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The strange career of bilingual education: A history of the political and pedagogical debate over language instruction in American public education, 1890-1990

By Carlos Kevin Blanton


This dissertation is an analysis of the history of the modern bilingual education movement of the 1960s, the older bilingual tradition of schooling in this nation since the nineteenth century, and the early to middle years of the twentieth century when English-Only pedagogy appeared as a, dramatic aberration to the American bilingual tradition. The historiography and interpretive battles of this subject are examined and explained in the Introduction. Chapter One offers a brief historical sketch of bilingual schooling in Texas during the nineteenth century. Chapter Two evaluates the role of the Progressive Education Movement in Texas and the destruction of the long-held practice of bilingual schooling. Chapters Three through Five demonstrate the influence of the Americanization Movement in Texas, the practice of English-only pedagogy, and the role of intelligence testing in the education of Mexican Americans. Chapter Six examines the developments in language instruction during World War II and the post-war changes in pedagogy. Chapter Seven analyzes the Mexican American response to the English-only language policies of Texas and relates that response to the community's sense of cultural identity. Finally, Chapter Eight documents the birth in the 1960s of the official bilingual education movement. This study has several important implications for the controversial issue of bilingual education and the study of education in American history. Too often, the judgments of respected historians and the opinions of nativists virtually agree on the same assumptions and complaints regarding bilingual education. This is largely because historians have neglected to write the history of bilingual education and the development of public school language policy and pedagogy. This work, largely through the case study of Texas offers a glimpse of bilingual instruction that demonstrates its former rich acceptance and widely disseminated practice in everyday American life. The bilingual tradition was not an aberration; rather, the more recent practice of English-only is the true fluke in American education history. With this massive reorientation in historical conceptualization, perhaps attitudes regarding modern bilingual instruction can become more reflective and sophisticated, and less based on misinformation and passion. Also, the tolerance, spirit of democratic localism, and implicit multiculturalism inherent in the practice of bilingual instruction all offer new ways in which to view the American past, causing a re-evaluation of the validity of the American melting-pot metaphor, the traditional myth arguing for rapid and relatively painless immigrant assimilation

Topics: Education, Literature, Language arts, Bilingual education, Multicultural education, American history, History of education
Year: 1999
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