Race and Ethnic Conflict: Contending Views on Prejudice, Discrimination, and Ethnoviolence

By Fred L. Pincus; Howard J. Ehrlich | Go to book overview

Institutional Monolingualism Versus Institutional Bilingualism or Multilingualism

On the language issue, liberal pluralism and corporate pluralism stand at opposite poles. Liberal pluralism insists on institutional monolingualism--that is, that there shall be only one standard language in the nation, that this language shall be the publicly mandated language of the educational system and all legal documents and procedures, and that no other language shall have any public standing. This viewpoint does not sanction hostility to the teaching or learning of other languages as supplementary options, it does not militate against voluntary retention of other languages as taught in the home or in private supplemental schools, and in fact, may encourage bilingualism or multilingualism for cultural or pragmatic purposes. But it makes one language the standard of the nation and allows no other to assume any official status. It is a clearly delineated position which, in fact, has been basically the American position, historically and up to the very recent present, at which time it has been challenged by proponents of mandatory bilingual education in the public schools for children who are language handicapped as a result of coming from a non-English-speaking home.

Corporate pluralism, on the other hand, supports official or institutional bilingualism or multilingualism. Its position is that the various racial and ethnic groups have the right and, indeed, should be encouraged to retain their ancestral languages, that there is no reason why there must be only one official language, and that all members of the national polity should be encouraged, perhaps even compelled, to become bilingual or multilingual. The large growth in numbers and political activism of the Hispanic population in the United States and the consequent demand for bilingual education in the public schools have brought aspects of this issue to the fore in recent years in the American context. Canadian society, with its English-speaking and French-speaking populations, is an example of an institutionally bilingual nation with its attendant controversies which are still in the process of attempted resolution.


CONCLUSION

The preceding six dimensions serve to define the differences between liberal pluralism and corporate pluralism. By their conceptualization and use I have tried to make it dear that there is now an important dilemma before the American people and that this dilemma is not simply a choice between isolated and fragmented policies, but rather that there is an inherent logic in the relationship of the various positions on these public issues which makes the choice one between two patterns--two overall types of racial and ethnic pluralism each with distinctly different implications for the American way of life. Those who favor the liberal form of pluralism emphasize in their arguments the ethical and philosophical value of the idea of individual meritocracy and the notion that current generations should not be expected to pay for the sins of their fathers--or at least, those who lived here before them, whether genetically related or not. They also point to functional considerations such as the possibility that measures such as forced busing and af-

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