Richard Brecht, Harvard University Ph.D. brings with him five decades of leadership in language research and policy on behalf of education, government, heritage communities, private business and NGOs. He has been a founder and leader of more than a dozen national language organizations and projects, including ACTR, ACIE, NFLC, NCOLCTL, CASL, and ARC. He has convened major public discussions on language in the United States that have galvanized collaboration across education, industry, government, heritage communities and foreign partners. Dr. Brecht has testified in Congress before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, and the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Currently, Dr. Brecht is co-founder of Global Professional Search LLC, the goal of which is to facilitate employment for language students. He has recently authored one of the white papers for the AAAS Commission on Language education: “America’s Languages: Promise and Challenges.”
Leadership and the Language Profession
ABSTRACT: Support for language education is all around us: the American Academy of Arts & Sciences national Commission on Language Education; states taking action on the Seal of Biliteracy and “credit for competence”; businesses demanding “global talent”; Hill members again openly concerned about language. Yet, enrollments seem not to be responding.
Commissions can recommend, foundations and government may fund, industry will support, but who is to lead? Who else but the language profession itself? We must strengthen our organizations and they must mobilize this new energy towards one goal: to make language education in this country available to all. And our organizations must do it together, in a manner that is cohesive, comprehensive and collaborative.
Now is the time for the profession to position itself to respond to the recommendations of the AAAS commission and to take the lead in proactive implementation. First, the mindset has to be one of responsibility and accountability: we are not waiting for others to lead. Second, each language organization should look to build or strengthen its structure and functions, to make sure that its constituencies (teachers and students) are receiving the full range of services they deserve and that their members are motivated to act, optimistically. Third, organizations should conceive of themselves as part of a whole, the language profession, not “commonly” vs. “less commonly,” or K-12 vs. higher education, or any such like. Fourth, the language education sector should reach out to government, industry, NGO and heritage communities in a common effort: the “Language Enterprise.” Finally, and perhaps most importantly, organizations should nurture new generations of leaders, as any successful effort to make language an integral part of every child’s education in the US will take years of focused and unrelenting effort.
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