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Monolingual Language Ideologies and the Idealized Speaker: The “New Bilingualism” Meets the “Old” Educational Inequities

by Chris K. Chang-Bacon - 2021

Background/Context: After decades of restrictive U.S. language policies geared toward English-only education, recent years have seen a proliferation of dual-language programs, Seal of Biliteracy awards, and bilingual education programming more broadly. The demand for such programming ostensibly suggests growing consensus around the benefits of linguistic diversity—dubbed “The New Bilingualism” by The Atlantic in 2016. However, recent research suggests that the pivot to this New Bilingualism is largely taking place in contexts of privilege, disproportionately benefiting English-dominant, middle- and upper-class communities as compared with multilingual communities where demand for bilingual programming is not “new” at all.

Focus of Study: This piece explores how recent, well-intentioned expansions in bilingual education programming may actually reinforce historical inequities. Putting forth a framework of idealized language ideologies, the article documents how bilingualism has historically been encouraged for some and denied to others in U.S. education and policy contexts.

Research Design: Through historical analysis, this article documents how language ideologies overlap with racism and nationalism in educational and policy contexts across key periods of U.S. history and into the present day.

Conclusions/Recommendations: A framework of idealized language ideologies foregrounds (1) idealized language practices, (2) idealized speakers, and (3) institutional interests, highlighting how these dynamics function to maintain educational and broader social inequities. Applying such a lens makes it possible to simultaneously acknowledge positive expansions of bilingual programming, while also questioning the framing of such programming as “new” or as a panacea for educational inequality. In a time of rapid expansion for bilingual educational programming, this piece demonstrates that even bilingualism can be normatively framed as an idealized language ideology to reinforce problematic language hierarchies. Thus, it is imperative that teachers, teacher educators, and policy makers reckon with these historical dynamics to ensure that educational models designed to ameliorate linguistic inequities do not end up reproducing them instead.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 123 Number 1, 2021, p. 1-28
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23558, Date Accessed: 9/20/2021 5:24:45 PM

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About the Author
  • Chris K. Chang-Bacon
    University of Virginia
    E-mail Author
    CHRIS K. CHANG-BACON, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of education at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on equity, language policy, and teacher education in multilingual contexts. You can see more of Chang-Bacon’s research on language ideologies in the Journal of Teacher Education, Educational Policy, and Critical Studies in Education.
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