was useless at languages at school and thought that I would never learn another language. How wrong I was!!!

      With regard to language and culture you are partially right about learning the culture and some things about Islam BUT Christianity was born on the Arab world, many of the ancient churches are in the Arab lands and they too have influenced the language, It really is a good thing and in a neighborhood where there is a multicultural flavor Arabic is a good choice for some.

      I just wanted to add my 'tuppence' even though the discussion has probably moved on. One other thing I will say is that Arabic works very differently to English or any European language yet it's actually more logical in it's structure than most of them. Learning a language so different is a challenge but it gives the person the ability to 'think outside the box'

    • Spongy0llama profile image

      Jake Brannen 3 years ago from Canada

      I suppose we disagree on the matter of religious education in public school curricula. Most of European history, for example, is impossible to understand without reference to the religious context of many historical events and trends, such as the Reformation.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 3 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I agree, Peggy. Both child and parent should have a voice in deciding which language will be studied. I also choose Latin.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 3 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I believe parents should have a voice in the decision as to what language their children will study. I don't believe any religion should be taught in secular schools because a teacher's bias will usually show. almost no one is totally neutral on the subject.

    • Spongy0llama profile image

      Jake Brannen 3 years ago from Canada

      I agree that it seems a bit arbitrary to make Arabic a mandatory subject over, say, Spanish or Chinese. However, it is politically and diplomatically very significant. It is also a particularly difficult language and it is good to expose children to very complex foreign languages at a young age to improve their understanding of linguistics in general, even if they don't go on to seek proficiency in Arabic.

      Islam is very deeply ingrained in Arabic speaking countries. Most are downright totalitarian theocracies. It is difficult to understand Arabic outside of the context of Islam. However, there is no harm in teaching ABOUT religion in schools. There is a difference between leading students in prayer and teaching them about different kinds of prayer. For better or worse, religion plays a big role in the modern world and no education is complete without a broad knowledge of religion. Therefore, I would not question the issue on the topic of Islam.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      If one was on the college prep plan in the high school I attended, a secondary language was a requirement. One had a choice of several. I chose learning Latin.

      I think it is great to start teaching other languages in lower grades where the children assimilate it easier than when one gets older...but I still think the choice of language should be a choice...not mandatory.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      choice, yes, mandatory, no!!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @clifRad: Finally, a voice of truth...

    • profile image

      clifRad 6 years ago

      Learning about cultures in general is enlightening. But this is obviously agenda driven. Islam is violent by its nature. How can you tell? The Koran, which I've read teaches to subjugate and kill non-believers. Some say this is a misinterpretation, which is a ridiculous statement. But, maybe their right so lets look to the Koran's author....Mohammad. Did he kill the infidel...why yes he did. So he wrote to kill and he did it. Spot on, we know what it teaches and maybe they should teach this in the schools....oh the wackos on the left would scream...alalalalalalalala!

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 7 years ago from California

      At the schools I went to, we were required to learn at least one other language. Studying a foreign language actually teaches you better English, because you understand better how language works. Also, Americans are at a serious disadvantage because we're about the only people in the world who tend not to know more than one language, or for that matter to hear about and understand most of what's going on in the world.I think learning one of the most important languages should be mandatory. I liked my school where one could choose Spanish, French or German. Nowadays one might want to subtract French or German and replace them with Japanese and Arabic, or even Chinese, because of the global economy. One could debate which languages should be taught, but I think it's crazy not to require students to learn any other language.

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image

      Missmerfaery444 7 years ago

      Congrats on the purple star! Very interesting lens. I see it as a little odd that Arabic would be chosen for a mandatory language. However I also find it interesting to read the comments against any mandatory learning of other languages at all, having never known anything other than mandatory language studies in the UK! :) I do think it beneficial to have to learn at least one other language, but the mandatory one should always be the most relevant one for the country in question.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Well worth the Purple Star! Congratulations.

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Parents in that Texas school were right to refuse this ridiculous notion of mandatory Arabic. Any 'mandatory' language beyond our own is questionable, but Arabic? Ridiculous!

    • Kimsworld LM profile image

      Kimsworld LM 7 years ago

      I have to agree with Heather. My son is 5 and can count to ten in four different languages, if he wants to learn other languages I will help and encourage him, but it should not be forced on him.

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      OK and then let's make the study of Swahili mandatory, too. Parents in Texas should stand tall and refuse such actions.

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      This issue of mandatory Arabic just reeks of corruption somewhere with absolutely no basis in logic. Schools generally do offer options to learn a second language, and I'd encourage that, but mandatory? and Arabic? Ludicrous!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Very well presented controversial topic! Kudos to you!

    • AuthorNormaBudden profile image

      AuthorNormaBudden 7 years ago

      YOu bring to light an interesting subject; this is the first I've heard of it. Then again, I'm usually at work and then hanging out with my family or spending time carrying out my online endeavors.It's certainly food for thought but I'm inclined to go along with Evelyn and fanfreluche because, learning a new language, in and of itself, can be quite fulfilling and liberating. However, I don't see the purpose in mandating Arabic, in particular. I cannot help but wonder at the reasons behind this - especially after so much blood has already been shed between the Americans and people of Muslim descent. Why the sudden change? Don't get me wrong! Peace would be great but I cannot help but wonder if there are ulterior motives...

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 7 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Controversial, but interesting topic. In most countries, kids learn at least another language along with their native language, but usually they are teach a useful one: English, French, and more recently in Europe we see more and more Chinese (I think it is the Mandarin dialect) to prepare future generation. I don't see the point in teaching Arabic at all. That's plain weird and I wonder if there is more to it, this might be the tip of an Iceberg, with strange ramifications.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

      Learning a foreign language is a wonderful why to help children communicate with others as well as improve their overall ability to learn, however, no one language should be mandatory. Foreign Languages offered as enrichment, not mandatory, would be a wonderful idea.

    • ItsAngel LM profile image

      ItsAngel LM 7 years ago

      This very thing is the reason I homescholled my children and now am homeschooling my grandchildren.

    • eclecticeducati1 profile image

      eclecticeducati1 7 years ago

      While I don't have a problem with a school offering the language to study (I think just offering Spanish, German, and French is kinda limiting), I don't think it is good to make one language mandatory. I would have to really wonder what their motive was.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 7 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      I would have been relieved and even might have thought about letting the kids go back to school because I would have removed them when it first happened:) But probably I would be homeschooling them to avoid this sort of politically correct nonsense gone wild:)

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 7 years ago from New Zealand

      Extremely well done and good for you for tackling such a controversial issue.


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