Universal Preschool and Language

As drawn by its students?

I read this article about universal pre-school (école maternelle) in France, and thought it could use a touch more history.

The French language wasn’t widely used throughout France up to the Revolution. The aftermath resulted in a short-lived policy of freedom of languages for all citizens, followed by pretty much the opposite, and forcing everyone to learn French.

I don’t deny that teaching the national language (for countries with a national language) in school is necessarily bad, but when a national policy can be construed as linguicide, it loses some of its luster.

Over here in the United States, there isn’t a national policy, although as the article points out, it’s a hot topic. When I started writing this post, I thought there could be some clever way to include early childhood education taught in English to perhaps make immigration reform somehow more appealing to conservatives. Given what I’ve read of the language policy in the US, it doesn’t seem likely.

With the Bilingual Education Act, we had a policy that was more inclusive than what I suggested. It helped states fund programs for students with limited English ability.

As the Wikipedia article points out, this changed somewhat with the passage of No Child Left Behind.

So with immigration reform a possible hot topic this year, what should language policy look like? This paper goes over the history of US language policy, and provides a list of principles to build future policy around.

One time, during jury duty

I read this article on The New Republic and it reminded it of the time I was called up for jury duty.

The most striking thing was the difference in appearance between the two lawyers. The prosecutor looked sharp, was well dressed, and was in great shape.

And his counterpart was the opposite. His suit didn’t fit well, he was overweight, and it looked like he’d been sweating, despite it being a relatively chilly fall morning.

When they stood up to introduce themselves, one was a lot more energetic than the other.

Judging things by their appearance is always a dangerous game, but it did not look like both sides had close to equal representation at all.

(As an aside, I’m struggling to think of where I read a defense lawyer deliberately dressed up more shabbily to gain sympathy points. Thought it was from To Kill a Mockingbird at first, but can’t find a relevant quote.)