Education: Killing Living Languages

Disastrous, deceitful, diabolical, crazy.

So runs the litany of epithets that have greeted the French government's latest stab at educational reform. The reform frees lycee (secondary school) students, who take their first modern foreign language at the age of eleven, from the obligation of starting a second language when they are 13. The government's intention was benign: to lighten what Paris pedagogues have come to view as an excessively heavy academic burden. Instead, the idea has stirred up fierce opposition.

Fearful of losing their jobs, France's foreign-language teachers recently staged brief strikes; worried about future jobs, language students rioted. Both received strong support...

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