Foreign Policy Magazine has an article “The FP Top Global Thinkers” for 2012 (here). There is not one educator on their list of "100 Top Global Thinkers" that I could see. So, not paying much attention to education, especially public education, they missed an important one: the State of Utah is in the process of adding one-hundred foreign language immersion programs. They are adding Spanish, Mandarin, French, Japanese, German and Brazilian Portuguese immersion programs all across Utah. This is the significant breakthrough in public education towards creating truly bilingual students. It will generate imitators. It is a historic change and could set an example for many more states to follow, one hopes, and of a shift in how the US relates to the rest of the world. No other state has done this. And I can attest to how politically hard it is, and not yet accomplished, in Oregon.
I do not know Utah politics well, so I could be wrong on who deserves credit for this accomplishment (and, as is usual in politics, it takes many players to accomplish anything), but I would put forth State Senator Howard Stephenson to represent what Utah has accomplished. Senator Stephenson should be on Foreign Policy Magazine’s “Top Global Thinkers” list for 2012.
Just this March, for example, there was a delay in funding the immersion build out. Senator Stephenson advocated for funding. From the Daily Herald article “Legislative budget drops funding for dual immersion program” by Billy Hesterman and Caleb Warnock (here):
"A thousand first-grade students will be denied a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in Utah's dual immersion program and lose the great opportunity of a bilingual education," Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, chairman of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a released statement. "It saddens me that one of the priorities of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee was not prioritized by the Executive Appropriations Committee. Dual immersion needs a minimum of $800,000 or it is going to face cancellations."
The dual immersion programs were ultimately funded.
Utah and Senator Stephenson are on my list for 2012 and they should be on Foreign Policy Magazine's list as well.
Watch a video on the Utah program that includes Senator Stephenson here.