From its inception, the US has been a nation of foreign cultures and languages, a nation with a strong ideology committed to ideals of harmony and justice. Since its inception too, the nation has time and time again fallen far short of these ideals. While waves of immigrant ethnic groups have eagerly entered the country, the country has many times violently expanded its borders and annexed new groups. Today the US is a complicated milieu of values, languages, and peoples, and continues to struggle with the idea of a singular American cultural identity. Bilingual education and affirmative action are two major policies that have lately emerged as the focal points of this discourse, though both issues are mostly treated as separate. In theory, bilingual education is a major benefactor of ethnolinguistic minorities, while affirmative action sponsors women and racial minorities with histories of being discriminated against.
[...] “From the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to Hopwood: the Educational Plight and Struggle of Mexican Americans in the Southwest.” Harvard Educational Review, Vol No.3, Fall. pp 353-412. Suarez-Orozco, M. M. (1987). Sink or Swim: The politics of bilingual education. New York: Praeger. Suarez-Orozco, M. M. (1993). Hispanic cultural psychology: implications for education theory and research. In P. Phelan & A. L. Davidson (Eds.), Renegotiating cultural diversity in American schools (pp. 108-138). New York: Teachers College Press. Waggoner, D., & O'Malley, J. [...]
[...] The similarities of the practice of affirmative action and bilingual education of Mexican Americans may thus seem lacking. It is true that the majority of the Southwestern Mexican Americans' descendants are today English-fluent. Still, educational policies greatly retarded the socioeconomic development of Mexican Americans such that both new generations as well as new immigrant families join a pre-existing Mexican American underclass that faces the same struggle of stereotypes, discrimination, and poverty. More to the point though, this sort of ancestor-level differentiation is not made by today's affirmative action policies. [...]
[...] We can see that bilingual education aims to restore civil rights in much the same way that affirmative action policies do: while the latter aims to “level the playing field” via allotment of scarce resources, the former equalizes educational opportunities by securing special support for LEP students. With this in mind, we see that equity rather than equality is the aim of both policies. Opponents criticize them as using “special treatment,” yet the inferior socioeconomic positions of LEP families will not be equalized by giving them treating them the same as every English- fluent family. [...]
[...] To better distinguish the language minority groups that do or do not benefit from bilingual education as a form of affirmative action, we can keep in mind Johnathon Ogbu's three ideal-types of minority groups: autonomous, voluntary, and involuntary (Ogbu, 1981). Autonomous minority groups are minorities mostly by numerical count, and, whether or not they have suffered discrimination in the past, do not experience substantial barriers today. Voluntary minorities are immigrant groups that have willingly moved here expecting improved treatment and conditions. [...]
[...] In this well-known example, access to the dominant race's quality schools acted (or was expected to) as the remedy of past discrimination that hurt a racial minority. Beyond the paradigm of race or sex, the US has a somewhat analogous history of institutional discrimination and denial of equitable education to language minorities. Given language and culture's prime roles in the construction of ethnicity, we can next make this essay's important jump in perspective that argues that many ethnic minorities experience bilingual education as a policy of affirmative action. Bilingual education itself has a long history that has several parallels and overlaps with affirmative action. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee