Our children may be learning to be more than just bilingual at their elementary schools’ language immersion program. Since 2006 the federal government has spent millions to turn elementary schools around the country into training centers for future government intelligence agents.
In 2006, President George W. Bush announced the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI), a public school program to be coordinated by the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, and the Director of National Intelligence.
A part of the larger National Security Education Program (NSEP), a Pentagon budget projection for Fiscal Year 2012 explained the purpose of the program was to “provide a cadre of highly qualified candidates for employment in the national security community.” Teaching “less commonly taught languages” to the nation’s children will guarantee a steady flow of “qualified language proficient candidates to the Federal sector.”
At a Senate hearing on the program in May, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) cited studies indicating that teaching children languages in elementary school makes them more proficient speakers as adults. Akaka is the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia and he said “Our national and economic security is closely linked to how well our schools prepare students to succeed in a global environment.”
From kindergarten to twelfth grade, Washington is sending money to local school districts to help pay for the teachers and resources necessary to create these classes. Lily Bueno is one of the teachers hired with NSLI money. Bueno will begin teaching Portuguese at Lakeview Elementary School in Provo, Utah. According to an article in the (Provo) Daily Herald,“the U.S. government has deemed Portuguese a critical, strategic language to know for the future.” Utah received a $124,000 grant from the federal government, $10,000 of which will fund a “student training camp” to be held in the Lakeview district.
When school starts next week, 54 first-grade students will begin their 12-year federally funded language training program. In Gig Harbor, Washington, local high school junior John Adams will travel to China to study Chinese thanks to an NSLI scholarship.
Cash strapped schools are pleased to receive the money to support foreign language departments threatened by budget cuts. The problem with the NSLI, however, is that it is another step toward absolute federal control of local education standards and practices.
Another disturbing aspect of the NSLI is the indoctrination that is the byproduct of education managed by Washington. While most parents encourage their children to study foreign language, many would balk at having the federal government manage and monitor such instruction.
During his testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Glenn Nordin (principal foreign language and area advisor at the Pentagon) said that proficiency in a foreign language is one of the basic skills necessary “to combat violent extremism, counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, provide strategic intelligence and warning, integrate counterintelligence, enhance cyber security, and support diplomatic, military, and law enforcement operations.”
Such declarations remind one of James Madison’s warning that “If tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”
The frequent flouter of the Fourth Amendment, the National Security Agency (NSA), manages the K-12 language training initiative called STARTALK. In 2009, NSA and the Central Security Service (CSS) issued the following report on the success of STARTALK:
Working with the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, NSA/CSS established STARTALK as a first-rate academic program that attracted the participation of top language educators across the country over the last two years, STARTALK has grown in enrollment and funding. In 2007, the first year of STARTALK's implementation, 34 programs in Chinese and Arabic were held across 21 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.), reaching over 1300 high school students and high school and college teachers. In 2008, STARTALK doubled in funding, with academic partnerships being established in nine additional states. More than 3,700 students and teachers participated in 2008, and enrollment expanded to include middle schools. Program offerings focused on not only Chinese and Arabic, but also Hindi, Urdu, and Farsi.
Other languages are currently being pushed by the NSLI and STARTALK program. As reported above, the Daily Herald reports that “The U.S. government has deemed Portuguese a critical, strategic language to know for the future.”
Portuguese is the official languae of Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe. It is also one of the official languages of East Timor, Macau, and Equatorial Guinea.
The African Languages Initiative is one of the nine initiatives under the NSEP umbrella and focuses on promoting Portuguese.
Government literature supporting the various programs and initiatives make it clear that protection of national security is the reason that thousands of our youngest students eager to learn a second language are unwittingly being groomed by the government to “fill the ranks of the foreign service.”