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PDF Affirming Language Diversity in Schools and Society: Beyond Linguistic Apartheid

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Sadly, most have not. Similarly, we can recognize linguistic genocide in the plight of African Americans, unmercifully brought to this country against their will, separated from their families, and forced into slave labor; American Indians who were stripped of much of their land and had their children arbitrarily removed and subjected to the cruel assimilation tactics of English-speaking boarding schools; and Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Chinese workers who were exploited for cheap labor and subjected to substandard housing and repressive educational practices that silenced the use of their mother tongue.

Given the pressure and strain to survive such conditions, many lost their linguistic connection to their ancestral culture.

Empowerment

In exclusionary public-policy discourses, it is not unusual to find derogatory animalistic reference made to the intellectual, linguistic, phenotypic, sexual, or criminal tendencies of subordinate groups. In Documents of American Prejudice, Joshi compiled a series of official historical documents that testify to the validity of this claim. One such example is found in the document by John Box, a minister and longtime U.

He argued passionately that [the] purpose of the immigration law is the protection of American racial stock from further degradation or change through mongrelization. The Mexican. This blend of low-grade Spaniard, peonized Indian, and Negro slave mixes with Negroes, mulatoes [sic], and other mongrels, and some sorry whites, already here.

The prevention of such mongrelization and the degradation it causes is one of the purposes of our laws which the admission of these people will tend to defeat. Every incoming race causes blood mixture, but if this were not true, a mixture of blocs of peoples of different races has a bad effect upon citizenship, creating more race conflicts and weakening national character — Unfortunately, current media debates on the problem of immigration, bilingual education, or ethnic studies are no less racializing; despite twenty-first-century political speak that, wittingly or unwittingly, serves to obfuscate racialized class sentiments.

Newspaper, television, and film portrayals of immigrants fulfill their hegemonic role of racialization by presenting immigrant populations as uncivilized, ignorant, or dangerous. Such distortions are fueled by moral panic and act upon consumers of media in a multitude of ways, but principally they call into question the legitimacy of culturally democratic policies in U. Deep hostilities toward immigrant populations expressed by nativists and neoliberal conservatives raise serious concerns regarding the future of language rights and the restrictive language policies such attitudes reinforce in the public arena.

To discourage our parents from speaking to us in our native tongue, they were told that speaking Spanish was a bad thing; that it would interfere with our learning and surely be the cause of our academic failure in the coming years. My experience as a Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican child reflects the debilitating phenomenon of linguistic racialization, still faced by many language minority children today. These are children still subjected daily to colonizing linguistic practices here and abroad, where the ideology of cultural hegemony persists.

In the process, language minority children are unmercifully ushered into a culture of forgetting—pedagogical spaces of banking education Freire where students are expected to reject their native tongue and uncritically adopt the hegemonic language and cultural system imposed upon them by the dominant culture. These zones of cultural forgetting violently resist the encroaching memories of belonging, comfort, security, and well-being associated with the primary cultural communities of disenfranchised students of color.

The politics of cultural forgetting supports the erosion of community ties and gradually strips away from young students their intimate cultural bonds and lived histories, leaving them defenseless, without the very cultural anchor that neurologically links them to those genetic predispositions Darder that can best assist students to participate in becoming critically literate, while evolving as empowered subjects of history Freire and Macedo Assimilative mainstream policies and practices steer language minority students toward reproducing individualistic identities as consumer-citizens, both dependent and in service to the political economy of the nation-state.

Nowhere in this formulation is there the intention of transforming conditions of inequality experienced by language minority populations beyond aspiration to individual material success, as the most important measure of personal value. As would be expected, bilingual students can begin to internalize negative projections and, thus, strive to disassociate from their primary language and culture. As a consequence, many experience shame toward their cultural identity and language community. In some instances, children may even begin to refuse to speak their primary language in the family, insisting on answering and speaking to their parents in English—what they already begin to perceive in their young minds as the legitimate language of power.

So powerful is the hegemony of English in the United States and abroad that it is not unusual to hear the laments of Latino, Hawaiian, Native American, or immigrant parents who fear their cultural relationships with their children are eroding, as they are primed by subtractive schooling practices Valenzuela to pursue English-only dreams.

Hence, restrictive language policies in schools and society have effectively functioned in the service of language racialization and linguistic genocide Skatnubb-Kangas, Moreover, these policies have not only been convenient pedagogical vehicles for control over language as a communicative process but, more importantly, as ideological mechanisms of political socialization and cultural hegemony Gramsci The post—civil rights era was founded upon a perverse neoliberal agenda, in which both surveillance and privatizing excesses are welcomed and normalized, while genuine efforts toward community self-determination are openly scorned and maligned.

Yet, the political rhetoric that contributed to the passage of restrictive language policies during the last two decades had long been underway. In the mid- eighties, for example, Ernest L. Although the process of contact and exchange has obviously altered expressions of racism in U.

Iris Zavala suggests that the reason for this perception of threat is the central role that language and culture play in the conservation of the nation-state: language and culture are used within the dominant society to create an illusion of cohesion or the appearance of stability in a world always in flux. Efforts to fortify this illusion of stability are heavily intensified during historical periods of political economic crisis and military expansionism.

Both these conditions steadily increased in the last two decades, with massive layoffs of workers across the country and increasing military intervention overseas.

Cultural and linguistic diversity: Case study

This was the first time in U. Coincidentally, it was in the same year that the campaign for Proposition , English for the Children, was initiated to usher in the gradual but steady demise of bilingual education in California. Since the Lau v. Nichols decision, bilingual education in California had enjoyed some legal legitimacy and attention within the public arena.

However, in , the new repressive language policy systematically stripped away the legal right of language minority children to learn in their mother tongue.

As a consequence, limited English-speaking students found themselves immersed in English-only classrooms. Historically, as job opportunities decline, the policing of the barrios, anti-immigrant sentiments, and English-only efforts have always intensified. This has results in tightening the very controls that were systematically loosened previously when the nation-state required quick, cheap, unskilled labor.

The intensification of restrictive language policies is also fueled by arguments of conservative political gatekeepers, as in Arizona, who allege that undocumented immigrants take away jobs from U. Many of these disingenuous public debates center on the need for tighter patrol of the U. Hence, current anti-immigrant sentiments and policy efforts to thwart minority language use in schools and communities are every bit as politically contentious as they were in the early decades of the twentieth century—fueled, then, by similar political alliances and by the xenophobic nativist rhetoric of conservative policy makers and big business.

Parallel conditions of these historical eras include increasing immigration, burgeoning student enrollment in urban centers, economic decline, and high military spending overseas. Hence, restrictive policies developed in the early s resurface amidst the hidden barriers that stall the implementation of contemporary educational language reform. Nevertheless, differences in the impact of these policies across various immigrant groups may be best explained as a disparity in the racialization process experienced by European versus non-European immigrants.

So despite the initial experiences of racialization suffered by Irish, Italian, Polish, and Russian immigrants, it was always presumed that these European immigrants could be absorbed into the cultural definition of the American nation- state. No such presumption was ever made of non-European populations. There was no argument for assimilation-through-education, and so widespread exclusion from mainstream activities including education or relegation to second-class status was a common practice for these groups The use of a shared language or dialect is one way that a sense of kinship is constituted and participation in communal life guaranteed.

Kinship here includes all those cultural processes that make social relations meaningful, including forms of address, modes of reckoning, and storytelling Amariglio, Resnick, and Wolff Through linguistic practices, kin subjects are produced or incorporated as members of a collective subjectivity, while providing them with a sense of cultural group identity and sense of belonging. It is this collective subjectivity of kinship that is most vulnerable within a culture of forgetting described earlier.

Related to this practice of cultural and linguistic subordination in the classroom, contact with school power and authority is used to erode cultural values and practices, resulting in generational alteration in the practices and collective life of the group.


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One of the tactics employed by the dominant society in transforming and administering diverse communities of working-class language minority populations is to restrict their movement within society and access to opportunities, as we have recently experienced in Arizona. Key here is to create conditions, by which communal surplus labor or participation can be redistributed, and to outlaw or obstruct participation away from communally shared traditions, rituals, and practices designed to reinforce and reproduce the original kinship structures or cultural affirmation of the language community Amariglio, Resnick, and Wolff — redirecting identity, participation, and loyalty to the dominant culture and language of the nation-state.

Over time, culturally hegemonic policies, tied to the restriction of both education and the labor market, function to normalize the loss of primary culture and language among immigrant and indigenous populations. James Crawford The ideology of racism that informs linguistic racialization and restrictive language policies constitutes an inherently political strategy of exclusion, domination, and exploitation that cannot be extricated from its economic imperative, whether discussing questions of academic achievement or larger concerns tied to language rights or a living wage.

As such, economic inequalities resulting from restrictive language policies generally operate in sync with structures that perpetuate school segregation. In the Northeast, 78 percent of Latino students attend schools with over 50 percent minority student population, and 46 percent attend schools with over 90 percent minority student population. Similar patterns are quickly emerging in the South, where Latino population increases have been reported to exceed percent in North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee during the last decade. Thus, it should not be surprising to learn that 90 percent of neighborhood schools where English-language learners and children of color—most who are, in fact, citizens—attend are all located in areas of concentrated poverty.

Yet, such conditions of political and economic disenfranchisement insure greater incidence of residential segregation, as well, which has been found to be a significant factor in the English language development of children from language minority communities because they generally attend the poorest schools. Language minority children taught exclusively within English-only classrooms are also more likely to struggle with a process of home-school linguistic transition that expects them to isolate and compartmentalize their language usage in ways that have been found to disrupt not only English language development, but academic achievement patterns Genesee, ; Cummins ; Crawford, , Valenzuela, Accordingly, recent reports belie claims that sheltered English instruction radically improves student performance.

With the loss of bilingual education, language minority students are, more often than not, exposed to debilitating assimilative practices in the process of their education. Unfortunately, in the neoliberal age, public welfare concerns have been redefined primarily along economic interests in ways that abdicate the nation-state of its responsibility to adequately educate all children attending U. Instead, a sink-or-swim philosophy tied to the ethos of free market enterprise has effectively killed linguistics rights debates within the arena of educational language policy.

Rozenberg Quarterly

Even more disconcerting is the lack of adequate training and preparation that mainstream educators and school psychologists receive, in both the area of appropriate teaching strategies and language assessment protocols for language minority children. Such fallacious arguments allow school districts, if they choose, to relinquish responsibility to provide professional development to mainstream educators, who are inexperienced in teaching or assessing English language learners.

Of course, given restrictive language policies implemented in most school districts and the lack of preparation in teacher education programs, classroom teachers alone cannot be held responsible for this unfortunate institutional deficiency. It is striking to note that in the last two decades—as well-paying jobs in the U. As a consequence, deep racialized resentments were generated by job scarcity and subsequent competition between working class and immigrant populations. Even more disturbing is the manner in which victim-blaming rhetoric, aimed at students from racialized communities who fail to succeed in public schools, has been repeatedly used to obscure the deepening structures of economic inequality, inherent in U.

Contradictory class-based attitudes are widespread, with respect to language rights in the U. Similarly, affluent public schools offer gifted language programs in Spanish, French, Japanese, or Chinese, while these opportunities are almost non- existent in low-income schools, where most language minority students attend and where little effort is placed on developing their primary language.

Hence, access to genuine bilingual development and the cultural and global advantages it affords are only a prerogative of students from affluent classes. For working class children from subordinate language communities, racism and class inequalities converge to entrap them within a culture of forgetting, castrating their abilities to develop as empowered bicultural and bilingual subjects of history, in a world where such knowledge is vital to the struggle for self- determination and the exercise of cultural democracy Darder Lilia I.

Bartolome In light of a colonial history of language imposition, it is important to understand the cultural hegemonic implications of language erosion beyond individual choice or the practical inducement of English for academic and labor gains. This is precisely the experience of many children from linguistically racialized populations, when they enter a classroom where the supremacy of English functions not only against their academic well-being, but their democratic participation as well.

And often, even when these students learn English, stereotypical perceptions of deficiency persist, denying them meaningful opportunities to participate in ways that English- proficient students readily enjoy in the process of their academic formation. As suggested earlier, it is no wonder that language constitutes such a deeply contested terrain of struggle. Instructional language is implicated in significant ways, when considering the future possibilities and limitations students will experience not only in the classroom, but also out in the world. Similarly, community conditions that infuse life, meaning, and belonging into individual and collective life are also important factors in their academic achievement, given that linguistic rights, education, and democratic participation are absolutely central to language minority community empowerment.

Hence, when important human conditions shaped by a long-standing history of oppression and marginalization are ignored, disregarded, or maligned within schools, the political empowerment and well-being of language minority students and their families are also negatively affected Olivos ; Darder , , This process can, unfortunately, leave linguistically racialized communities at the mercy of a deeply engrained hegemonic process that prevents them from naming their world and, hence, from participating in significant educational language-policy debates and decisions that will impact the destiny of their children.

As a consequence, language minority students who enter the classroom with a primary language other than English are also often mis assessed too quickly as intellectually deficient or developmentally delayed, as a consequence of assessment measures that do not take into account the cultural and linguistic dissonance experienced by otherwise intellectually capable children entering into an unfamiliar language environment.

Unexamined racialized perceptions of language minority populations often render teachers blind to those cognitive resources that would normally provide the logical foundation for new linguistic experiences related to learning English. Accordingly, the inability of mainstream teachers to engage the knowledge and skills that these students bring to the classroom is a key barrier to academic success; as is the absence of the primary language as the medium of instruction.

The institutionalized ideology of exclusion at work here discourages not only the use of minority languages in the United States, but also disrupts the successful academic formation of linguistically racialized students, while it renders them vulnerable to cultural hegemony. In the world of high- stakes accountability, STEM initiatives are pronounced the panacea for global supremacy, while questions of culturally democratic life have been eclipsed by preoccupations with the hidden curriculum of class formation and the citizen as unbridled consumer.

In accordance, linguistic racialization is implicated as part of a larger and more complex system of economic and political subordination that positions language minority students and their families as disposable, second-class citizens Darder and Torres This encompasses an ideology that often distorts the ability to see working-class language minority communities in the United States as worthy of full educational rights. The consequence is the perpetuation of a culture of failure and educational neglect that relegates these communities to a position of invisibility—aided by the politics of the labor market, ill-representations in media, and the increasing incarceration of poor working-class men and women of color Gilmore Linguistic racialization within schools is further exacerbated by what Phillipson argues are the deleterious socioeconomic and cultural effects of the colonial language and the failure of elected leaders to implement a consistently democratic language policy.

Common Concepts for Contemporary Movements

Indifference to the negative consequences of English-only instruction is particularly debilitating for working- class students who enter school as predominantly Spanish speakers. Unfortunately, as already discussed earlier, the failure of schools to engage the material conditions that these students and their families navigate daily circumvents accurate assessment and the development of language policies and educational practices to support their intellectual formation.

And despite, for example, the fact that Latino students comprise 50—90 percent of the total student population in many districts, there has been a stubborn unwillingness to critically engage the manner in which the language needs of these children may differ.

Linguistic Imperialism – Teaching English & Teaching In English in Global Contexts

This is often reflected in the manner in which educators are trained to understand and thus, contend, if at all, with the needs of Spanish-speaking children as only individuals, rather than within a larger collective history of colonization, often taking place within their own lands. Linked to this history is an ethnic population that overwhelmingly comprises the largest minority group in the United States. Los Angeles, for example, is second only to Mexico City as the city with the largest number of Spanish speakers. Yet, whenever there are efforts to engage more substantively with the significance of this language rights in the education of Spanish speaking students, policy makers and district officials quickly retort that there are over languages spoken in many of these districts, and how can teachers be expected to realistically meet the language needs of all these children.

Rather than simply devolve into classically individualistic views of English learners or essentialize all English learners into one neat population, it is imperative that the larger communal questions tied to language conservation and dual-language issues be recognized as quite a different affair, when considering the language needs of children who reside within very large language minority communities, which existed in North America long before to the official establishment of the United States as a nation-state.