Key Concepts in Bilingual Education: Identity Texts, Cultural Citizenship, and Humanizing Pedagogy

By Fránquiz, María E. | New England Reading Association Journal, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Key Concepts in Bilingual Education: Identity Texts, Cultural Citizenship, and Humanizing Pedagogy


Fránquiz, María E., New England Reading Association Journal


In the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Language and Education, Skutnabb-Kangas and Mc Carty (2008) argue that words and concepts frame and construct any educational phenomena thereby "making some persons and groups visible, others invisible; some the unmarked norm, others marked and negative. Choice of language can minoritise or distort some individuals, groups, phenomena, and relations while majoritising and glorifying others" (p. 3). In the examination of U.S. language policies associated with biliteracy education, Skutnabb-Kangas ScMcCarty provide an illustrative case of the historical, ideological, and empirical underpinnings of the term used to describe children becoming bilingual, Limited English Proficient (LEP). Rather than emphasizing language as a fundamental human right (Ruiz, 1984) the term Limited English Proficient highlights what individuals lack and not the proficiencies they possess. While the Limited English Proficient term used in the U.S. was replaced by the term English Language Learner (ELL), no value was added to the way second language learners were viewed.

The two labels, LEP and ELL, that have been used in bilingual education in the United States contributed to a broader ideological discourse that persistently promoted "one nation, one territory, one language nationalism" (Wright, 2004). Both LEP and ELL also promoted the silencing of the descriptor bilingual, "the B-word" (Crawford, 2004; Garcia, 2006). Many researchers who have talked back to the privileging of English over the home language began using the term Emerging Bilingual students (ÈBs) (e.g., Tellez, 1998; Garcia, Kleifgen, 6c Falchi, 2008; García ôc Kleifgen, 2010; and others). Garcia et al., (2008) sum up the stance for EBs: "[I]t has become obvious to us that a meaningful and equitable education will not only turn these English language learners into English proficient students but, more significantly, into successful bilingual students and adults" (p. 7, emphasis mine). I agree with the term Emerging Bilingual and cultivate this stance in my teaching and mentoring of bilingual teachers and writing about exemplary ways to teach the language arts. For me it is important that the full range of capabilities and resources that Emergent Bilingual students possess be available to them to meet academic challenges in school as well as the challenges of living in a technologically and transnationally advancing world.

Theorizing Language and Identity

In elementary school literacy settings the maintenance of the Spanish language for the purposes of developing an academic identity has typically been seen as a problem (Escamilla, 2006) and programs that build on the linguistic and cultural strengths students bring from home are extremely rare (Garcia &. Gonzalez, 2006). Unfortunately, Suarez (2007) similarly notes that English-as-a-second language (ESL) high school educators often claim heritage language development is unrelated to their work. Thus, K-12 teachers do not seem to value biliteracy as an important academic identity and are more concerned with providing an English only education to immigrant students. Some researchers have provided explanations for the devaluing of bilingualism and the promotion of monolingualism. For example, Zentella (2003) posits that the importance of inviting linguistic and cultural repertoires into English language lessons makes common sense but may be daunting for teachers because many students such as those from Spanish speaking homes "enter school with more interracial, cross-cultural, and multilingual experience than their teachers" (p. 57).

Notwithstanding questions raised about unknown funds of knowledge from inter-racial, cross-cultural, and multilingual communities unfamiliar to teachers, it is important for teachers to understand that without opportunities to use family and community knowledge students are presented barriers to English language acquisition and academic achievement. …

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Key Concepts in Bilingual Education: Identity Texts, Cultural Citizenship, and Humanizing Pedagogy
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