Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Linguistic Moments: Language, Teaching, and Teacher Education in the U.S

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Linguistic Moments: Language, Teaching, and Teacher Education in the U.S

Article excerpt

When will a legitimately American language, a language including Nebraska, Harlem, New Mexico, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Alabama, and working class life and freeways and Pac-man become the language studied and written and glorified in the classroom? (Jordan, 1985, p. 30)

Reflecting on a dilemma that is neither new nor resolved, two decades ago political essayist June Jordan (1985) asked the question: "When will a legitimately American language, a language including Nebraska, Harlem, New Mexico, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Alabama, and working class life and freeways and Pac-man become the language studied and written and glorified in the classroom" (p. 30). Since the advent of compulsory education in U.S. society, the question of cultural and linguistic pluralism has been a source of controversy. In the late 19th century, a major impetus for the common school movement was a need to Americanize Eastern European immigrant children, which in part meant replacing their native tongues with English (Tyack, 1974). Today American schooling continues its quest of Americanization, albeit focused on different populations of students, including African American, Latin American and Asian American students among others.

Demographic projections show that increasing numbers of bilingual and bidialectical children entering U.S. public schools continue to be a primary challenge for the overwhelmingly White and monolingual (English Only) teaching force in K-12 classrooms (Nieto, 2004). The most profound effect of such schooling situations is language barriers, which stifle communication and hinder the possibilities of educational and social experiences. While the debate rages on about whether to and how to engage students' home languages as part of the effort to teach Standard English, we are entering this debate with a specific concern about the lack of significance given to language in teacher education "diversity" courses.

Many diversity courses that prepare pre-service teachers do not address the significance or the impact of language barriers on linguistically diverse learners. Often time, new and veteran teachers construct their bilingual and /or bidialectical students as others and are unaware of how to use their students' social, cultural, and political linguistic communities to facilitate the academic growth and development of these learners. Too many teachers perceive students who are linguistically different from the mainstream as inferior. In many cases the home language of learners are prohibited in the classroom (Franqiz & Reyes, 1998). The end result is that teachers silence their students' cultural perspectives and approach them as little broken bodies needing to be fixed. Yet, countless researchers hold that successful learning experiences for bilingual and bidialectical students connect school to students' home language, culture, and community and as such use current knowledge to build future learning experiences (Delpit, 1995; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Nieto, 2004; Perry and Delpit, 1998).

Each of the contributors to this article is a teacher educator who currently has or has had in the recent past the responsibility of teaching "the diversity" course within their respective teacher education programs. Based on our distinct yet similar experiences, we believe that it is critical to find ways to effectively address language--within these courses--not simply as a technical skill and not simply by stressing the need to learn standard English, but more importantly by seeing language as a fundamental expression of cultural identity which is shaped by the interplay between family/community values and beliefs and educational policy and practice. In our efforts to bring this perspective into our classrooms, we often use our own linguistic experiences as a way to critically examine how profoundly they shape the ways in which we come to understand language and engage it with our students. In what follows we each share a critical linguistic moment, which we frame as critical race counterstories, to make visible the ways in which our own diverse linguistic experiences have shaped our concerns, and efforts as teacher educators. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.