Bilingual Education in the US and New Mexico

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2013

24 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1. Introduction

2. Terminology

3. History of Bilingual Education in the U.S
3.1 The Permissive Period
3.2 The Restrictive Period
3.3 The Opportunist Period
3.4 The Dismissive Period
3.4.1 Ronald Reagan
3.4.2 George W. Bush
3.4.3 Barack Obama

4. Bilingual Education for Hispanics
4.1 Hispanics in New Mexico
4.2 Albuquerque School District
4.2.1 Two-way Dual-Language Immersion
4.2.2 Maintenance Bilingual Education
4.2.3 Enrichment Model
4.2.4 Participating schools and student attendance
4.3 Bilingual Education and Public Opinion
4.4 Research and challenges for the future

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly designated the year 2008 as the International Year of Languages. In announcing this initiative, UNESCO’s Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, said:

We must act now as a matter of urgency, by encouraging and developing language policies that enable each linguistic community to use its first language, or mother tongue, as widely and as often as possible, including in education […]. Only if multilingualism is fully accepted can all languages find their place in our globalized world. (Blackledge/Cresse 2010: 42)

With this statement he got to the heart of the problem. It seems that we live in a world where multilingualism is the norm and monolingualism the exception. That is mainly because the capacity of speaking more than one natural language has important implications for communication, identity, social and cultural integration, development and education. Despite the fact that a lot of countries have always been aware that they are bi/multilingual nations, bilingual communities have also often been seen as a threat and debates about multilingual issues have become evident in political discourse throughout the centuries.

The United States is in the midst of this struggle today. It seems that it is only recently that the population has become aware that they are also a multilingual nation. Despite the lack of an official language policy, the country has managed to achieve a very high level of monolingualism. This is part of an assimilationist ideology that decimated the immigrants’ languages as well as the many American indigenous languages.

The focus in this paper is on bilingual education in the United States of America. First of all, there will be given some definitions on several terms. Following this, the paper will provide an overview of the historical development of bilingual education from the beginning until the present. In the second part, the focus will be on Bilingual Education Programs for Hispanics in New Mexico. The paper will describe the development of several Bilingual Education Programs in the Albuquerque School District. The paper is mainly based on secondary literature in the first part and several Internet resources in the second part.

2. Terminology

Researchers have used the terms ‘monolingual’, ‘bilingual’ and ‘multilingual’ in different ways until today. Before proceeding to the history of bilingual education it is therefore necessary to define these terms and make a distinction between them. The following definitions are based on the book ‘The Exploration of Multilingualism’ by the linguists Larissa Aronin and Britta Hufeisen.

The term ‘monolingual’ is used for people who use only one language. They “may be proficient at using a number of different varieties of the language together with different registers in the variety or varieties they know, and of switching between varieties and between registers in the appropriate context” (Aronin/Hufeisen 2009: 14).

A person who uses two languages is often described as ‘bilingual’ and ‘bilingualism’ as “the ability to speak two languages” or “the habitual use of two languages colloquially” (Aronin/Hufeisen 2009: 14). In contrast to that, a ‘multilingual’ person is able to use three or more languages separately or in various degrees of code-mixing. “Different languages are used for different purposes, competence in each varying according to such factors as register, occupation, and education” (McArthur 1992: 673).

It should be mentioned that these definitions are not universal. Some researchers only distinguish between ‘monolinguals’, who know one language, and ‘multilinguals’, who know more than one language. Occasionally this same distinction is made by using the term ‘monolingual’ and ‘bilingual’ with bilingual defined as knowing two or more languages (cf. Aronin/Hufeisen 2009: 15).

With regard to the theme of this paper, also the term ‘bilingual education’ should be defined. Freeman describes bilingual education as “an educational program in which two languages are used as mediums of instruction” (Irujo 1998: 127). A more detailed definition is given by Cummins who defines bilingual education as “the use of two (or more) languages of instruction at some point in a student’s school career” (Aronin/Hufeisen 2009: 42). Furthermore, he makes a distinction between ‘additive’ and ‘subtractive’ approaches to bilingualism. The aim of the first is to add another language to the learner’s existing repertoire whereas the latter tries to move the students towards monolingualism in the dominant language (cf. Blackledge/Creese 2010: 42).

In addition to that, he points out that we can further distinguish between ‘transitional’, ‘maintenance’ and ‘enrichment’ approaches to bilingual education. Transitional bilingual programs are bilingual only at first and aim to stop teaching in the students’ first language after 1-2 years. It is their goal to replace the minority language by monolingual teaching and learning in the dominant language. A ‘maintenance’ approach to bilingual education, however, aims to affirm the student’s first language. The program provides extensive instruction in the native language as well as in the second language in order to achieve a solid academic base for the students in their first language. Bilingualism is considered to be the key aim of this program. A variation of the ‘maintenance’ approach is the ‘enrichment’ model. These programs focus on developing second language abilities of students who speak the majority, dominant language (cf. Blackledge/Creese 2010: 42). There will a more detailed description of these programs in the second part of the paper when looking at Hispanics in New Mexico.

3. History of Bilingual Education in the U.S.

There is a danger in isolating current bilingual education from its historical background. In many countries this issue must be linked to the historical context of immigration as well as political movements. Therefore this chapter will provide a short historical overview to get a better understanding of the current situation and challenges dealing with bilingual education in the United States. As identified by Baker and Jones (1998), there are four overlapping periods which should be taken into consideration when talking about the history of bilingual education: The ‘Permissive Period’, the ‘Restrictive Period’, the ‘Opportunist Period’ and the ‘Dismissive Period’ (cf. Ovando 2003: 2).

3.1 The Permissive Period

When the first European colonists and settlers arrived in North America, the land already contained more than 300 separate indigenous languages. Together with a multitude of languages that immigrants from all over the world brought into the country, multilingual communities subsisted side by side in the 18th and 19th century (cf. Nieto 2009: 61). At this time many immigrant communities used their maternal languages for religious services or community newspapers. In addition, first bilingual schools were founded at that early period. Take, for example, the founding of public and private German-English schools in the mid 19th century where bilingual or non-English instruction was provided. These schools were set up by German communities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin and Texas. Also, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Spanish, French, Russian and Czech were among the instruction languages within schools in the 1800s or early 1900s (cf. Baker 2011: 185). However, there were exceptions to the acceptance of language diversity, such as the anti-German stance by Benjamin Franklin in the 1750s or the mandate of the California Bureau of Instruction to use English as the only language at schools (cf. Baker 2011: 185). Although this period can be characterized as permissive, it is important to point out that education during the 19th century was not set up to actively promote bilingualism. It was rather a policy of linguistic assimilation (cf. Ovando 2003: 4).

3.2 The Restrictive Period

In the 1880s there was a turning point in the historical development. By this time the number of immigrants increased significantly and therefore there was a growing fear of foreigners which led to the United States wanting all immigrants to be integrated and assimilated in order to fit one cultural mold. Loyalty to the U.S. was associated with competence in English and therefore the Naturalization Act of 1906 stated that all immigrants have to speak English to become naturalized Americans (cf. Baker 2011: 185). This led to a huge push for homogeneity in schools and emphasized monolingual instruction. Many large urban schools created Americanization classes to prepare immigrants for integration into mainstream society. These classes often became the tool for the assimilation and integration of diverse languages and cultures because they represented the American culture as being more desirable than the immigrants’ ancestral cultures and languages. By 1923 thirty-four states had decreed that English must the only language of instruction in elementary schools, public and private (cf. Ovando 2003: 5).

Another factor linked to this change in the development of bilingual education was the entry of the United States into World War I in 1917. Anti-German feelings spread all over the country and the German language was considered to be a threat to the unity of Americanization. As a result, the teaching of German as a foreign language was eliminated in most school districts because it was portrayed as un-American (cf. Baker 2011: 186).

Also the indigenous languages were affected by a repressive language policy at this time. Native American boarding schools were established in order to educate Native American children and youths according to Euro-American standards. In these schools the natives were forbidden to speak their native languages and traditional names were replaced by new European-American (cf. Ovando 2003: 5).

To sum up, it can be said that bilingual education was primarily suppressed in order to promote ideological principles during this period. Although the restrictive period emphasized monolingual instruction in schools, the debate over the role of non-English mother-tongue instruction continued and by the 1960s various factors led to a restoration of bilingual education.

3.3 The Opportunist Period

When the Soviet Union launched their satellite “Sputnik” in 1957, the quality of U.S. education was put into question and politicians became aware that foreign language skills were essential in warfare, science and for national defense in the cold war period. Therefore the National Defense and Education Act was passed in 1958 to promote the teaching of foreign languages in elementary schools, high schools and universities. Despite the fact that this act imposed the instruction of foreign languages for English monolinguals, it destroyed the linguistic gifts that children from non-English-language backgrounds brought into the schools. However, the act helped to create a slightly more tolerant attitude towards languages of ethnic groups in the U.S. (cf. Ovando 2003: 7).

Another factor that influenced the re-establishment of bilingual schools in the 1960s was the Civil Rights movement. The 1964 Civil Rights Act marked the change to a less negative attitude towards ethnic groups and their languages. This is because of the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of color, race or national origin (cf. Baker 2011: 186). In addition, changes in the immigration laws induced that the 1965 Immigration Act revoked the Naturalization Act of 1906. As a result, large numbers of Asians and Latin Americans entered the country and bilingual instruction was much- needed in schools where the classrooms were filled more and more with language-minority children (cf. Ovando 2003: 7).

The restoration of bilingual education also owes a great debt to exiled Cubans who came to Florida in 1959 because of the Cuban Revolution. They established a bilingual education program which became highly successful. This experiment functioned as an inspiring example for other bilingual programs in Florida and other parts of the country (cf. Baker 2011: 187).


Excerpt out of 24 pages


Bilingual Education in the US and New Mexico
Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald
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ISBN (Book)
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Bilingual Education, Hispanics, New Mexico, English Only, No Child Left Behind
Quote paper
Felix B. (Author), 2013, Bilingual Education in the US and New Mexico, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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