I’m heading off to Fredericton tomorrow to protest against the abolition of early French immersion (EFI) at the Provincial Legislature. I’ll be joining hundreds of other concerned citizens to show our disagreement with this decision. It’s my first protest, as I never had the chance to participate in these political activities while I was in the Army, so I guess it will be a learning experience.
I have many concerns with our education system, and I would have preferred to engage the government on something more substantial, such as the basis for curriculum or the whole notion of one-size-fits-all education, but EFI is the touch-point for many parents. I’m adding my voice to this protest for several reasons:
- Gaining a second language is one of the few useful skills that students can develop and keep long after they have memorized and forgotten useless data for most academic subjects.
- All of the research shows that learning a second language earlier results in better abilities with that language.
- A second language opens mental capabilities and makes it easier to learn other languages later.
- Speaking a second language opens one’s mind to the realization that there is more than one way to conceive of something, and can make you more tolerant of others.
- Multilingual capabilities are valued by the “creative class”, and we want to attract and retain the creative class.
- Abolishing EFI sends the wrong signal and encourages a myopic view of Us versus Them, especially since the Minister of Education has stated that EFI was elitist [but was open to all students].
- Pushing second language learning to the fifth grade and making it optional in Grade 6 reduces our other official language in this province to the status of an academic elective.
This is not the end of the world and there are other, more important issues in our society, but the abolition of EFI is sending the wrong message about this province’s vision for its citizens and it is handicapping a generation of learners who are getting little out of the education system already.
Now it’s off to make my placard …
Update: We had about 500 protesters, of all ages, but our three-hour demonstration fell on deaf (government) ears: