Historical Analysis of the Reluctance to School Children of Color: Requiring an English, White, and Middle-Class Uniform

By Sheets, Rosa Hernandez | Multicultural Education, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview
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Historical Analysis of the Reluctance to School Children of Color: Requiring an English, White, and Middle-Class Uniform


Sheets, Rosa Hernandez, Multicultural Education


If we are to create new models of pedagogy and intellectual work and become architects of our own education, then we cannot simply repair the structures that have been passed down to us. We need to dismantle the old architecture so that we might begin anew. (Robin D. G. Kelley, 2001, p. xiii)

The central pattern uniting the three books in this review is the authors' chilling analysis of how past schooling policies and practices were created, legalized, and institutionalized to benefit White children, mainstream political ideologies, and economic needs. As a result, current educational positions sustained by these established convictions merely perpetuate past good intentions.

The authors of the three texts:

Language Ideologies: Critical Perspectives on the Official English Movement, Vol 2: History, Theory, and Policy,

The Unimpressible Race: A Cen- tury of Educational Struggle by the Chinese in San Francisco, and

The White Architects of Black Education: Ideology and Power in America, 1865-1954

all speak to the ideological underpinnings of the schooling of African American, Chinese American, Latino American, and newly arrived immigrant children. Each book documents the "problems" our children pose to the schooling enterprise, and all authors scrutinize proposed, sanctioned, and legislated solutions. The authors remind us of our responsibility in the schooling of our children.

Language Ideologies: Critical Perspectives or) the Official English Movement, Vol. 2, History, Theory, and Policy, by Roseann Duenas

Gonzalez & Ildiko Melis (Eds.)., 2001]. Lawrence Erlbaum, 1-800-926-6579, www.erlbaum.com; ISBN 0-8058-4054-0; pb., 413pgs; $34.95.

This volume is highly recommended for scholars and educators concerned with policies and practices involving the schooling of ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse children. The chapters in this text, written by leading scholars in the field, explore the issues of status, fear, and conflict in the English-Only movements bolstering state and national initiatives.

Unfortunately, California leads and the nation follows. Anti-bilingual initiatives, supported by the English-Only Movement and characterized by hostility and ignorance, are spreading nationally. The editors and authors in this book argue that the Official/English/English-Only discourse is not about the need to "protect" English or even a request that others "learn" English; rather, it is "a discourse of "neo-racism" in which the category of Official English or English Only has replaced the offensive terms involving biological differentiation and genetic inferiority of immigrant and/or native born people from racial/ethnic groups who speak a different world language (Gonzalez, p. xxvii).

The volume is divided into four sections. In "Part I: Update and Document," Dennis Baron (Chapter 1: Language, Legislation and Language Abuse: American Language Policy through the 1990s) describes the cyclical patterns, seemingly generated by economic cycles, waves of immigration, international conflict, and political actions targeting linguistically diverse people. Baron concludes that English is alive and well and not in any danger; however, increasing numbers of individuals experiencing language loss is an area of concern.

Edward M. Chen (Chapter 2: Statement on the Civil Liberties Implications of Official English Legislation before the United States Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, December 6, 1995) points out that Official Language laws are unnecessary; however, if passed, they are likely to create undue hardship, violate constitutional rights, and provoke conflict among linguistically diverse ethnic groups.

The four chapters in "Part II: Language, Justice, and Law" address bilingualism from social justice and legal perspectives. The contributors in this section conclude that laws are used by a hostile society, unable to appreciate our nation's rich linguistic resources yet capable of discriminating against new immigrants and linguistically different individuals.

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