Boston Globe article "As China's power grows, so do Chinese programs in public schools" by Adam Gorlick:
EASTHAMPTON, Mass. --In Alaska, students are calling their teacher "lao shi." In Illinois, they're learning that one plus one equals "er." And in western Massachusetts, kindergarten students who can sing their ABCs will soon start honing Mandarin accents.
Chinese, it seems, is becoming the new Latin in public schools.
At least 27 states offer Chinese language classes in either elementary, middle or high schools. And according to the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington D.C., there are 12 public and private immersion schools across the country where most subjects are taught exclusively in Mandarin Chinese.
"It's about jobs and a world economy," said Richard Alcorn, who spearheaded the first Chinese immersion charter school in Massachusetts with his wife, Kathleen Wang. "There are unbelievable opportunities to do business in China, so there's a need for Americans to learn the language so we're not left out."