By Jodi Yim James, Staff Writer
“Every school in Minnesota would love to have a Chinese language program.”
Ursula Lentz, Minnesota Department of Education
Ursula Lentz is the new World Language expert at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). When I spoke with her, she had been on the job for all of three days.
Previously, Jan Kittok was the World Languages Coordinator for MDE; Kittok is now the World Languages Administrator for all of Minneapolis Public Schools. She was featured in an earlier interview for China Insight.
Last month, we continued our coverage of the Minnesota Mandarin Language Initiative. In Part 1 of our series, we looked at how Governor Tim Pawlenty, on a 2005 trade delegation to China, saw Chinese children learning English – in spades. The governor returned to Minnesota with the question: Why aren’t Minnesota children learning Chinese? - addressed to Education Commissioner Alice Seagren.
In Part 2 of our series, we noted that the following year, in 2006, Commissioner Seagren led her own education delegation to China, to begin to address this question. From these two delegations, the Minnesota Mandarin Language Initiative was born. This initiative has set Minnesota apart, ahead of the pack so to speak, with regard to Mandarin language education in the United States.
If we set the clock back to the beginning of this millennium, about the year 2000, and then fast forward ten years, we can see the enormous changes in Minnesota that came about due to this initiative, including a whopping 586% increase in Mandarin language enrollment.