Language Diversity and Education

Language Diversity and Education

Language Diversity and Education

Language Diversity and Education


This introductory text for students of linguistics, language, and education provides background and up-to-date information and resources that beginning researchers need for studying language diversity and education.

Three framing chapters offer an update on the philosophy of social research, revealing how important language is for all the processes of learning in which humans engage, whether it is learning about the world through education, or learning about the nature of social life through research in the human sciences. These chapters also review the links between language, power, and social justice, and look at dynamic changes occurring in "language diversity and education" research.

Four central chapters give state-of-the-art, comprehensive coverage to the chief areas of language diversity that affect the practice of education: standard and non-standard varieties; different cultural discourse norms; bilingual and ESL education; and gendered discourse norms.

This book is intended for graduate students of applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, the social psychology of language, anthropological linguistics, and other related disciplines; and graduate students of education, including in-service teachers taking advanced professional development courses. Special features enhance its usefulness as a text for courses in these areas:

• A clear, jargon free writing style invites careful reading.

• All ideas are well within the range that graduate students in the language disciplines or in education can relate to their work, but theoretical ideas are kept to a necessary minimum and linked with practical examples in every case.

• Extensive references guide readers to the book's up-to-date, international, and cross-cultural bibliography.

• "Discussion Starter" questions at the end of each chapter highlight key points and stimulate informed, reflective discussion.


I think I have in fact been situated in most of the squares of the political checkerboard, one after another and sometimes simultaneously: as anarchist, leftist, ostentatious or disguised Marxist, nihilist, explicit or secret anti-Marxist, technocrat in the service of Gaullism, new liberal, etc. None of these descriptions is important by itself; taken together, on the other hand, they mean something. And I must admit that I rather like what they mean.

—Foucault (1984a, pp. 383-384)

Michel Foucault stands closer to the end of the story I tell in this chapter than he does to the beginning. Yet his description of himself here is very germane to my theme throughout. Foucault portrays himself as a person unwittingly identified with many competing orthodoxies at the same time, implying of course his preferred detachment from any single one. Similarly the role of language in social life is now more clearly seen as a series of witting and unwitting alliances that people form with the many diverse sets of discourses that they encounter. And each of these discourses is an orthodoxy that positions us, whether we resist its seductive pull or rush eagerly to embrace it.

This opening chapter suggests how important language is to the processes of learning that humans engage in, whether it is learning about the world through education, or learning about the nature of social life through research in the human sciences. As my opening paragraph hints, in recent decades the search for objectivity and for absolutes in understanding social life has gradually been replaced by a much more skeptical conception of discovery that is more in tune with the real social world. Accordingly, but gradually, human science disciplines are transforming themselves to take account of this diverging view. Furthermore, this quite different understanding of what people can really know about the human condition, is slowly filtering into school curricula, into the pedagogies that teachers . . .

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