- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The house has not voted
- The senate has not voted
Committee on Armed ServicesIntroducedJuly 29th, 2019
- senate Committees
What is Senate Bill S. 2307?
Cost of Senate Bill S. 2307
In-Depth: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, introduced this bill to support, improve and expand critical foreign language programs in U.S. elementary and secondary schools.
Rep. David Price (D-NC), who is the sponsor of the House version of this bill, says:
“The United States can no longer afford to neglect our deficiencies in foreign language and international education, which limit our economic and national security competitiveness. I’m pleased to introduce this bill with Rep. Young to give schools and students the resources they need to communicate and collaborate on the world stage and prepare the next generation of leaders to solve the international challenges that lie ahead.”
Original House cosponsor Rep. Don Young (R-AK) adds:
“We should be doing all we can to ensure that America’s students are equipped to become leaders in business and civic life. Therefore, I am proud to introduce the World Language Advancement and Readiness Act with my good friend from across the aisle, Congressman David Price. Our bill helps America keep pace with other developed nations by providing the language education our students need to secure good jobs, achieve success in global marketplaces, and successfully navigate multi-lingual business environments. The legislation also helps build a pipeline for growing experts in languages that are critical to our national defense. I am grateful to Congressman Price for joining me in this important initiative, and I urge my colleagues to help us boost our national defense and global competitiveness by cosponsoring this legislation.”
Bill Rivers, the Executive Director of Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL-NCLIS), expresses his organization’s support for this bill:
“The World Language Advancement and Readiness Act is an important step towards a real pipeline of bilingual and biliterate young Americans, who will improve our national security and foster economic growth with their language skills. The National Council for Languages and International Studies supports this Act wholeheartedly and commends Representatives Price and Young for their commitment to America’s Languages.”
Economist Bryan Caplan argues that learning a foreign language is a waste of time and money for most Americans, especially since most students — who take an average of two years studying a foreign language in high school — won’t end up being fluent anyway:
“The average high school graduate spends two years studying a foreign language… The marginal product of two years of pain and suffering per high school graduate: less than one student in a hundred acquires fluency. (And that’s self-assessed fluency, which people almost surely exaggerate)... Fans of foreign languages will probably just respond, ‘That’s why we have to pour more resources into foreign languages.’ I say it would be far better to give fans of foreign languages a free economics lesson… Any honest scale will tell you that the costs of foreign language instruction dwarf the benefits. Think about it: Even ignoring teachers’ salaries, we’re currently burning two years of class time per graduate. The payoff? Making less than one student in a hundred fluent… The fact that two full years of instruction have almost zero effect implies that massive spending increases would be required to noticeably raise foreign language fluency… Foreign language fluency is more common in other countries for a reason. People around the world strive to learn English. Why? Because English fluency frequently helps them get good jobs, meet interesting people, and enjoy culture. Pretty obvious, right? To understand why Americans don’t learn foreign languages, simply reverse this reasoning. We don’t learn foreign languages because foreign languages rarely helps us get good jobs, meet interesting people, or enjoy culture. Americans start in an unusually abundant and diverse economic, social, and cultural pool, so we have little reason to stray. And if Americans do decide to sample other pools, we can literally travel the world without needing to learn a word of another language… requiring Americans to learn foreign languages makes about as much sense as requiring them to hear operas. What inspires the few, torments the many. Elites who relish foreign languages… should show some tolerance for the rest of humanity instead of calling for government spending to correct a ‘problem’ that’s only in our minds.”
In a blog post on Education Week’s “Work in Progress” blog, Douglas Green, EdD, argues that achieving foreign language fluency for children is up to parents, not schools:
“It is probably up to parents to make real fluency happen. If parents know another language, they should use it around the house as often as possible. If they have some motivation to learn another language themselves, they should include their children in the process. Also look for opportunities to go to places where only the other language is allowed. A semester abroad is often an opportunity for older students. If a student is placed in a home where the family wants to practice their English, however, they might not learn much. Look for a placement in a small town where English is not as common and at least the parents don't speak English… For many poor parents, English is a second language. Let them know that they should help their kids learn their native language. Tell them the effort is worth it as learning another language has been shown to be good for one's brain. Wealthy parents often hire child care workers whose first language is not English. If you are in this demographic, tell the caregiver to teach your child their first language.”
This legislation doesn’t have any Senate cosponsors. Its House version, sponsored by Rep. David Price (D-NC), has 25 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 23 Democrats and two Republicans. Both bills have yet to receive a committee vote.
Last Congress, Rep. Price introduced this bill with 31 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 22 Democrats and nine Republicans, and it didn’t receive a committee vote. There was no Senate version of this legislation last Congress.
Leading international education and foreign language advocacy organizations, including the Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL-NCLIS) and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), support this bill.
Of Note: Multiple Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports have highlighted shortfalls in the U.S. military and intelligence community’s critical language and cultural skills. According to the GAO, the United States’ language deficit could eventually threaten U.S. priorities and missions around the world.
- House Sponsor Rep. David Price (D-NC) Press Release
- Joint National Committee for Languages
- EconLog (Opposed in Principle)
- Education Week Work in Progress Blog (Opposed in Principle)
- GAO Report (Context)
- GAO Report (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / hudienm)