(submitted in response to the Plain Dealer's July 17, 2003 article "Group finds doors closed to French teens")


Letters to the Editor

The Plain Dealer

1801 Superior Ave.

Cleveland, OH 44114


July 17, 2003


Dear Editors,


Today’s Plain Dealer article "Group finds doors closed to French teens" should make very Greater Clevelander feel ashamed.  It is disheartening that, " due in part to Francophobia,” the World Exchange state program director finds that potential host families “don't want to deal with the hassle of having French kids and what people would say.”  Of even greater concern is the fact that this seems to be a problem particular to our region since you report that “American Field Service Intercultural Program/USA said it's having no problems placing French teens.”


What I find most distressing is the observation that “our country ... is ‘emotionally exhausted’ from international dealings.”  In world with increasingly interdependent economies and cultures, we can only pray that this assessment is not true.


As a teacher of foreign languages, I have spent a great deal of time the past several months “justifying” the study of languages in general and French in particular while simultaneously watching enrollment for next year sharply decline.  Even after explaining that French and English are the two most widely used second languages in the world, the only two languages used on every continent, that over 50 governments use French (second only two English) and as a result US passports use French, not Spanish, as their second language, few seem interested in seeing beyond their “righteous indignation.”


In spite of any political differences, it is myopic and dangerous to revert to nativism and isolationism.  The greatest lesson of the 20th century for the US has been that we are not and cannot remain an island unto ourselves.  Without contact with other cultures, how can we ever learn from one another and overcome our differences?


Milton Alan Turner