Now, I'm not against global literacy, being sensitive to foreign cultures, etc. I think they're important. But I'm not sure that means it's a problem that only half of high school students are taking a foreign language. I base this on what is admittedly the worst of all sample sizes of one: myself. I took French for six years, starting in the seventh grade and going all the way through high school. In retrospect, it was pretty much a waste of time. I've long since forgotten most of it, and what I remember has been useful only when travelling in French-speaking countries, of which they aren't very many.
All else being equal, students are undoubtedly better off knowing multiple languages than just one. But there are lots of things they're better off knowing than not knowing, the question is which of those things are most important. If foreign languages go onto that list, something else has to come off. It's not clear to me what that should be.
My only real objection is to this bit at the end:
The only exception I could see is Spanish, which is spoken by a large and growing number of Americans. If students were required to take a least a few years of Spanish, they'd have a stronger connection to many of their fellow citizens, as well as most of the rest of the Western hemisphere.This argument, like so many others in favor of foreign language education, ends up resting on an appeal to cultural sensitivity or affinity, which is not the same thing as language proficiency. And if cultural awareness is so important, what really needs to happen is better desegregation of schools. If we're willing to settle in the short term, we could look into classes dedicated to cultural awareness. In any event, pretending we're teaching a significant number of kids to speak Spanish really doesn't get us anywhere.