Monday, March 1, 2010

Are all voices heard?

"Language is... the means through which people make sense of their own experience, produce meaning, and act on the world... to ignore the role of language as a major force in shaping human identity is to... deny the life histories and experiences of the people who use it" (119).

In class it was mentioned that schools tend to value only what is quantified, and as a result quantifiable subjects are prioritized while other school programs, like art, get the boot. Another subject that can be victim to this is language education in general.

On standardized tests, the only language that is measured is Standard English, and pressure for schools to be "accountable" and do well on such tests has resulted in multicultural/bilingual education being pushed aside for exclusive emphasis on English. Other languages have no quantitative value, so there is less incentive for schools to focus on them in addition to English classes.

This causes problems for children who speak another language in the home. Language has strong ties to one's cultural identity and individual expression, and bilingual students often feel losses of self-worth, frustration, and anxiety when they are put under pressure to assimilate to English, as they are given what seems to be a choice between connection to their community and success in school. Like comparing appreciation for science to the arts, English is shown as more than a road to success-- it is instead portrayed as a more important language.

How importance is having linguistic diversity? On one hand, the loss of bilingual programs is hard for bilingual students. However, does multiculturalism, in some respects, just make it harder for Americans to communicate, as some would argue? Is it better to assimilate? What amount of assimilation should people from different ethnic backgrounds have to go through? How should English be portrayed in relation to other languages?

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