The PJ Tatler

Texas school district mandates Arabic language and culture studies (Updated: MISD responds)

I’ve been hearing rumbles about this for a month or so now, as many parents in the area are not happy about it.  At issue is Mansfield Independent School District’s decision to force students at a few of its schools to learn Arabic.  It’s not an elective; Arabic will be a required language.  Parents are also upset at the way the district notified them of the new requirement.

The Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grant was awarded to Mansfield ISD last summer by the U.S. Department of Education.

As part of the five-year $1.3 Million grant, Arabic classes would be mandatory at Cross Timbers Intermediate School and Kenneth Davis Elementary School.  The program would also be optional for students at T. A. Howard Middle School and Summit High School.

Parents at Cross Timbers say they were caught off-guard by the program, and were surprised the district only told them about it in a meeting Monday night between parents and Mansfield ISD Superintendent Bob Morrison.

The DOE is promoting the study of Arabic (along with Chinese), calling it a “language of the future.” I could see a national security reason to identify students who show an aptitude for Arabic early in life, but this program, coming from this administration, doesn’t seem to be about national security. And it’s apparent that the MISD knew the program would be controversial, and tried to keep parents out of the loop.

The DOE has identified Arabic as a ‘language of the future.’ But parent Joseph Balson was frustrated by the past.  “Why are we just now finding out about it?” asked Balson.  “It’s them (Mansfield ISD) applying for the grant, getting it approved and them now saying they’ll go back and change it only when they were caught trying to implement this plan without parents knowing about it.”

Update: The school district has responded, and I share this blogger’s confusion over that response.

Recent concerns have been raised by parents concerning plans for the curriculum. We are working with parents and staff for the language curriculum development.

  • Mansfield ISD has slowed the process of implementation to get parent input for curriculum creation.
  • There are no “mandatory Arabic classes” as being falsely reported in the media.
  • As part of language acquisition and development, the early grades would have elements of Arabic language within the framework of the state-mandated curriculum.

So there are no mandatory classes, but the learning will be part of the mandatory curriculum.  And the difference is…?