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09 December 2008
Bilingual Education: The Lessons of History
Multicultural education is one of the dominant features of modern American society. The USA has a unique history, important elements of which are an indigenous population, a slavery past and recent extensive immigration of people from many different countries and cultures. Since the middle of the 20th century, when the bilingual education was introduced in America it has been politically sensitive problem influenced by immigration issues and racial differences (Huntington 31). Thesis Bilingual education should be supported by the state as it it provides minority students and immigrants with an opportunity to receive quality education, become a worthy citizen of American society and enter the American workforce.
The history of bilingual education can be traced back to 1940 when the first instructions for foreign students were developed. "Polish language instructions were provided in six schools in Chicago" (Zimmerman 1383). During 1880s, German language instructions were used to block German language. During the WWI, language blockage was used as a means to reduce German impact on the American society. Jewish community was one of the main groups which demanded Hebrews instructions in public schools (Zimmerman 1398). The first legal attempts to introduce bilingual education go back to 1960s. "The bilingual education bill was unveiled in 1967 by Sen. Ralph Yarborough in Texas" (Davies 1407). The Bilingual Education Act was introspected in 1968. This Act was a great step in bilingual education as it institutionalized bilingual education and allowed immigrants and minorities to receive education at their native language. During the next historical period, Nixon and Reagan administrations introduced bilingual education in schools and supported new programs for minority children. Thus, only a small number of students had access to bilingual programs. Critics admit that during 1970s, "the expansion of the program, however, owes more to a second dynamic, ... namely the program's migration from the work of electoral politics to of bureaucratic and judicial discretion" (Davies 1406). In spite of these limitations, more and more minority students were involved in language learning and receive a chance to finish high school. Under Nixon administration "Title VII was and remained a small program raising to $35 million in 1974" (Davies 1406). A New Republican majority supported Mexican-Americans and backed bilingual education programs. The main problem was that Nixon White House saw bilingual education symbolically as a chance to attract minority electorate. The next important step in bilingual education was made in 1970. The OCR introduced new regulations which supported Spanish-surnamed students (Davies 1419). These changes can be seen as an important step towards equality in education but they did not solve the problem of equal access of all minority students to American system of education.
The legal case, Lau v. Nicjols (1974) marked a new era in bilingual education. It proved that minority students in California deprived a change to study native language with special provisions. 20 years before, Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 opened new opportunities for minority students to study first and second languages. "On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional" (Gándara et al 27). Prominent scholars, educators, and bilingual education advocates were also attempting to convince teachers that it is beneficial to let immigrant students use their home language in the English language arts class. Although they claim this practice aids in learning English and other academic subjects, there is no consistent body of evidence from the research on bilingual education to back this up at all. New bilingual standards supported the development of common literary knowledge (and, hence, a common civic culture) are particularly anathema to educators and groups consumed by identity politic. During this period of time, the major programs for language learners were the following: "English immersion, transitional bilingual education/early exit, developmental bilingual/late exit and two-way immersion" (Gándara et a 31). This legal case and the Bilingual Education Act stipulated that schools are responsible to provide minority students with special services and support to study English language. Such cases as Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (1971), Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1 (1973), Milliken v. Bradley (1974) proved that American needed bolongual education programs and the state support (Gándara et al 32).
New regulations introduced during 1980s improved the situation and introduced more programs for bilingual children but they did not allow equal access of all minority students to education (Gándara et al 39). Recent changes were made in 2001, when the US Congress introduced No Child Left Behind doctrine. This law supports native language learning and demands that all students will be tested in English yearly. These changes were caused by the fact that "85 percent of Mexican-born immigrants spoke Spanish at home; 73.6 percent of these did not speak English very well; and 43 percent of the Mexican" (Huntington 37). Recent years, bilingual education programs become one of the most popular language programs for minority students. Even if educators do not support the goals of identity politics, many view almost all American literature as the expression of white male, Protestant, and Eurocentric sensibilities only and convey their views openly to their colleagues or subordinates. "Most broadly, the fate of foreign language instructions reminds us that Americans challenged "ethnicization" as well as "Americanization" (Zimmerman 1385). This example shows that the attempt to cultivate group identity through the school curriculum invariably affects the choice of literary works assigned to minority students. In bilingual education, it is clearly a strategy designed to inhibit both English teachers and test publishers from exposing students to any older literary works at all. The history of bilingual education shows that it was accepted and developed because of racial struggle and tension which took place between the minority students and the American education system.
Davies, G. The Great Society after Johnson: The Case of Bilingual Education
The Journal of American History, 88, No. 4 (Mar., 2002), 1405-1429.
Gándara, P., Moran, E. Garcia, E. Legacy of Brown: Lau and Language Policy in the
United States Review of Research in Education, 28 (2004), 27-46.
Huntington, S. P. The Hispanic Challenge. Foreign Policy, o. 141 (Mar. –
Apr., 2004), 30-45
Zimmerman, J. Ethnics against Ethnicity: European Immigrants and Foreign-
Language Instruction, 1890-1940 The Journal of American History, 88, No. 4 (Mar., 2002), 1383-1404.