If you know anything about France, you’ll know how strict the French can be about their language. Which is why a new proposal by French president Emmanuel Macron is causing some shaking heads.
The French government has proposed a new initiative that would require French state schools to offer Arabic lessons, something that, up until this point, has been the sole responsibility and domain of private and often religious Arabic schools. In a country with millions of Arabic speakers, this seems a little late coming, but the justification is a little more complex than just making up for lost time. France’s Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has argued that isolating Arabic students in religious schools makes them an easy target for ISIS recruiters trying to stir up dissidence amongst young French Muslims. By creating simultaneously a language bubble and a religious bubble, Blanquer considers private Arabic schools to follow a “drift towards self-ghettoization.”
Many on the right are making the traditional arguments about “protecting the French language” and “submitting to terror,” but this could be a real tool in integrating immigrants and the children of immigrants into French society. Because even if students are reading in different languages, for the first time they’ll at least be on the same page.