I dreamed last night that I was teaching Shakespeare. I should note right off the bat that I have no qualifications what so ever to teach English literature, and the person who hired me in this dream universe must have been very desperate to find somebody for this post, though I felt that trying to explain this to my students would do nothing to endear their hearts to the man’s verse. I remember thinking that the most difficult part of the job was making the material interesting to low-end students without making it boring to high-end students. How do I do this job without damaging The Bard’s reputation through my incompetence? It’s probably best that I didn’t go into teaching as a career.
The top 10 ideas are going to be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by www.Change.org, MySpace, and more than a dozen leading nonprofits after the Inauguration. So each idea has a real chance at becoming policy.
The primary argument for introducing Esperanto into public schools sites several studies which demonstrated that children who were taught Esperanto first went on to learn other foreign languages much more quickly. The structure of Esperanto obviates the structure of languages in general (at least Western ones) and students can use this as a basis for other languages. I can personally attest that I learned much more about English from learning Esperanto by way of generalization than I ever did in high school English classes.
I have mixed feelings about this. First off, public school curricula is controlled at the state level, not the federal, though certainly the Feds can influence and make suggestions. But let’s say that the idea found sympathetic ears and the decision was made to teach Esperanto to grade school children across America.
Where are they going to find the qualified teachers? Will the teachers be learning along with the children? Esperanto may be the easiest language in the world to learn, but it’s still a language, and is best learned by interaction with experienced speakers. This may or may not be a big factor, as most esperantists that I know personally taught themselves the language, usually with the help of experienced speakers through snailmail, email, telephone, group meetings and such.
The second concern I have is: What will happen to Esperanto when it’s subject to disparate school board oversight? I shudder at this thought. How long will it be before some well meaning but short sighted bureaucrat thinks, “Hey! I’ll bed I can improve on this Esperanto thing. First off, let’s get rid of this annoying accusative case …”