Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Au Revoir! Addio! Adiós! Goodbye!

Au Revoir! Addio! Adiós! Goodbye!

It was with much chagrin and disgust that I listened to the NPR (National Public Radio) piece regarding the cuts to SUNY (State University of New York) humanities programs which were to eliminate French, Italian, Russian, classics and theater. The full story can be read here: http://www.npr.org/2010/11/15/131336270/cuts-to-university-s-humanities-program-draw-outcry.

I'm sure you are sitting there thinking, "What does this have to do with travel?" I'll tell you - everything. For years, since I was in elementary school, the lackluster performance by American students in foreign language courses has been a bane of many educators existence. Mind numbing statistics have placed the United States well behind other countries in respect to their ability to read, comprehend and speak foreign languages. While numerous countries have their children speaking multiple languages essentially from birth, we are doing well to say our American students are able to read, comprehend and speak the English language, much less a foreign language.

Now, back to travel. It's imperative that we all are able to adapt to the Global economy/marketplace, and in doing so, foreign language skills are critical. I'll be the first to admit that I studied French for over 7 years (high school and three years in college), and while I am able to read and comprehend a lot, my speaking the language is oftentimes downright scary and unintelligible, but I still try, because I know it's important. I've met a lot of people over the course of my life from various countries, and they are not only able to speak one language, but oftentimes multiple languages. I have a friend that speaks six languages: French (being his native language), Italian, English, Swahili, Spanish and German. That's an extreme case, but I know others from other countries who speak at least two or three languages - well. These individuals are able to travel comfortably, and interact at a level that most Americans are unable to accomplish; so when I hear and read about programs being stricken from our colleges that would benefit our students, it disappoints me and aggravates me to no end.

There are many who would argue that liberal arts degrees are useless and that a person with say, a degree in Business, Technology or Engineering will be better prepared in the workplace than a person with an English degree (yes, I hold a B.A. in English, as well as an M.B.A. in Global Management); however, I would argue that all degrees have their importance. Being able to travel and communicate in the native language is as crucial as being able to memorize and know the Pythagorean Theorem (which, by the way, I don't know by memory).

Despite our current economy, I hope that we don't continue down the path of disregarding important courses in colleges because they may not correlate to dollars and cents, but realize the significance of the liberal arts courses which also help us to navigate, understand and communicate with other cultures.

*photo taken from: http://www.somervillepublic.com/newslettersDistrict/April_2009_Newsletter_files/104.jpg


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