Sir Lancelot (for all intents and purposes, the PQ government): “We were in the nick of time. You were in great peril.”
Sir Galahad (Majority of francophone parents who want the right to be able to have their kids acquire English at a young age, or at least have the option of deciding for themselves): “I don't think I was.”
Sir Lancelot: “Yes, you were. You were in terrible peril.”
Sir Galahad: “Look, let me go back in there and face the peril.”
Sir Lancelot: “No, it's too perilous.”
I’ve used this example before, because I feel it so accurately portrays the absurdity of someone wanting to protect you from something you want. How, as one friend put it, is less education more? The “Big Brother” aspect of a government removing a parent’s decision-making ability is so patronizing and so irksome to me, and should be to any parent who wants to ensure that their child is exposed to as many opportunities for success as possible.
Study upon study has proven that there’s a window of time (called the critical-period hypothesis) where learning is optimal. Very few adult second-language learners will ever reach the same competence as native speakers of that language, while children learning a second language are more likely to achieve native-like fluency than adults. I’m not even going to elaborate on the fact that numerous studies have found that being bilingual makes children smarter, and that using more than one language leads to increased early brain development.
Living in an increasingly multilingual global village, why would anyone willingly choose to stack the odds against themselves, in some misguided attempt to protect the French language? The acquisition, retention, and mastery of French (and the preservation of French as Quebec’s dominant language) simply aren’t dependent on whether or not you take a mere five months of intensive English in Grade 6. Doesn’t the insinuation that it would, ultimately insult francophone students and their intelligence? Montreal is packed with bilingual and trilingual allophone kids that navigate effortlessly from one language to another. Are they smarter than their French counterparts? Allow me to laugh.
And who, other than the usual culprits (Mario Beaulieu and the SSJB), are really against intensive English courses? Even the federation of francophone home-and-school associations applauded the measure, and a 2012 poll by the Fédération des comités de parents du Québec found parents were favourable to the intensive English program, because they felt – rightfully so -- that English fluency would be an advantage for their children on the job market.
Instead of demanding more of ourselves, instead of celebrating the French language, but at the same time having the good sense to acquire the tools that will allow our children to have unlimited possibilities and any border open to them (ask any French Quebecer how their monetary value as a bilingual Canadian jumps the minute they work in another province) we are allowing our government to willingly handicap our kids and limit their opportunities.
Living in an increasingly multilingual global village, why would anyone willingly choose to stack the odds against themselves, in some misguided attempt to protect the French language? -
There’s no harm in giving francophone children in Grade 6 the option to study English intensively, the same way, I believe (and has been recommended by the Conseil supérieur de la langue française) that students graduating from English CEGEPs should have to prove their proficiency in French in order to graduate. How can you possibly live, function and truly prosper and thrive in Quebec without being proficient in French? It’s a total waste!
Pauline Marois has stated that "public money should not be spent on anglicizing Quebecers,” but if the public is demanding this, why does she get to play benevolent dictator and decide for us? Ultimately, all that decisions like this manage to do is create a two-tiered education system where the haves (many of them in the government, I might add) send their children to fully bilingual private schools, and the have-nots have their learning opportunities limited. Where’s the fairness in that?
Journalist Edward R. Murrow once said: “Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions.” The same applies to empty actions. Removing intensive English is not a solution. It’s just a politically-motivated move that appeals to a few, while punishing the many.
We need to stop allowing politicians and special interest groups to monopolize the conversation and make decisions to our detriment, because the vast majority of francophone and anglophone citizens in Quebec are getting lost in the shuffle. They (and the best interests of their children) are being cast aside in the name of political opportunism and fanatical adhesion to anachronistic notions of self-preservation.
You’re not a “colonisé” if you encourage your child to learn English from a very young age, because you are smart enough to recognize its global power as the international language of business and finance.
You are not a “weak-willed” anglo (as a reader recently accused me of being) for understanding and acknowledging that French needs to be protected in this province, and as part of an overwhelmingly English Canada.
Quebec cannot deal with future challenges by constantly battening down the hatches and demanding less and less of itself and its children. While it’s sometimes true that less can be more, in this case it’s just less.