Learning foreign languages enriches US culture

In response to your Oct. 29 article "A retreat from foreign languages": As a college Spanish instructor I've dealt with these issues for years, and it is distressing to see how foreign language acquisition is minimized and practically phased out in so many different educational settings in this country.

In just about every other nation on earth, the idea that second language acquisition is a superfluous or unnecessary component of the educational system would be viewed as patently ridiculous. Elsewhere, children begin learning a third or fourth language (English being a second) in grade school.

It is an undeniable factor in the unfortunate stereotype of American arrogance that English is the lingua franca (which will inevitably breed some resentment in non-English speakers), and also that Americans seem so distressingly unconcerned with the learning of any second language at all.

It would bring me no end of sadness to contemplate a nation in which the learning of a second language is an activity which is seen as worthwhile only for intelligence personnel and spies. It would suggest that Americans are interested in other peoples' cultures and ideas only insofar as we need to defend ourselves from them. It would be, without a doubt, the height of arrogance.
David Flores

Russia and Chechnya wrestle on thin ice

In response to your Oct. 28 editorial "Putin's preemption": I agree that neither Russia nor the rest of the world should accept without question the Russian government's way of dealing with the hostage situation.

However, your statement that "most Chechens probably don't support terrorism" is a weak assertion when arguing President Putin should grant Chechen independence or autonomy, a step that would accelerate the political, economic, and social fragmentation of his country. In Russia, these structures are perilously close to collapse. Should their current desperate balancing act fail, millions of lives would undoubtedly be destroyed.
Charles Ferguson
Sydney, Australia

Military might cannot defeat terrorism

Regarding "Staying ahead of the rising tide of terror" (Oct. 29, Opinion): Ronald Kraybill adds a welcome breath of insight to a subject too often sensationalized. Ideologies can be addressed and, in time, refuted. But the desire to try to improve one's lot in life is unchallengeable.

Humans have always responded positively to more democracy and negatively to less. We have always striven to make a better deal for ourselves and our family; nations helped in that struggle for centuries, but the governments that run them have regressed to pursuing their own interests. All the military might on the planet will not stop terrorism.
Daryl L. Bell-Greenstreet
Lakeside, Calif.

Student preparedness is vital

In response to your Oct. 1 article "New models for higher education": The points raised regarding academic relevance and student preparedness for the world of work resound profoundly for us here at the Metropolitan School of New York. In fact, we are among the colleges cited in the Great Expectations Report. The relevance for our many adult learners never has been in question.

We are in agreement that experiential and applied models of learning need to be far more pervasive in today's environment. We applaud the Monitor for highlighting the initiatives that have been put forth by those cited in the report. Further, we invite partnerships with other institutions to spread this methodology to the benefit of all.
Stephen R. Greenwald
New York
President, Metropolitan College of New York

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