Bilingual Education History Essay

Bilingual Education History Essay

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Policy in the United States towards foreign languages has long been a complicated process. The nation was founded by polyglot immigrants and welcomed, to varying degrees, many subsequent waves of immigrants speaking languages familiar and foreign. Most immigrants learned English and despite efforts to maintain their mother tongue, the “permissiveness and apathy” of American society towards second languages allowed the gradual erosion of many mother tongues. English, although the common language in schools, the courts, government, and the business community in the United States, is not the official language of our country. This fact juxtaposes paradoxically with the necessity of speaking English for success in our society, and the dying out of many languages native to immigrants after the third generation. Since no official policy at the federal level governs the official language of the United States, nor the teaching of foreign languages until after the Second World War, language education in the U.S. remained a patchwork of local policies.
During the Cold War, foreign language education policy became a larger national concern, yet the establishment of foreign language education abutted a long-standing “English Only” attitude in the U.S. The two are linked, as the decrease in students studying foreign languages can be directly tied to the xenophobia during World War II that, in some cases, outlawed the teaching of foreign languages. William Riley Parker directly links the two, citing that the decrease in students studying foreign language was a result of the phobia of Germans that swept the nation during the 1940s. Thus to fully understand the literature on foreign language policy, the various skeins of history: foreign la...


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Jefferson, Thomas. "A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, 1779." In The School in the United States: A Documentary History, edited by James W. Fraser, 19-24. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill, 2001.
Kliebard, Herbert M. The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 1893-1958. 3rd ed. New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer, 2004.
Kloss, Heinz. "German-American Language Maintenance Efforts." In Language Loyalty in the United States: The Maintenance and Perpetuation of Non-English Mother Tongues by American Ethnic and Religious Groups
edited by Joshua A. Fishman. London: Mouton & Company, 1966.
Parker, William Riley. The Language Curtain, and Other Essays on American Education. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1966.
Tyack, David B. The One Best System : A History of American Urban Education. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974.

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