One of the first Arabic immersion schools in the nation opened this week, with 132 pre-K and kindergarten students starting at the Arabic Immersion Magnet School in Houston.
Immediately, the school was subject to controversy. Roughly 30 protesters gathered outside the school Monday with anti-Muslim and anti-Qatar signs, as reported by Breitbart Texas. The school received a small grant from the government-supported Qatar Foundation. Islam is the official state religion of Qatar.
The demonstration prompted pushback from the school district. "Are you also protesting US military, CIA and Christian mission groups for teaching the language?" the Houston school district's chief of stafftweeted in response to the protest.
In a country as diverse as the United States, schools with different specialties are needed to give students an effective education. Some students benefit from learning a foreign language early on, while the families of other students prefer to keep their children in English-only schools.
That's why school choice is important. Not everyone needs to learn Arabic, French, or any other foreign language in school. But school choice provides students who want to learn a foreign language the opportunity to do so without harming other students.
English will be the dominant language in the U.S. for decades to come, but the country still needs Arabic speakers to maximize success in a globalized world. With hundreds of millions of native Arabic speakers in the world, it is vital, diplomatically and economically, that some Americans speak Arabic too.
Although students in immersion programs typically spend all their time speaking one language, students at Arabic Immersion Magnet School will learn language arts and social studies in English. Graduates will also be strong English communicators.
In the Houston public school district, Arabic is the second most common foreign language spoken at home, after Spanish. All of the school's teachers are native Arabic speakers.