LLAS News Blog

News articles of interest to higher education LLAS subject fields.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Why ex-Harvard head Larry Summers is wrong to say students don't need foreign languages

Larry Summers Is Wrong About Languages
March 6, 2012 - 3:00am
Soon after 9/11, Mike Wallace, then still the most hard-hitting reporter for “60 Minutes,” sat down with several of the heads of the intelligence community to discuss how the worst terrorist attack in United States history could have happened. At the end of the interview, he asked each of the five or six section heads: “So, tell me, how’s your Arabic?”
Not surprisingly, not one of the section heads spoke Arabic although several had some Russian and one offered that he knew some Vietnamese. The story is worth remembering not because of the embarrassment it caused the interviewed section heads but because their helplessness was the result of a similarly misguided policy of linguistic ignorance as the one advocated by Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University and former secretary of the Treasury.

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