Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Global studies bill killed by dummies.

In today's highly competitive and globalized world of business, it is important for Americans to understand and be able to work with people from other cultures, speak other languages or conduct business in other countries. Only don't tell that to a handful of idiots on the Arizona legislature.

Businesses need people skilled in world languages and economics. The government has gaping holes in diplomacy and intelligence. Universities are begging for more students with sophisticated learning.

It all gives credence to a bill in the Arizona Legislature to create international schools to help make students globally competitive.

But, in the end, the bill died. As its supporters learned, "international" is a dirty word among some at the Capitol.

Key leaders there suggested the bill was un-American and part of a slippery slope to a U.N. takeover and the end of U.S. sovereignty.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, would have put three K-12 schools in the northern, central and southern parts of the state, where kids would begin a second language in kindergarten, and set up new international programs at seven high schools. Big business and universities pledged to partner with the schools. First-year costs would have been $2.3 million, or less than 0.02 percent of the proposed state budget...

• Some Arizona legislators were so opposed to the bill that supporters changed the name from international schools to American competitiveness project schools to appease them.

That didn't sway Sen. Ron Gould, a Lake Havasu City Republican.

"What I'm assuming is that they changed the name, trying to get us to be less objectionable, as if, you know, a rose by any other name is not as sweet," said Gould, a member of the Senate's K-12 Education Committee. "There's a lot of us here who are not internationalists. These schools actually have kind of a United Nations flavor to them, and we're actually into educating Americans into Americanism, not internationalism."

I guess that would be the same Ron Gould who proudly flies a Confederate battle flag in front of his Lake Havasu city home.

• Sen. Karen Johnson, a Mesa Republican and chairwoman of the K-12 Education Committee, never let the proposal out of committee. Johnson instead brought in a professor from Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minn., to educate lawmakers on the dangers of a popular international studies program, the International Baccalaureate....

"The International Baccalaureate is un-American," Allen Quist, who served in the Minnesota Legislature in the 1980s and ran for Minnesota governor as a Republican in 1994, said in a phone interview. He said that International Baccalaureate's links to the United Nations are disturbing and that its sense of right and wrong is ambiguous.

That would be the same Karen Johnson, four times divorced, who likes to lecture others about 'family values.'

To get around Johnson, supporters took the proposal to the Senate's Higher Education Committee. The proposal eventually reached the House Appropriations Committee, which helps decide what bills get funded and how much. There, it ran into Rep. Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican. Pearce recalled this week that his research on international schools in general found them to be dangerous, and he suggested their agenda was tied to the U.N., not America.

"Our schools ought to be focusing on education that we, as Americans, espouse," Pearce said. "We ought to concentrate on United States history and United States heroes."

Ah, yes. Russell Pearce. The same Russell Pearce who has led the anti-immigrant charge in Arizona and who not so long ago praised (and refused to apologize for praising), "operation wetback," a 1950's program in which millions of men, women and children were rounded up, sometimes violently, and forcibly deported en masse.

So Arizona's schoolchildren will lose out on an opportunity and the state itself will either miss out on the next generation of global trade or have the money made from it sent someplace else (in China, kids are taught English at an early age, for example).

This bill, you will note had a Republican sponsor. But with Republicans like Gould, Johnson and Pearce in the legislature it is no wonder that we still have the reputation nationally as being 'ignoramusville.' I guess they are shooting for internationally too.

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