Language Learning

AAAS's Commission on Language Learning

American Academy of Arts and Sciences’
Commission on Language Learning

America's Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century, 2017

From 2016 to 2017, Edwards served on the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on Language Learning. In response to a bipartisan request from members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, the Academy created a national commission to examine the current state of language education, to project what the nation’s education needs will be in the future, and to offer recommendations for ways to meet those needs.

The Commission’s final report, America’s Languages: Investing in Language Learning for the 21st Century, offers concrete recommendations to improve access to as many languages as possible, for people of every age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background.

To Make the World a Better Place, Teach Arabic

To Make the World a Better Place, Teach Arabic

The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2015

Seventy-four years ago, Henry Luce published “The American Century,” an essay that argued that American culture would play a starring role in creating a global environment in which the United States could thrive. Chief among his examples was American language itself; not just English, but an American-inflected argot that would be carried around the world via music, movies, comics, and popular culture. This was for Luce the sign of an internationalism that Americans themselves hadn’t yet acknowledged.

Today few would doubt that the reach and power of American culture is global, nor that the country is an international power. Colleges take a significantly different approach to teaching about the world than they did in 1941, and American studies has sought to be more global in its outlook. More foreign languages are taught than in Luce’s time, and study abroad has become a rite of passage for many students.

Yet a creeping monolingualism is overtaking higher education, despite the efforts of so many in the trenches. The signs are everywhere...

Teach Arabic in Public Schools

Teach Arabic in Public Schools

Chicago Tribune, 2015

A student at Pine Bush High School in upstate New York recently recited the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic to help celebrate National Foreign Language Week. By the end of the day she had been verbally harassed, the class president who had invited her had been punished and the school was in an uproar.

This is perhaps an isolated case (though a similar controversy took place in 2013 in Colorado). But it indexes two disturbing trends that overlap when it comes to anxieties about Arabic language. ...

Generation Z

The Fractured Generation Takes Shape

The Fractured Generation Takes Shape

The Hill, 2020

For a crisis that many Americans are experiencing through Zoom, Twitter, and Tiger King, decidedly 21st-century phenomena, there have been a lot of comparisons to World War II.

The United Nations secretary-general António Guterres likened the coronavirus pandemic to the war; surgeon general Jerome Adams referred to our “Pearl Harbor moment.” When Queen Elizabeth gave a rare television address from Buckingham Palace, many recalled King George VI’s famous 1939 radio speech.

Plenty have objected: a virus is not an antagonist with whom you can negotiate peace. Some hear a hint of xenophobia.

But as a college dean, an American studies scholar, and a parent of four children aged 20 to 8, I hear something profound in the juxtaposition. ...

Global Education for Generation Z

Global Education for Generation Z

International Education at the Crossroads, 2020

In the spring of 2018, I was in Madrid. I walked over to El Retiro Park, one of my favorite places in the city, but I found the gate locked. A simple announcement was posted: "Debido a las consecuencias de las condiciones meteorológicas y la urgencia de reparación e inspección del arbolado los jardines del Buen Retiro permanecerán cerrados." My disappointment was intense and immediate.

To my side stood two college-aged students, speaking in US-accented English. One aimed an iPhone at the sign. Curious, I glanced over at the screen. Everything looked as I saw it, except that the announcement...

The Future of Liberal Arts Education

The Job Season Without In-Person Interviews

The Job Season Without In-Person Interviews

The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2020

On the first day of September, I welcomed a new member of my team in the dean’s office via Zoom. I was on the campus, but our new hire—let’s call her C., so as not to put her on the spot—was still more than 1,000 miles away.

C. had asked to start work remotely for three weeks so she could have time to pack up, find a place to live, and move, all of which would take more time than usual given the restrictions of pandemic life. Just that morning, she had closed on a new house. Had she come to New Orleans to look at our housing market? No, she replied, a realtor had showed her houses via FaceTime. “I’m committed!” she said.

The entire job search had been done during the pandemic. We had screened applicants, gone through three rounds of interviews, and recruited our candidate of choice—all without shaking a hand, being in the same room, or hosting finalists. ...