Societal Attitudes Affecting Bilingual Education

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Societal Attitudes Affecting Bilingual Education
Bilingual education in the United States is constantly debated. It is often misunderstood. As Freeman (2000) notes, part of the confusion is caused by the fact that the term refers to a wide range of bilingual programs and practices (p. 204). Practitioners in the field of bilingual education who have educational and linguistic backgrounds strive to implement the most educationally sound policies, programs, and practices in order to best serve the needs of the growing population of English language learners in the United States. These policymakers, language educators, parents, and community members, however, constantly battle opposition that is not always based on truths and evidence, but
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Language Prejudice
Languages speak volumes. Languages themselves are more than just mere words. They represent the diverse communities, histories, politics, and cultures of the peoples that speak them. When the use of minority languages challenge the interests of the dominant community, the minority language and its speakers begin to be viewed as dangerous. Those in the dominant culture threatened by changing demographics will hold on to the “old ways”. Policies and practices resembling those of the Restrictive Period resurface. Allegations such as language diversity creating social and political tensions become accepted truths. This in turn fuels the debate and results in the rights of language minority groups being dismissed for “the greater goal” of unifying the country.
Long standing language attitudes and prejudices like those found in the arguments of English-only movements contribute to bilingual education opposition. These attitudes are not to be taken lightly as they “contribute to the social reproduction of the subordinate role of minority languages and speakers of those languages” (Freeman, 2008, p.79). Language prejudices lead to discriminatory practices and produce negative feelings toward minority languages and cultures. When the English language is elevated and regarded with the highest prestige, minority language
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