Foreign Language Study Is Part of the Humanities

By: Xavier Blackwell-Lipkind 

This may be the shortest opinion piece I’ve ever written, because there’s not much to be argued.

In its newest statewide graduation requirements, the Connecticut Department of Education does not include foreign languages in the humanities. One portion of the document is devoted to the humanities, which apparently includes English, social studies, government, and the arts. Fair enough. Then there’s a completely separate section for foreign languages.

Seriously?

Even at West Hartford Public Schools, things are a little unclear. According to the WHPS website (“graduation requirements”), for the class of 2023 and beyond, foreign language will be required as a subset of the humanities. Makes sense. 

In another part of the website, foreign language is listed separately from the “general humanities,” in its own category.

No one seems to know how to categorize the foreign languages, which is bizarre, because the academic consensus is crystal clear. I visited about twenty college websites, including the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, and the California Institute of Technology. I could not find a single website where foreign languages were not clearly categorized as a core component of the humanities.

Maybe this seems like a trivial argument to make, but I don’t think that it is. Separating foreign language study from fields like English and history trivializes the importance of studying different cultures.

The Connecticut Department of Education used to employ a world language representative. No longer. They (along with high schools around the state and the country) would do well to closely examine the incorrect and contradictory ways in which they categorize foreign languages. Because categories do matter.

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