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Our View: Thumbs up to language learning

Published: Saturday, July 6, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Thumbs up: To teaching local children about Chinese language and culture. On Tuesday, 30 students ages 8 to 11, marked their completion of a two-week Chinese Summer Immersion Program hosted by Startalk, the Consortium of Illinois Language Schools and DeKalb School District 428. Although foreign tongues such as Spanish and French are more commonly taught in schools, China is a world power whose trade and other relationships with the United States will make its language and customs more relevant to Americans in the decades ahead.

Thumbs down: To more missed pension deadlines. Not that anyone should be surprised, but Gov. Pat Quinn’s latest deadline for action on Illinois’ $97 billion pension crisis likely will go unmet by members of the Legislature. The chairman of a legislative committee working toward compromise on the issue has said his group won’t be ready to meet the Tuesday deadline set by Quinn for reaching consensus on the matter. A special legislative session is scheduled for Tuesday, at which time legislators are more likely to overturn Quinn’s veto of concealed-carry legislation than to pass any pension reform. But that reform is what our state desperately needs.

Thumbs up: To the organizers of Displace Me, a mock refugee camp planned for Aug. 11-12 in Genoa. The program is designed to show teenagers how refugees of persecution, war and natural disasters live and to teach team-building and leadership. Participants are asked to bring cardboard boxes, sleeping bags, blankets and flashlights, but to leave their food and other electronics at home. Crackers and protein packs may be distributed at the event, which is planned by church representatives in Genoa, Kingston and Kirkland. This unusual event will likely help teens empathize with those less fortunate than themselves and may spark their curiosity about foreign affairs.

Thumbs down: To unfunded mandates from Springfield. The Legislature has decided that high school juniors in Illinois once again will be tested on their writing skills. However, the cost to administer such tests is estimated at $2.5 million, and no money was appropriated for the purpose. So even in a year when lawmakers triumphantly tell us they haven’t cut education funding – a sad sign of what passes for a “win” for Illinois schools these days – they are putting added financial obligations on schools without paying for them.

Although we agree that writing skills are important, so too are local school budgets. Legislators should either appropriate the money for the tests or abandon the requirement until the funds are there.

Thumbs up: To the many ways area residents celebrated our nation’s independence. From fireworks and festivals to parades and tractor pulls, there certainly was a wide variety of events to mark the Fourth of July. And the fun’s not over yet. Kirkland’s festival continues today with fireworks tonight. There also will be fireworks tonight at the Sycamore Speedway and at the Sandwich Fairgrounds on Sunday night. Happy Independence Day!

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