The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 11, 2005


Carlisle Public School explores road to China

Fourth-grade students at the Carlisle Public School prepared opera masks as part of an integrated curriculum unit on Ancient China. (Photo by Anne Marie Brako)
The number of attendees at the New Year celebration last weekend reflects the growing size of the Chinese community in Carlisle, as well as an increased interest in China as a country, spearheaded by the new Carlisle Public School Superintendent Marie Doyle. The superintendent, formerly from Newton, saw her school community there grow from a few students from China to 12% of the school population. Nonetheless, there are people in Carlisle who have concerns about dealing with China, perceived as an oppressive nation with civil rights violations and severe restrictions on free speech. Some refuse to purchase goods from China, a very difficult prospect in today's economic environment. There is a concern that the happy presentation of China ignores grim political realities.

"I think it's extremely important," says Doyle about presenting a balanced view of China. She references courses at the middle school level that deal with history and civilization. "In any culture that we study, we all have our atrocities. We need to understand so we don't repeat those mistakes." Furthermore, she feels that in a true partnership with the U.S., China cannot help but change. "The Chinese are exploring opening up their doors. You see far more democratic ways. You see more people owning their own businesses." She continues, "You still have the old way of operating under a communist government, but as more people are finding success, ways are changing. When we visit old friends in China, there are still politeness and ways to talk about things that are communist. They do not like to talk about the cultural revolution. You see a dichotomy in the way the country operates and the way things are going. When you visit the cities, you see that happening, and it's exciting."

Doyle would like to see Chinese added as a new language at the Carlisle Public School. At present, middle school students have a choice of Spanish or French. Doyle would like to see Chinese added to curriculum, "I highly support bringing Chinese to the elementary school. I think many of our students can be speaking by the time they get to the high school." The high school currently offers Chinese as a world language, and enrolls about 60 in the program that extends across grades 9-12. Twenty-four students are from Carlisle. The high school also offers four years of language study in Spanish, French and Latin.

"Next month I'm going to do a presentation called 'Eyes on the Future' that will talk about my vision for education but also budget implications," says Doyle. It includes plans to bring in Chinese as well as engineering programs. "It's going to start with a community discussion, where we talk about if this is a shared vision for our community. And, if this is a shared vision, how do we go about funding this? There are always budget implications. Some people suggest offering both Spanish and Chinese, but it always gets more expensive the more programs that you offer. So I think that's a dialogue that we'll have."

The school plans to survey parents on language interests for middle school students. The questionnaire will also look into offering foreign language as an elementary program. Doyle says, "We'll have a sense whether we're going to have a split or if we're going to have to choose one language."

"The reason that I promote Chinese is that they are going to be a leader in the world economy," says Doyle. "Both China and India are predicted to be economic equals with the U.S. in 2020. In India, they speak English. In China, every student is studying English. Given that they will be dealing with Chinese businesses, it will be very important for our students to know the culture as well as the language. The Chinese are truly appreciative when Americans try to know their language."

Beyond the business world, there are benefits to knowing a romance language. Doyle acknowledges the value in learning French and Spanish. However, she believes knowing Chinese can give Carlisle students an edge.

"Most systems offer Spanish and French, and you have very few systems that offer Chinese. If we are going to be forward-thinking, one of the high-functioning districts, we do need to commit to this. I don't think less of the other languages; I think they are equally important; it's just that if we take a look at all schools, very few are offering Chinese."

If Doyle succeeds in conveying her vision to the community, Carlisle students will take a leadership position in the community, the school district, the state, and beyond.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito