Op-Ed: Mandarin is the most practical language to prepare students for the future - but the school district is cutting the program

Monday, April 2, 2018

Parents want their students to have the opportunity to take the Mandarin language in middle school and in high school, but the district is cutting the program.

As parents of students already invested in Mandarin learning and elementary parents hoping for the opportunity for their children to learn Mandarin in middle school and high school, we are surprised and disappointed that the Shoreline School District is phasing out their Mandarin language program. 

The reasons that we have heard for this include lack of student interest, it is too hard of a language to learn, and some mumbling about teacher availability, and none of these seem like appropriate reasons to cut a valuable program from our public schools.

Didn’t we all just pass a levy to increase learning opportunities? We are taken aback by what appears to be a lack of foresight in educational planning for the future of our Shoreline students/residents.

A simple Google search provides the most important information in which we find compelling reasons for the district to promote and teach this language. For instance, Mandarin speakers in 2017 numbered 850-950 million, depending on the website used. Compare that to the estimated 335 million English speakers and 399 million Spanish speakers worldwide!

We also want to note that China is a major trading partner with Washington State - number 1 in exports and number 2 in imports. To truly understand each other, we need to speak each other’s language, and that means learning Mandarin.

Mark Zuckerberg is learning Mandarin; Joe Biden has 2 grandchildren learning Mandarin; and Prince William gave an interview in Mandarin in 2015.

What kind of information are we providing to high school students signing up for language classes? Why do we teach language in public school? If Shoreline School district supports 3 foreign languages, shouldn’t Mandarin be one of the three? Or maybe we need to keep all four!

Language programs take years to develop, both within the school and for the students taking the classes. As an investment in time for both the district and students, taking a ‘break’ is paramount to ending the program.

Shoreline Public schools ending the Mandarin language program may be robbing our students of a real and tangible “leg up” in their working world. The district could be promoting the value of this amazing opportunity to increase enrollment instead of cutting the program.

If our district truly is embodying their recent 2020 Instructional Strategic Plan - Persistent. Effective Communicators. Growth Oriented. Critical Thinkers. Empathetic. Creative. Global Citizens. Knowledgeable. Collaborative. - the Mandarin program would be thriving, not dying!

Who should we talk to about this? Attend the April 9th School Board Meeting and speak as a community member. Also, our letters, phone calls, and in person conversations make a big difference! If you support and want to see Shoreline School District continuing to offer Mandarin Chinese language classes to middle school and high school students, email your principal, the Superintendent, and the school board.

If they don’t hear from us, a lot of us, this program will be cancelled.

Parents want their students to have the opportunity to take Mandarin language in middle school and in high school.

Do you want more information on why our students need to have the option to study Mandarin? See these points from a quick Google search.

Signed by Concerned Shoreline Parents

Callie Steward
Cynthia Brown
Jim Brown
Yuzhen Li
Heidi Randolph
Kristi Lin
Diana Mar
Sai Su
Sing Cheer To
Sing Well To
Sing Yearn To
Su Liew
Chai Jen To
Ai Yenung To
Ai Ling Shea
Craig Shea
Jee Ing Chua
Kim Stege
Tom Stege
Eric Grant
Eric Yao
Jennifer Yeh
Jeff Lovelace
Susan Lovelace
Mike Chan
Kevin Lee
Lisa Chan


Anonymous,  April 3, 2018 at 9:32 AM  

Well, as the parent of a former student at Shorecrest who studied a foreign language there - your time and efforts might be better spent putting together a tutor for a group of students to meet a couple of times a week after/before school. The language instruction provided my child was less than useful - meeting with a tutor we found on Craigslist for $20 an hour increased his knowledge exponentially. There have been several studies comparing the way language is taught in Europe compared to the US - very clear to anyone interested why so many of our students can study a language for 4 years in high school and not be able to translate a page in a book one year later.

Anonymous,  April 4, 2018 at 8:08 PM  

Is it possible that it is difficult to find someone to commit to teaching one class 3 times a week for a school year? Who is available to take that job, essentially teaching 1/5 of a contract to provide the Mandarin Language? Should more students be interested in learning Mandarin? Could Shoreline support their students by creating a strong Mandarin program? Of course. But if there isn't student interest more than 30 to 40 students between 2 high schools then how do you hire for that one class? Maybe one of you would be willing to take a 1/5 contract to teach 1 class for an entire school year.

Unknown April 4, 2018 at 8:48 PM  

Zuckerberg will be able to apologize to the world for his considerable shortcomings in two languages...can't wait to hear it.

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