Big debate this morning over foreign languages in the pages of the New York Times. This time, it’s the economist Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard from 2001 and 2006, who’s sparked the polemic. This is the same Mr. Summers who became famous in 2005 for declaring that the reason women are under-represented in engineering and in science is because of a “different availability of aptitude at the high end.”
This time, Summers is applying a simplistic analysis to language. In an article titled “What You (Really) Need to Know,” Summers coughs up a number of common place ideas about the future of education. In his fifth point, he argues that learning and speaking a foreign tongue is no longer worth the investment. Why? Because English will do the job.
The diverging opinions are worth reading, all the more so since evidently not all Americans share Mr. Summers’s point of view.
What do you think?