Does your local pubic school teach Arabic? Parents in Mansfield, Texas were shocked when they discovered that their school has made plans to embed Arabic language and culture across the curriculum. Almost 200 parents showed up at a meeting with questions for school administrators. The program is funded by a five-year $1.3 million federal Foreign Language Assistance Program grant that identifies Arabic as a "language of the future." The grant calls for Arabic culture, government, art, traditions and history to be integrated into social studies, language arts and other subjects in elementary school.
The district issued what parents called an unsatisfactory press release denying media reports of "mandatory Arabic classes." While it is true that Arabic language classes are electives in the 7th to 12th grades, the original plan called for 5th and 6th grade curriculums to integrate Arabic culture and language into various mandatory subjects. Kindergarten through 4th grade classes were also to integrate Arabic elements. The grant requires that 20 minutes a day of instructional time be spent on Arabic language and culture in the 5th and 6th grade.
Parents questioned whether Arabic culture could be taught without teaching Islam. One said, "I don't see how you can teach that culture without going into their beliefs." Another parent questioned why Arabic culture should get such preferential treatment. "The school doesn't teach Christianity, so I don't want them teaching Islam." The school then posted a website stating that Arabic language classes would not be mandatory. But it is unclear whether the U.S. Education Department will insist that Arabic culture will be embedded in the Kindergarten through 6th grade curriculum.