A colleague and I recently gave a presentation to other language teachers about the International Baccalaureate guide to Language B. In the IB program, Language B is any language not native to the learner. Although our presentation was on more mundane parts of the guide, I was struck must be the opening page, on which can be found the following statements.
"The principal rationale for learning additional languages is to further intercultural awareness and international-mindedness, both central to IB's mission through:
+ the acquisition of the language of a culture, and
+ the possibilities to reflect upon and explore cultural perspectives."
"The ability to communicate in a variety of modes in more than one language is essential to the concept of an international education that promotes intercultural understanding."
"In all IB programs, the role of language is valued as central to developing critical thinking, which is essential for the cultivation of intercultural awareness, international-mindedness and global citizenship."
"Learning a language B...equips students with the necessary multi literacy skills and attitudes to be interculturally competent, enabling them to communicate successfully in the global contexts of the 21st century."
"The study of an additional language provides students with the opportunity to:
+ develop insights into the features, processes, and craft of language and the concept of culture
+ realize there are diverse ways of living, behaving and viewing the world.
"The MYP [Middle Years Program] language B course aims to encourage students to:
+ develop a respect for, and understanding of, diverse linguistic and cultural heritages."
From the boldface that I have added to the IB guide, you can probably guess where this is going. I agree that an appreciation for diverse cultures is a part of learning a language. What I question is the insistence that this be the primary aim. Language can certainly provide windows into understanding a culture, and understanding of a culture can facilitate deeper language comprehension as well. What is missing in the IB view, however, is the function of language in uncovering and communicating truth. Sadly, this is likely intentional.
I hate it that the word "gay" has been hijacked to describe sodomy. I hate it that ideas of free thinking, open mindedness, and liberal study have come to mean a narrow subset of what they once denoted. As wonderful as all those things are, we must admit that in current parlance, these are indicative of a particular worldview that encourages license, embraces sin, and denounces any position with the temerity to say otherwise.
So it is with the language of this IB document. We should indeed understand and appreciate various cultures, but we must also be able and willing to praise one and denounce another when the truth of a matter calls us to do so. It does not take much reading between the lines to see that this is not IB's purpose, or if it is, that such words can be easily twisted in the current age to legitimize a blanket acceptance of all views except those rooted in truth.