Maybe we should teach them to find Japan on a map first

According to this:

California students would be required to master a second language before graduating from high school under a bill introduced Thursday in the state Legislature.

The bill is part of an ambitious proposal to restructure California's education bureaucracy, and set rigorous academic goals for students and higher standards for teachers.

Written by Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose, the second language bill includes the 20-year goal of graduating students speak more than one language fluently.

"They do it in Europe. They do it in Asia. [Yeah, they do it in Canada too/ils le faisent en Canada aussi. I don't know whether they do it in the Balkans or not --ed.] I don't know why we can't do it,'' said Sen. Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach. "The more languages you learn, the more powerful you become.''

That leaves out a couple paragraphs, found at the end of this:

There are a handful of dual language immersion schools in California that do produce students who speak a second language, said Sen. Dede Alpert, D-Coronado.

Expanding that to a statewide mandate "is something we would roll out gradually," she said.

I couldn't find this exact bill online, but perhaps it's derived from this one, which was introduced last year:

...(a) Learning a second language enhances a pupil's academic skills
by increasing reading, writing, and mathematics abilities, thereby
improving scores on verbal and nonverbal performance tests.
(b) Requiring all pupils to learn a second language helps pupils
from different backgrounds to interact with each other
and build self-esteem...
(e) To be most effective in today's global society, a person must have a knowledge of other cultures and the ability to interact with people from different cultures in both California and throughout the
(f) More than 70 federal agencies and numerous state agencies
desire to hire persons who are fluent in languages other than
, and shortages in bilingual personnel have adversely affected
national and state operations and security.

Let me begin with what I think this is: just a cheap, cynical way to establish Spanish as a de facto second language in California.

In any case, perhaps we should concentrate on the basics first. If they want to go on to the Defense Language Institute later and help our national security, let them. But, if they can't even locate Japan on a map, a second language isn't going to do them much good.

I'm not familiar with John Vasconcellos, the bill's sponsor. However, a look at his biography is a bit "interesting." He's described as:

'the Johnny Appleseed of Self Esteem'...

[his commitments are] ...redesigning society to encourage development of healthy, self-realizing, responsible human beings;
developing a new human politics based on belief we human beings are innately inclined toward becoming life-affirming, constructive, responsible, trustworthy;

[and he invites you]

To enlist as a partner in moving all Californians, individually and altogether - TOWARD A NEW HUMAN POLITICS,

Even Doonsebury made fun of his self-esteem preoccupation, so you know there's a problem. The links on this page look "interesting" as well.

He also sent a gushing fan letter to Sean Penn thanking him for his opposition to the war in Iraq. And, he appears to have filed an amicus brief concerning Bakke together with a list of questionable organizations, including Mecha.

UPDATE: Vasconcellos isn't just a self-esteem nut, he's also not opposed to ceding California to Mexico.