Charter School of 11,000 Students Drops Foreign Language - What They Offer Instead May Stun Many

A little over a year ago, Sonali Kohli with The Atlantic reported a disturbing change in American schools. She focused on one particular educational group called Success Academy Charter Schools. They are self-proclaimed as being “the largest and highest-performing free, public charter school network in New York City,” and they are responsible for approximately 11,000 students in 34 schools. 


The academy’s not-so-popular CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz spoke at a forum with right-wing conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute back in December of 2014. During an interview, Moskowitz discussed how hard it had been to maneuver her school’s curriculum. ”Something had to go,” Moskowitz said. Turns out that “something” was foreign language classes.

”We can’t do everything... And by the way, Americans don’t tend to do foreign languages very well.”​ 

(Here's a video of the interview, in full.)

So, we don’t do languages very well? Could that be, perhaps, because some schools have opted to delete foreign language classes and offer chess? Such is the case with Moskowitz and her Success Academy network. Don’t get me wrong. Chess is a fine game. And no school can do everything, but I’d bet even chess players would agree that knowledge of the game on a résumé is not going to land them their next big job. On the other hand, many employers see a foreign language background as a plus. Given the Hispanic/Latino growth in America today, high school and college graduates who can speak Spanish as a second language have a substantial advantage over others jumping into the job market. Dan Woog with the online job resource company, Monster.com, writes:

Bilingual skills help job seekers land work. They can lead to key assignments and pay raises. In some cases, they may even be a job requirement.

Yet our nation’s foreign language studies lag far behind other countries. Sonali Kohli added, “Just relying on everyone else to speak English could be detrimental to American business growth — while potentially sacrificing the benefits of bilingualism and of foreign language study.” 

Money.com claims the hottest job skill today is fluency in a foreign language. 

The Army, NYPD and State Department can't get enough workers with this job skill. Neither can Fortune 500 companies, hospitals, local courts and schools.

It would behoove Eva Moskowitz, as well as anyone else in charge of a school’s curriculum, to rethink their attitudes about foreign language studies and incorporate the subject back into their programs. Not only can it lead to more job opportunities, it can also lead to a greater knowledge of the world in which we live, and thus a more enhanced life. 

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