History Issues and Politics of Bilingual Education

The language of education has always been of a paramount importance. This problems becomes even more important nowadays since the migration processes in the contemporary world are very active and the national and consequently linguistic situation is permanently changing. For instance, the US are characterized by high level of migration and the growth of population is partially provided with new immigrants who arrive in a new country often without knowledge of local culture, traditions and even language.
Naturally in such circumstances the state has to cope with the problem of linguistic diversity and focus on the bilingual education as a possible way out from the difficulties that are created for national minorities because of language.
However, the problem, or to put it more precisely the necessity to introduce bilingual education, is not new for the US and within the 20th century, especially in its second half, the state attempts to solve this problem on both levels, federal and state. As a result, different programs and legislative acts were implemented in order to provide all nations and national minorities with the possibility to receive education in their own language along with the official language of the whole country.
It should be pointed out that such programs and laws have been started not just because of a political will of some politicians but the moving force of the introduction of bilingual education were juridical precedents which were the results of quite numerous court cases which aimed at the solution of the problem of a traditional education based on English only and providing national minorities with equal rights to receive the education as any other citizen of the US.
One of the first, or probably it would be more precisely to say one of the most famous and significant court cases concerning in a way the problem of bilingual education was the Brown v. Board of education (of Topeka) case, which was in fact probably the first step on the way to introduction of bilingual education. As a result of this case in 1954, the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that “racial segregation in public schools violated the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which says that no state may deny equal protection of the laws to any person within its jurisdiction” (Lambert & Tucker 1972:241). In fact this means that the Supreme Court officially recognized the equal opportunities of representatives of different races and nations to receive education and in such a context national minorities, which were not provided with the education in their native language, were obviously deprived.
Another significant breakthrough in the introduction of bilingual education occurred during the presidency of John F. Kennedy, who declared the War on Poverty, which besides implied the promotion of educational opportunities of the most deprived shares of American society, and particularly immigrants who just arrived in the country. The problem was that in the situation of difficult economic situation and growing tension in international relations the attitude to immigrants was extremely negative that makes the role of Kennedy’s attempt to solve the problem of poverty, which basically concerned Afro-Americans, national minorities and immigrants, was particularly important and one of the possible solutions of the problem was the education, which could be equally accessible for all national and linguistic groups.
Probably, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was partially a result of a great work started by John F. Kennedy, which aimed at the achievement of real equality of all citizens of the US. At the same time it was certainly motivated by court cases, such as Brown v. Topeka. In the same time the act was another step to develop bilingual education in the country. According to this legislative act, any kind of discrimination, including discrimination by schools was forbidden and the act called “for desegregation of public schools” (Hakuta 2000:158). The latter fact has to be underlined since just like Brown v Topeka case it basically concerned public schools, which may be treated as one of the disadvantages of the law that still does not make it less important.
In order to support the intentions of the act and provide its proper execution the US Department of Education was created, which was also “responsible for carrying out government education programs” (Hakuta 2000:196). Established in 1968 it aimed at the improvement of education nationwide and providing national minorities with equal opportunities to realize the programs of bilingual education.
1970s were characterized by the development of law remedies, which enlarged rights of representatives of different nations to receive education on their native language and provide possibilities to practice bilingual education.
However, the legislative activity was not limited only by legislative acts and programs on federal level but states were quite active as well. For instance, in Illinois Article 14C took effect on July 1, 1976. According to this article, transitional bilingual education was required. In any building where 20 or more limited English-proficient students of the same language classification were present. It also provided such establishment with certified bilingual personnel and English was a second language. Students had an opportunity to 3-year study to achieve proficiency in English and study their own culture along with traditional American.
The following two decades 1980-2000 were characterized by a significant increase of immigrants, particularly from Asia and Latin America that eventually led to the development of TBE/TBL, which provided services to all bilingual students.
Currently, any child can receive bilingual education through participation in numerous programs, which aim at the creation of equal opportunities to all students regardless their national or racial identity.

1. Hakuta, K. (2000). Mirror of language: The debate on bilingualism. New York: Basic Books.
2. Lambert, W. E. & Tucker, G. R. (1972). Bilingual Education of Children. Rowley, MA: Newbury House Publishers.

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