More Egg Throwing in the Air

22.11.2011 | kyivweekly.com.ua

Education minister calls for bilingual civil servants

It seems Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk cannot get enough of flowers, eggs, tomatoes and student protesters. Last month a female student was in hot water for allegedly throwing flowers she was to present to the minister. Tabachnyks latest statement about language requirements for civil servants is bound to provoke a new round of egg-throwing. In a magazine interview, he called for a new language law where state officials must have fluency in Russian as well as Ukrainian. His ideas about bilingualism already exist informally - a point that seems to be lost on him. Since taking office, the education minister has been dismantling Ukrainian language learning and rewriting history that does not support his policies, invoking the ire of students, Ukrainian cultural groups and ordinary citizens of all language varieties. Language is a symbol of statehood for every country of the world. The language issue is a hot potato issue in Ukraine much like the French language debates in Canada or Catalan issues in Spain as it is intimately tied with political independence. Tabachnyk has been known throughout his career to make inflammatory remarks about language and culture, seemingly reveling in his power to annoy the public from his state chair. However, the ministers interview left a confusing message, first labeling the rise of Russian to state language as a human rights issue, then lecturing the public on illiteracy, arguing that people should learn 3 or 4 languages, then winding up by saying that the standard of Ukrainian language knowledge should rise with tougher state standards and exams. Well, which is it Mr. Minister? If it is human rights, then the ethnic Ukrainians triumph. They make up 80% of the population and the state is called Ukraine, so it only makes sense to give preference to the Ukrainian language as the official state language. If he argues that Ukrainians are world and European citizens, then they would be best to learn Cantonese, Arabic and English, not Russian. And if the standard of Ukrainian is so poor, then he must cancel his own anti-Ukrainian policies. He is also wading into dangerous waters if bilingualism is the requirement, then in all likelihood, most of the Cabinet should resign not only because they lack Ukrainian, but their Russian language is far from the standard.

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