(Re)Defining Freedom of Speech: Language Policy, Education, and Linguistic Rights in the United States

Eric J Johnson

language policies, bilingual education, linguistic rights


In the United States, the current sociopolitical environment has produced a barrage of policies aimed at curbing the use of languages other than English. From a language ideologies perspective (Schieffelin et al. 1998), this discussion outlines the political architecture of anti-immigrant policies as they are realized in public classrooms. Schools are readily accessible to policymakers and effectively used in the process of instilling socially desired qualities while simultaneously filtering out unwelcome characteristics. As the largest minority group in the United States, the children of Latino immigrants have been especially affected by educational language policies. By tracing out the underlying impetus behind federal and state language policies, I demonstrate how immigration, language, and ethnicity are conflated in the process of developing policies that aim to homogenize and repress cultural diversity. Focusing on language policies across multiple levels of government demonstrates the complexity involved the development and implementation of programs that service immigrant and language-minority communities. It is argued that the fundamental lack of cultural and linguistic sensitivity that spans English-only policies constitutes a coherent effort to interrupt the processes of heritage culture transmission to language-minority students. In this context, the adverse effects of subtractive language policies targeted at minority communities become apparent as they extend from the classroom to a variety of other social contexts.

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Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies