Chicago itself is home to the largest effort to include Chinese in US public schools. The program here has grown to include 3,000 students in 20 schools, with more schools on a waiting list. Programs have also spread to places like Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, and North Carolina.
Proponents see knowledge of the Chinese language and culture as a leg up in a global economy where China is growing in importance. “This is beginning to bubble up as, ‘This is an interesting way to begin to engage with the world’s next superpower,’ ” says Michael Levine, director of education at the Asia Society, which has started five new public high schools that offer Chinese. “Globalization has already changed the arrangements in terms of how children today are going to need to think about their careers…. The question is when, not whether, the schools are going to adjust.”