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May 3, 2010 / andreasterzuk

Schools and Linguistic Othering

This article in the Wall Street Journal describes an alarming decision by the Arizona Department of Education to police English language “fluency” in Arizona teachers.

Being a monolingual speaker of English does not make a person a “flawless” speaker or writer of English; more knowledgeable about English language rules; or a better example of how-students-should-speak-and-write-English.  No speaker of English–monolingual, bilingual, or multilingual–has an unmarked or neutral accent.  Such things simply do not exist.  Any statements or policies otherwise are simply examples of unchecked nationalism, xenophobia, and linguistic othering.  Positioning monolingual speakers of English as the linguistic ideal does nothing more than structure society in inequitable ways.  The decision of the Arizona Department of Education to interpret the No Child Left Behind Act in this way says more about the identities and internalized ideologies of educational gatekeepers and little about the linguistic abilities and realities of schools, teachers and students.

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