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Contested Policy

The Rise and Fall of Federal Bilingual Education in the United States, 1960-2001

Guadalupe San Miguel Jr.

Publication Year: 2004

Bilingual education is one of the most contentious and misunderstood educational programs in the country. It raises significant questions about this country’s national identity, the nature of federalism, power, ethnicity, and pedagogy. In Contested Policy , Guadalupe San Miguel, Jr., studies the origins, evolution, and consequences of federal bilingual education policy from 1960 to 2001, with particular attention to the activist years after 1978, when bilingual policy was heatedly contested. Traditionally, those in favor of bilingual education are language specialists, Mexican American activists, newly enfranchised civil rights advocates, language minorities, intellectuals, teachers, and students. They are ideologically opposed to the assimilationist philosophy in the schools, to the structural exclusion and institutional discrimination of minority groups, and to limited school reform. On the other hand, the opponents of bilingual education, comprised at different points in time of conservative journalists, politicians, federal bureaucrats, Anglo parent groups, school officials, administrators, and special-interest groups (such as U.S. English), favor assimilationism, the structural exclusion and discrimination of ethnic minorities, and limited school reform. In the 1990s a resurgence of opposition to bilingual education succeeded in repealing bilingual legislation with an English-only piece of legislation. San Miguel deftly provides a history of these clashing groups and how they impacted bilingual educational policy over the years. Rounding out this history is an extensive, annotated bibliography on federal bilingual policy that can be used to enhance further study.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Al Filo: Mexican American Studies Series


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Title Page

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pp. v-vi

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p. vii

I would like to thank my colleagues in the history department of the University of Houston and in the Center for Mexican American Studies for their encouragement and resources, and for granting me much needed public spaces to develop the ideas for this book. Although this project began in the 1980s, their moral ...

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pp. 1-4

Bilingual education is one of the most contentious and misunderstood educational programs in the United States because it raises significant questions about national identity, federalism, power, ethnicity, and pedagogy. It raises questions about how one defines an American in general and the role of ethnicity in American life in particular. It also raises ...

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pp. 5-25

Bilingual education is not a new phenomenon. It has existed in various forms since this nation’s founding. The use of non-English languages as well as the use of two or more languages to teach academic subjects to individuals in the elementary, secondary, or post-secondary grades has been supported, tolerated, or sanctioned by public and parochial school ...

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pp. 26-53

During the first decade of its existence, from 1968 to 1978, bilingual education policy was strengthened and transformed as it was implemented. Federal court rulings, executive actions, and the political struggles of minority and non-minority group members contributed to its growth and strengthening. ...

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pp. 54-76

During the 1980s, organized opposition to bilingual education policy grew significantly. Politicians, educators, scholars, and parent groups began to criticize bilingual education policies and programs at all levels of government and to call for their curtailment. Several specific factors were responsible for the growth of this ...

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pp. 77-98

Opposition to bilingual education decreased in the early 1990s, at least within the executive and legislative branch of the federal government. The constant need for Latino votes by the Republican Party as well as the election of a Democratic president blunted attacks against this policy in the first half of the 1990s. By mid-decade, however, organized opposition ...

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pp. 99-113

This brief history focused on one of the most contentious and misunderstood policies in the country: federal bilingual education. It traced and explained, in bold sketches, the rise and fall of federal bilingual education policy during the years from 1960 to 2001 and the role played by the contending groups of supporters and opponents in its development. ...

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pp. 114-116

What is the state of federal policy for the education of Limited English Proficient (LEP) children two years after the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act? One way to characterize this policy is that it is in flux but several trends have already emerged. First, there is a pervasive ignorance of the bill’s provisions among ...


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pp. 117-161


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pp. 162-168

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414158
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574411713

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Al Filo: Mexican American Studies Series
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OCLC Number: 60334599
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Contested Policy

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mexican Americans -- Education -- History -- 20th century.
  • Education, Bilingual -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Educational equalization -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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