Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Entscheidungen über Deutschunterricht

These are the comments I made at the April 28, 2014 meeting of the School Board.

I am of Germanic heritage. 

My children both took several years of German at Darby and received college credit for much of it.

I was a chaperone for a group of Hilliard students who spent 3 weeks traveling across German-speaking Europe.

I like German cars and German beer and have purchased a fair amount of both.

Ich habe Deutsch gelernt

Nonetheless, the resources of our community are not infinite, and we must constantly evaluate and adjust how we allocate resources to prepare our children for their future.

Depending on what list one consults, German is barely in the top ten list of first languages, although it is a few places ahead of French. Bengali, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian and Japanese are all more widely spoken as a first language.

I traveled to Germany often for business. For the past 70 years, nearly all children in the former West Germany have studied English and are competent in English, and since the German Reunification almost 25 years ago, so have the children of the eastern states. It is not difficult to do business in English in Germany, although admittedly disrespectful.

While Europe and Germany will continue to be important trading partners for America, there is no question of the growing importance of Asia and the Middle East in our future. It may be time to begin reallocating our education resources relating to citizenship of the world toward those regions

Education is a people business – teachers instructing students. That means changes to programming and methods affect people. Tough decisions sometimes have to be made, and they will affect the lives of people we respect and care about.

That means we need to make these decisions in an empathetic and compassionate, but unambiguous way. No one should be left guessing.

If possible, we should allow there to be sufficient time for affected individuals to respond and adapt. If we can provide resources to facilitate the transition, that would be appropriate.

This too is a teaching moment for our students.


  1. Yeah.... One of mine finished with 5 years of German from Darby. He went to Germany with the school's exchange program. He'll finish college next year with a major in German and another in economics. The other kid will finish at Darby next month with 4 years of German and expects to get college credit for some of it, though I doubt another major is in her future.

    We plan on going to Germany this summer to visit with third and fourth cousins there, as well as see the sites.

    Since we are nearly out the door, this decision will not directy impact us. But I'd hope that all languages currenlty offerred are reviewed to make the best decision for future students.

    I'm not sure how you decide what the "best" 2-3 langauges are to offer. With the economic power Germany currenlty holds, German seems like a good option. But I'm biased.....

    Danke schön, Herr Lambert.

    1. Bitte schön mein Freund.

      I listened to the people who spoke before the Board last night. Their arguments in support of German offerings mostly had to do with Germany's economic power, which no one questions. But it was really an emotional appeal. These folks are passionate about Germany, German culture, and the German language. I understand.

      It reminded me a little of a lunch I had a couple of weeks ago with a couple of Israeli friends. They made the comment that every political decision made in the world affects Israel. I smiled, and they temporary switched to Hebrew, I'm sure to exchange feelings about what a putz I am - a typical American who doesn't understand global affairs.

      We can offer foreign languages, but it is not our policy to dictate that students sign up. They clearly vote with their feet, with Spanish having by far the greatest enrollment, followed by French, then German. But Chinese is starting to catch up.

      From a global citizenship basis, I think perhaps Arabic or Hundi/Urdu should be next on our radar - not just for the language, but also to develop cultural understanding.

      It's not just the foreign language curriculum that needs reviewed. As I've said many times, the cost of running a school district is driven by how much we pay people, and how many we employ. The first component is dealt with via collective bargaining, and those numbers are set for the next 3 years.

      Now we have to review the second component - how many we employ. Because changes to STRS will continue to motivate senior teachers to retire soon, we need to view this as an opportunity to reconfigure our teaching staff without a RIF (i.e. layoff). As Dr Marschhausen said last night, if we plan ahead, we can give the teachers affected the opportunity to gain other licensure and certification, or if they must, seek employment elsewhere.

      We aren't managing the resources of the community effectively if we only add stuff, and don't have the backbone to end programming with the least demand, or least fit to our overall curriculum strategy.

  2. One thing to consider is that Ohio State and most colleges have forgein language requirements to graduate also, so most students will want to pick a language that can be continued in college or test out of at the college level.

    1. It may depend on the major. Back when I went to Ohio State, neither the College of Engineering nor the College of Business had a foreign language requirement. That may have changed. Could be that it was an entrance requirement though - don't remember, but I took Spanish in high school anyway.

    2. Here's an interesting story: Capital University, my alma mater, was founded by the Lutheran church, and until World War II taught all classes in German. By the time I got there in the 80s to finish up my bachelors degree, Capital didn't even offer German as a subject. Again, I don't know the current status.