Mandarin Chinese Now Mandatory in U.S. Kindergartens

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Bibb County sits smack-dab in the center of Georgia, and 150 years ago it was at the very center of the Confederacy. Its foundries supplied weapons and ammunition to the rebel army, and no county supplied a larger percentage of its men to the cause. Toward the end of the Civil War, the only local men not carrying a musket for the South were elderly, blind or disabled.

Times are still tough in Bibb County. Some 20 percent of the residents live below the poverty line, and its public schools are among the lowest performing in the state. About half the kids don’t graduate from high school.

But the county has just embarked on a bold plan to have all its children fully bilingual — in English and Mandarin — by the time they graduate from high school. In recent weeks, children from pre-kindergarten through third grade began mandatory Mandarin classes, part of a curriculum that in three years will include middle school and high school students.

“Students who are in elementary school today, by 2050 they’ll be at the pinnacle of their career,” the school superintendent Romain Dallemand said in an interview that aired Saturday on NPR. “They will live in a world where China and India will have 50 percent of the world GDP. They will live in a world where, if they cannot function successfully in the Asian culture, they will pay a heavy price.”

The new curriculum has had some pushback, to say the least, and the word communism has often been raised. Jane Drennan, a deputy superintendent, told a TV station in Macon, the county seat, that she and other school officials had heard from many parents who said, “I don’t want my kid learning Chinese.”

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