This Makes Me Sad

by digby

Have we really dumbed ourselves down so much in this country that presidential candidates have to apologize for saying that children should learn things?

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports: Sen. Barack Obama reiterated his belief Friday that America’s children to learn a foreign language, firing back against criticism he received from some conservative groups who suggested the Illinois senator wanted to make the United States a bilingual country.

Speaking in Powder Springs, GA on Tuesday Obama told the crowd that it’s embarrassing when Europeans come to the US and they all speak English. By comparison, Obama said, America’s young people do not have matching language skills.

“All we can say is merci beacoup,” Obama said. “We should be emphasizing foreign languages in our schools from an early age.”

The statements prompted outrage from some conservative groups who argued his remarks were an endorsement of the idea that Americans should be forced to learn Spanish. Americans for Legal Immigration PAC posted Obama’s comments on their website with the headline: “Voters Reject Obama’s Call for Bilingualism.”

At a town hall in Dayton, Ohio the presumptive Democratic nominee attempted to explain his statements, blasting the interpretation of his original remarks.

Obama brought it up while speaking about how the Bush administration's "No Child Left Behind" education policy has forced schools to cut programs like foreign languages.

I guess that's what makes him so "exotic." He actually thinks that children should learn other languages. Unlike the Republicans who don't even think children should learn science.

He had to actually say this explicitly:

The Obama campaign reiterated Friday that Obama would continue to require immigrants to learn English to be eligible for citizenship.

"Senator Obama has always said that learning English is an important step for immigrants to the United States and would make it a requirement for citizenship, but he also believes that learning a foreign language is an enriching experience for young people in this country," said Obama spokesperson Jen Psaki.

There was a time when Obama's comment was considered completely mainstream. It's true that Americans have never learned new languages easily, but they respected the idea that kids should learn as much as possible so they could better themselves. Clearly Obama didn't get the memo that we have embraced cretinism and that all knowledge is suspect.

Update: Reader Kevin writes in with this excellent observation:

You hear the gasbags on TV all the time arguing for globalization(including McSame), and Obama gets crap for pointing out that to compete in a global economy kids have to learn more than English? WTF?

I assume that these people believe that we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and force them all to speak English.

Update II:
Reader Respectful Dissent emails with this:

If you write more on Sen Obama's call for children learning a foreign language, you can point out that the Pentagon wants a broader base of language-capable troops. (French, in particular, would be good should we have to go into Africa somewhere.) Why do the monolinguistic-fetishists hate the troops?