- Language ideologies: Critical perspectives on the Official English Movement ed. by Roseann Dueñas González, Ildikó Melis
Language ideologies analyzes the educational, social, political, and legal impact of the Official English movement. Vol. 1, which focuses on the actual and hypothetical implications of the movement, includes fourteen papers divided topically on recent developments, research and politics, classroom issues, and the notion of difference. Vol. 2, which focuses on history and theory, contains fourteen papers on justice and law, ideology, and international issues. Each volume also includes a substantive introduction by the editor. Survey articles by Dorothy Waggoner, James Crawford, Carol Schmid, and Dennis Baron, along with a December 1995 statement before the United States Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs by an ACLU attorney, provide a strong grounding for the other chapters. The set covers an impressive range of topics—from curriculum (both bilingual and teacher training) to legal analysis (civil liberties, discrimination) to analyses of language shift, political history, cultural theory, and rhetoric. Some chapters depart from the English Only theme to examine Ebonics, which provides a useful linkage.
Space precludes discussion of all of the contributions, but selected contributions give a sense of the collection’s range. In Vol. 1, Thomas Scovel’s ‘ “The younger, the better” myth and bilingual education’ analyzes what the author sees as linguistic ‘junk science’ in public policy. Scovel cites the crucial role of the slogan ‘the younger, the better’ in the campaign over California’s Proposition 227, which read: ‘Whereas, young immigrant children can easily acquire full fluency in a new language, such as English, if they are heavily exposed to that language in the classroom at an early age’ (California Voter Information Guide, 1998, p. 75). He notes that, as with most myths, such assumptions are in part valid, but that policy advocates and the general public often oversimplify and misinterpret scientific results. Scovel [End Page 798] points out, for example, that ‘the younger, the better’ implicitly links the experiences of first-language acquiring children with second-language acquiring adults, minimizes the role of literacy skills in second language learning, and lumps together different language skills.
Arturo Gonzalez’s chapter, ‘Which English skills matter to immigrants? The acquisition and value of four English skills’, examines understanding, speaking, reading, and writing using results from the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (of 25,000 males). Gonzalez observes that the oral skills of speaking and understanding tend to correlate, as do the literacy skills of reading and writing. Important variables affecting oral vs. written proficiency include time in the US, ethnicity, and schooling. Gonzalez also discusses the role of the labor market in assimilation, noting that the economic impact of English skills is about 17% for oral skills and 12% for literacy skills and suggests that there are important noneconomic (social, political, and cultural) factors favoring the adoption of English by nonnative speakers.
Rosina Lippi-Green’s ‘That’s not my language: The struggle to (re)define African American English’ looks at attitudes toward Ebonics, examining comments as diverse as the National Head Start Association’s I has a dream advertisement (run as a free full-page ad in the New York Times) to African-American leaders’ comments, television news clips, sports columns, and romance novels. Characterizations of Ebonics vary from an African-American lingua franca to an act of rebellion against mainstream values, and Lippi-Green shows how themes of assimilation, economic advancement, and social assimilation run through various discussions.
In Vol. 2, David Corson’s chapter, ‘Social justice, language policy, and English only’, examines the ethical justification for minority first-language maintenance and bilingual education in terms of the late John Rawls’s theory of social justice and the...