Last week I had the honor and pleasure of volunteering at both West Windsor Plainsboro School District Community Forums. Unfortunately for me, I was not allowed to participate in the event. But I did get to listen in on some of the discussions among the adults, and I was not happy with what I heard. Because I was not allowed to voice my opinion during the discussion, I have decided to write a piece in the local newspaper.
On the discussion packet, there was a question regarding foreign languages. I am not sure what the exact words were, but it asked the participants how strongly they felt about keeping world languages. Of course, the participants then discussed which languages to keep and which ones to eliminate. The number one language chosen to eliminate from the WW-P curriculum? German.
The German program at WW-P starts in middle school, and goes up to AP German in high school. Most students who are taking German in high school have been taking it since the sixth grade because there is no beginner level German class available at the high schools. Because of this, the German program has shrunk significantly in the past couple of years, and classes are becoming smaller and more condensed. For example, I currently take German 4 Honors in a combined classroom with German AP students. I have had the same kids in my German classes all throughout my WW-P school career, and I would not have it any other way. The WW-P German program is a small one, but it is a great one.
One of the major complaints about the German program is that learning German is not as useful as learning Spanish or Chinese. But Germany is a nation filled with rich history and culture. It is the country that produced Einstein, Beethoven, Goethe, Martin Luther, and Bach. It is where the Protestant religion was built, and where the Berlin Wall was knocked down. It is the home of Europe’s largest economy. It is the world’s second largest exporter, even ahead of the United States. Unlike Spain, Germany has a strong economy. Unlike Mexico and China, its government is not corrupted by drug cartels and dirty politics. It is a nation that is helping to lead the fight against global warming. It is a nation led by a woman. And what language does this influential country speak? German.
When I first decided to take German in the fifth grade, I knew nothing about Germany’s history. All I knew was that Germany was where the Nazis came from and that Nazis are bad. This is probably how many Americans still view Germans today. But after learning from Frau Waidelich and Frau Dine, I have discovered much more about German culture than I could have ever expected.
German has taught me more about the horrors of Jewish death camps than any of my history classes combined. Even from the beginning of middle school, we were taught to “learn about history, so that it does not repeat itself.” What country’s history does this cliche statement apply to more than Germany? If WW-P wants to create “globally aware citizens,” how can it do so without providing students access to learning German? How can we promote diversity and acceptance when half of our school’s Chinese population is taking Chinese? We can’t.
I overheard one person at the meeting say, “If kids really want to learn German that bad, than they can take it outside of school.” That is an unfair statement. The closest German language school from my house is 50 minutes away. The closest Chinese school? High School North. It is unfair to tell a student that he/she needs to pay a separate fee to learn German, especially when his/her friends are taking Chinese classes in school, on the weekends at North, and learning from their parents at home.
Eliminating the German program at West Windsor-Plainsboro schools would be a step backwards in fulfilling the mission statement. By immersing our students in only Spanish and Chinese, we are not creating students who can “thoughtfully contribute to a diverse and changing world.” We are limiting our students to only a narrow path of experiences. We value diversity. We need it. At the community forum, they diversified each table to increase discussion from all sides of an issue. Imagine if only two sides were presented at the table. Would it be a diverse table? Or would it look more like our House of Representatives?
Do not cut the German program at the West Windsor Plainsboro District Schools. Sign your kids up for it. Support cultural diversity. Support the German program.
Class of 2012, High School South