The importance of language

By Lily Rusk, Clarion Editor in Chief

For the second year in a row, there will be no AP French option at Kennedy. 

This decision to not have an AP French this year will dramatically impact the French department. As of June 3 it is unclear if Marie Duperron, a French 1 and 2 teacher, will remain at Kennedy. Duperron said she has not received an official class schedule. According to the only other French teacher Joan Taylor, even if Duperron is able to stay she will most likely have one French 1 class leaving the remainder of the French classes to Taylor which will make it difficult to ever get AP French back in the future. 

In contrast, another Spanish teacher is being hired, with Spanish currently being the only language with an AP option. This means that while one program is growing others are degrading. While it is good the Spanish department is getting support, other programs should also be getting support. To ensure Kennedy is at its full potential it needs to have diversity, and to do that the administration needs to push for it. 

The French textbooks are so old, they refer to the currency as Francs, which haven’t been used in about 20 years. Taylor has been fighting for her students to be able to reach their full potential by developing a complete understanding of the language. 

According to Taylor, “It is astonishing that our Kennedy students arrive and score 5 just like the private schools … and for the administration to rob our students seems to me that the administration does not understand or trust the intellectual discipline and potential of our student body.”

An option she was offered was to teach a French 3 and AP French class together with over 40 students, which would leave all students in the class with an inadequate education. This option shows that the administration is being negligent concerning the effects that the language department has on the campus. 

Taking French, especially at Kennedy, is an invaluable experience. It is an equitable program in that everyone starts at the same level. It is a difficult class, but by succeeding in it, students will not only excel at the French language but will be able to apply what they’ve learned to all other aspects of their education, formally and informally. 

Due to the French department’s highly planned yet unconventional teaching style, the class feels more like a community and less like a place merely to obtain credits and leave. 

Junior Amhad Lalagul says, “Even though they [assign] lots of work, they bring spirit to the class every day. It has improved my other subjects… because I always look forward to going to my French class which prompts me to do better in [other clases].” 

Junior Rachel Nichols says,  “French has been incredibly helpful. Specifically in my English class because when you learn another language, at least the way we’re being taught in French, you learn the grammar, and are able to translate that grammar … you have to first understand it on your own, and Madame Taylor holds this understanding in great importance in our education in French.”

Currently, there is not a big push to take four years of any language at Kennedy. Taking a language freshman year used to be a requirement. Now, to graduate, a student is able to start junior year. For some reason, language is not valued as highly as other subjects. Compared to math, which also has a two-year requirement, there is no doubt that math is valued as higher than a foreign language. 

The reason to take a language is to learn about both a culture and language fully in many aspects, and to do that, it is necessary to take AP French, which is not just something to learn to pass a test, but a culmination of all of the information and a fluency which allows one to retain and use that language for the rest of their life. A lot of people including myself thought there would be an AP French option when I signed up in 8th grade. Without that option, which all freshmen were told was a possibility, I would not have taken French. 

Nicholes reflected, “I want to take AP French because my freshman year a large part of why I signed up for French was because I wanted to eventually be able to take the AP class and after all the effort I’ve put in over the past three years it feels like a very large let down that the school is trying to get rid of it altogether.” 

Brianna Mar, a junior, said “Madame Taylor and Madame Duperron have built this program from rock bottom all the way up, and they deserve to have the classes they want and can provide. It’s heartbreaking to hear the loss of such a huge thing that they have built together over their years of teaching at Kennedy. I feel like over the past 2 years that Madame Taylor has been my teacher, I have progressively gotten closer to her, and even though the class is small this year, I think it makes it all that better because you get to know each other well and get more one-on-one teaching. The energy that Madame Taylor brings to us is beyond what I have, but it gives me the energy I need to have and to be present in class. She is very motivational and truly believes in her students more than society typically does teenagers, and she is willing to go so far for those who truly want it.”

In general perspective students who care about their education look at what kind of programs are being offered, and with programs being rapidly cut from Kennedy’s curriculum, it could threaten future enrollment in Kennedy, particularly among academically minded students who want to succeed. Part of the problem is a lack of funding which is due to the decreased enrollment at Kennedy. More programs being cut will only exacerbate this problem.  

The administration does not seem to be addressing the root of what is in the best interest of students, but rather the quickest way to push students through school with as minimal effort as possible. At a glance, cutting one French class because not a lot of students have signed up seems like something that can be easily passed over. However, a big part of this problem is a lack of awareness of what is happening as a whole in education. When asked how many world language AP classes Kennedy has, Reginald Brown, the Kennedy Principal, responded with three, but upon further questioning realized next year there will only be one AP language class. 

When schools become more focused on checking boxes than educating students we lose the value of having an education. Kennedy needs to recognize this fact and start fighting for programs that are integral to students’ growth. With Covid, things feel more divided than ever, and Kennedy can feel like less of a community where kids have the chance to grow and learn and more like an arrangement of classes that function as a sort of child care for minors until they are able to join the workforce. That is why it is so important to have classes like those in the French department which help with all aspects of education and make Kennedy an important community building for students as opposed to just a place students have to be in. 

Programs are disappearing from Kennedy rapidly. This limits the variety of options students have when they come to Kennedy. When incoming freshmen choose what high school to go to, they considered the classes they wanted to take over the next four years.  It is a huge disappointment to Kennedy’s French students that AP French is not being offered, and it is a disservice to the school and the dedicated faculty that have built this excellent program. French is spoken around the world and is considered the international language of diplomacy.  It is a vital and fulfilling aspect of our education and the administration should work with the French department to allow this program to flourish.

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