Reform Advocate -- May 01, 1891[Dr. Emil G. Hirsch and Foreign - Language Teaching]
In a discussion which took place in the Union League Club of Chicago, Dr. Hirsch talked about foreign languages being taught in our public schools. He said: In the lower grades of the public schools, I, as an educator, cannot but say there is no study for a foreign language. In our high schools, in our colleges, they are in place and proper. There be those who held the high schools as an unnecessary luxury. I am not of their opinion. The city should endow these high schools most liberally, though but few can attend them, these few the community cannot spare. We need thinkers in our public life; we need educated teachers. The high schools are intended to provide them. We look to them for our teachers. No one can today lay claim to be fully a man or woman of culture, unless he or she has at least a reading knowledge of more than one language. In the high schools, the object of the instruction of foreign dialects cannot be to teach how to speak them. The high school should aim to initiate into the literature of foreign tongue. And for this end, as a promising instrument of education, I know next to the English Classics, none richer, none sweeter than the language in which Goethe and Schiller and Lessing thought and wrote. To the scholar, German and French are indispensible.2
The lower grades of the schools cannot attempt literary culture even in the only tongue which, according to my judgment, should there be taught. That belongs to the domain of the high schools. There the study of foreign languages, in another way than the poll-parrot fashion, is undoubtedly among the appointments of a thorough curriculum.
I have arrived at my conclusions, not without long consideration; other speakers, may I hope, advance arguments convincing me of error. But as far as I have been able to grasp the subject, I have seen but this outcome.
This is America; we all are first, Americans. Out children are Americans. The home language, as the home religion is a matter a private perogative. The state is concerned about the training of the American citizen. The public school in its lower departments, should provide first and last the bread, that which everybody needs, which is required in daily life, which the citizen must know in order to be able to serve his nation in every capacity - and that is a full and comprehensive use certainly - of English.
I A 2 b, I A 1 a
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