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February 14, 2013 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-02-14

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4A - Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4A - Thursday, February 14, 2013 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109


Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
4Adios, espaiol?
Michigan students need a globalized learning experience
tn a stunning blow to education and diversity, state Rep. Phil
Potvin introduced a bill that would remove foreign language
requirements in high schools earlier this month. Potvin argued
that Michigan's current curriculum standards, which began to include
world languages in graduation requirements in 2010, "forces kids into
frustration," which pushes students to drop out of high school. While
Potvin believes his bill will protect Michigan's students, in reality, his
proposal will do exactly the opposite. If Michigan legislators wish to
keep the state's students competitive in both college admissions and
the job market, they shouldn't pass Potvin's bill. Foreign language must
remain a top priority for educators and students in the state.

I think it just shows that while Americans
are united in their support for the Second
Amendment, it needs to go hand in hand
with keeping guns out of the hands
of dangerous individuals."
- Zach Pohl, executive director of Progress Michigan, said in response to a EPIC-MRA poll conducted last week.
The poll showed that a majority of Michiganders support ban on assault weapons and background checks.
Love it or leave it, it's V-Day
ike other stereotypes, the reflect my personal tastes. fool around with in the little spare
assumptions about women This year I've finally broken my time we have.
on Valentine's Day do reflect own constant dating cycle, and To be clear, it's not that I hold
morsels of the being on my own sounds refresh- any resentment for Valentine's Day
truth. Some- ing. I also know I'm not the only as a concept. Despite the flack this
where there's single lady who's throwing her holiday has gotten over the years -
a girl weeping hands up with the joy of glossing it's been called a capitalist scheme
into a pint of over Valentine's Day traditions. rigged by Hallmark, a day to cel-
New York Super When I asked an unattached friend ebrate heteronormative behavior
Fudge Chunk ( how she planned on celebratingthe and a day to make single people
as she watches day, she said she was going to treat feel like sneaker gum - I bet it's
Meg Ryan mov- EMILY herself, which would include buy- great for those who are turned on
les and wishes PITTINOS ing herself gifts and dinner wher- by the idea of classic romance.


Under the curriculum changes implement-
ed in 2010, Michigan students are required to
take at least two credits of a language other
than English inorder to graduate high school.
While this was a good step in ensuring global
education for Michigan's students, foreign
language classes should be implemented from
an even younger age - which many schools
already offer - and certainly not done away
with all together. Though researchers dis-
agree on the specific time when studying a
foreign language becomes more difficult,
most agree that before puberty is the best
time to learn a new language. The brain plas-
ticity theory argues that the younger the
brain, the more receptive it is to learning a
new language. These studies suggest that
foreign language studies would be more suc-
cessful at younger ages, ensuring that these
classes would no longer be a "frustration," as
Potvin contends.
Many colleges, public and private alike,
require a foreign language when a student
is applying., At the University, for example,
two years of high-school foreign language is
requited for consideration, while four years
are highly recommended by the Office of
Admissions. Often, high-school students don't
begin finalizing future plans until later in
their high-school career, when it's too late to
begin a four-year foreign language require-

ment for an application. By keeping, and even
expanding the foreign language requirement
in Michigan public schools, students would
be more prepared for college when the time
comes. Furthermore, for students who don't
plan on immediately 'entering higher educa-
tion, foreign language skills are critical in the
workforce. According to Euro London, a multi-
lingual recruitment agency, bilingual workers
can expect to earn 10 to 15 percent more than
English-only speakers. Whether it's the U.S.
government or international business, experi-
ence in multiple languages attracts countless
employers, throughout the world. Removing
this requirement in Michigan schools will not
protect Michigan students as Potvin argues;
rather, it will only make them less desirable to
both universities and employers.
The foreign language curriculum in Michi-
gan public schools should be reviewed to make
sure that the classes teach more than vocabu-
lary. Foreign language classes offer students
an opportunity to engage in cultures that don't
otherwise fit into the high school curriculum.
World language educators have an opportunity
to breakstereotypes, and explore identities that
Michigan students may not otherwise experi-
ence. Michigan's current language require-
ments can offer students exposure to different
cultures - and it would be ill-conceived to
remove that opportunity.

she were at
Sava's with the
strappingguy who will never notice
her. There's also a woman going
bananas over a heart-shaped box of
chocolates with a pair of diamond
earrings hidden inside. But the
Valentine's Day dog and pony show
isn't necessarily for everyone.
Asa recovering serial dater, I've
experienced a variety of these cel-
ebrations ranging from the nice to
the terrible. My most memorable
one was when I was 14 and my first
boyfriend pulled out all the stops. He
got me jewelry and chocolates, and
played his own arrangement of "All
the Things You Are" on his trom-
bone, but by the end of the day he
was crying while he rubbed my feet.
I don't remember what triggered his
breakdown - maybe it was the day's
pressure or his deep-seeded oddness
- but I do remember my toes were
wet with tears and that moment set
the tone for my future run-ins with
classic romance.
You could argue that this experi-
ence was a fluke, and if I were with
someone else then the schmaltz of it
all wouldn't have failed me. But that
wasn't the only Valentine's Day I've
had that ended with a cry instead of
a bang, and I've since learned that
the holiday's expectations don't

ever she wanted.
It's possible that people who
believe in the one-fits-all stereo-
types might think the day she
described sounds like a way to
cover up her tragic loneliness with
material goods and eaten feelings.
However, if you've met my friend,
you'd know that she's actually a
super sexy, independent catch who
- despite her mother's incessant
skepticism - has no interest in a
relationship, let alone being pam-
pered by a dude on Valentine's Day.
"I'm excited," she said while -
snacking on a box of crackers in
our kitchen. "I deserve it."
Another friend of mine said she's
also over the world of chocolate
and flowers, and even monoga-
mous sex. "I just want something
casual," she wrote via Facebook
Chat. "Nothing uber-romantic, that
would be soooo uncomfortable."
She's also not alone on this one.
It seems like a lot of women my
age, myself included, aren't only
disinterested with the connota-
tions of Feb. 14, but the involve- -
ment thatgoes along with the kind
of relationship that demands some-
thing special out of the day. When
it comes down to it, women like us
are too busy for commitment and
just want someone to hang out and

The Valentine's Day
dog and pony show
isn't necessarily
for everyone.

So, if you're currently in love and
jazzed about the Valentine's Day
you have planned, then that's swell.
If you got the reservations at the
fancy restaurant with the tinfoil
swans, and have 50 bucks' worth
of rose petals in the fridge and
the stars aligned with your period
so you can tear off your partner's
clothes and make sweet, clean love,
that's awesome. Go for it.
Just remember that if a girl is
skipping out on the Valentine's Day
hype, there's a detent chance that
it's her choice. She doesn't need to
be pitied or told it's just another day
on the calendar because you never
know - she might be reserving that
time for rewarding her daily hard
work with a shoppingspree and
some casual carnal activity.
- Emily Pittinos can be reached
at pittinos@umich.edu.


Parlez-vous Python?

Kaan Avdan, Sharik Bashir, Barry Belmont, Eli Cahan, Jesse Klein, Melanie Kruvelis, Maura Levine,
Patrick Maillet, Aarica Marsh, Megan McDonald, Jasmine McNenny, Harsha Nahata,
Adrienne Roberts, Paul Sherman, Sarah Skaluba, Michael Spaeth, Luchen Wang, Derek Wolfe
Kepi progressive

Foreign language requirements in public
schools are too restrictive. House Bill 5534,
currently in the Michigan legislature, would
do away with them entirely, shifting educa-
tion focuses to more vocational opportunities.
This legislation is misguided for a number
of reasons. Learning a foreign language has
been shown to have cognitive advantages,
and it exposes students to cultures and basic
college prerequisites. Not only should foreign
language requirements remain in Michigan,
but they should be expanded to include pro-
gramming languages.
Any definition of "language" is likely to
include points on translating signifiers into
signs into symbols (letters and words) that can
be arranged and rearranged by certain rules
(syntax and grammar) to communicate a mes-
sage. Languages are tools of communication.
Were they not adequate mediums of expression,
languages would have begun and ended in the
grunts of our ancestors, never having risen to'
their place amongthe chief accomplishments of
the human race. So engrained in our minds are
the effects of language that we have a hard time
picturing our lives without them - from speak-
ing to, writing, thinking to doing, languages
pervade nearly every aspect of everything we
do. This is entirely true of programming lan-
guages as well.
And yet there is reticence to expanding for-
eign language requirements to include com-
puter languages. Some contend that foreign
language requirements should only extend to
human languages spoken predominantly in
other countries. There are three main argu-
ments to this point: one, learning a language
that's spoken by a large portion of the popula-
tion opens up more possibilities; two, there's a
deeper and more meaningful "cultural" signifi-
cance conferred by spoken human languages;
and three, programming languages are con-
structed and are therefore more "artificial"
than other languages.
Let's consider these points in reverse order.
All human language is human-made and arbi-
trary distinctions made in favor of a preferred
language smack of warrantless elitism. Fur-
thermore, while history does bestow a certain
cultural inertia to many traditional languages,
to automatically dismiss the modes of thinking,
types of expression and social aspects of pro-
gramming misses a significant reason why we
should try to learn second languages. And final-
ly, there are millions of programmers across the
world whose words have global effects; after

all, the Internet is nothingshort of the collected
works of countless coding authors. Program-
ming languages matter.
Eventhe U.S.government agrees.Inhis State
of the Union address, President Barack Obama
reiterated a point that his administration has
stressed time and again: The country is in dire
need of computer scientists, technicians and
engineers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics pre-
dicts that there will be more than two-million
additional jobs requiring computer specializa-
tions by 2020. How will these demands be met
with such a dearth in supply? We need people
who can speak these languages. Without being
able to communicate with professionals in a
field - without understanding how computers,
servers and just about every electronic device
on the planet uses language to operate - there's
quite literally little to be said on the matter. We
simply cannot solve our problems if we don't
know how to convey them.
Beyond the real-world applicability of
learning a programming language as a second
language, there are pedagogical benefits. Pro-
gramming languages have fairly loin barriers to
entry in that one's thoughts can be translated
quite easily from one's primary language. This
easy translation is also coupled with instan-
taneous feedback (whether one's words, logic
and syntax are correct will be checked almost
immediately), removing' the temporal lag in
uncertainty and reducingthe problem of work-
ing bad habits into one's vocabulary. More-
over, creativity can flourish almost as quickly.
Though you may be able to talk about your trip
to the library and how nice the tables at the res-
taurant were after a semester of Spanish, after a
semester of nearly any programming language
a person is equipt to do everything from find-
ing the first million prime numbers to creating
a personal version of Tetris. The fact that com-
puter languages are also uniquely positioned
to take advantage of the recent trends in edu-
cation toward online learning and massively
distributed courses is one that shouldn't escape
educators and legislators alike.
Programming languages are languages.
Their importance is obvious and should be
translated to our nation's students. As our globe
becomes increasingly interconnected, we need
ways of transcending borders. The students of
today must be able to greet this reality in as
many ways as they can.
Barry Belmont is an
Engineering graduate student.

ike most students, I'm a bit
cynical when it comes to
student government. Year
after year we
vote to put our
peers into office,
never to hear
back from them
again. However,
with so many
resources at
their disposal, KEVIN
our elected MERSOL-
representatives BARG
can potentially
serve students
in a way no other student organi-
zation can. The Central Student
Government commands a budget of
more than $700,000 each year and
wields significant influence when
dealing with the University's top
Historically, it has played a criti-
cal role in everything from holding
University administrators account-
able to funding important programs.
According to a document submit-
ted to the Board of Regents, CSG
investigated University policies as
a community watchdog and in 1978
"spearheaded a student-led refer-
endum to bring (Student Legal Ser-
vices) to campus."And just last year,
CSG helped realize initiatives to
expand access to childcare subsidies
for students with children and install
more water-bottle refill stations
around campus. To achieve this, CSG
provided funds that incentivized
the University to act, which helped
resolve intractable talks between
students and administrators.
Next month, we have an oppor-
tunity to shape the future of CSG
and our University. CSG will hold
elections for offices such as student
body president and representatives.
I encourage prospective candidates
to embrace progressive issues in
their platforms and, if elected, act
on them.,

I call upon them to leave their
mark on the University - to
address issues of accessibility and
campus climate.
More than ever, students are
struggling to meet the cost of a
higher education. Accordingto the
Record Update, students' "tuition
bill ... has gone up an average of 5.56
percent in each of the last 10 years."
In other words: in-state, lower-divi-
sion LSA undergraduate students
in 2002 paid about $7,500 and now
pay nearly $13,000 per year. Tuition
increased dramatically more for
out-of-state students. Of course, stu-
dents must cut checks for more than
tuition - they have to pay for books,
housing and other sundries.
The cost of a university educa-
tion has long been prohibitive for
bright students in Michigan and
beyond. For those of us fortunate
enough to afford it, it poses a great
financial burden - in the form of
student loans - that will haunt us
for decades. CSG has the power to
lobby decision-makers and fund ini-
tiatives that can reduce this burden
to great effect.
And while the state of affirma-
tive action in Michigan remains
in flux, the University needs all
hands on deck to recruit and retain
students from minority communi-
ties. First generation students,
low-income students and students
of color enhance diversity on cam-
pus. Greater diversity on campus
assures greater diversity in other
areas of society, exposing and
sensitizing more people to others
with different identities and experi-
ences. The University plays a key
role in transforming our world for
the better, and, as part of the Uni-
versity, CSG can do this too.
More than just concerns of
accessibility weigh heavy on the
minds of many students on cam-
pus. Another widely held concern
looms: How can we, as a University

community, confront bias incidents
and create a healthy campus cli-
mate? Incidents arise all too often,
such the torn down flyers in Haven
Hall last October. As a nexus of
communities on campus, CSG is
uniquely positioned to provide
a forum for students to dialogue
about bias incidents,.exploring the
underlying issues while creating
safe spaces for minority students.
Student leaders must
go beyond small
projects and promote
ambitious vision.
As a former candidate for student
body president and a student gov-
ernment veteran, I ask this year's
candidates to heed my advice. Look
beyond small tangible projects and
promote an ambitious vision for
what campus life could look like five
or ten years from now. Rather than
campaign on 'making student gov-
ernment relevant,' promote solutions
that are more relevant to students.
Gauging student input is important,
yes, but you should confront issues
proactively because we've already
identified some large ones and
they're becoming worse with time.
As a concerned student, I intend
to support candidates who cham-
pion progressive causes. Of course,
this requires that progressive can-
didates join the race. When eyeing
a run for elective office, consider
ways to tackle social inequities
at the University. Break the mold
traditionally cast for student gov-
ernment. Dare to envision a pro-
gressive future and act on it.
- Kevin Mersol-Barg can be
reached at kmersolbumich.edu.

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