My name is Richard Ruiz. I’m at the University of Arizona, College Education.
Well, language as write, language as problem, language as resource actually started as a dichotomy between language as problem and language as resource. Um, but I was not comfortable with this idea because it seemed to me the important things—one of the important things had to do with uh the way in which minority communities react to language as problem. Um, and while they might ten to react to language as problem in a language as resource orientation, it seems to me more often then not (clears throat) it’s a kind of um visceral reaction against languages problem, a kind of a sense that it’s discriminatory against them. And so being discriminatory it seemed to me that it—it seemed more likely and I—I think that it’s probably true that they react more in a—in a legalistic uh sense of—of languages right—my language is my right. I was born with it. My—it’s my um—it’s my cultural right. It’s my even moral right to be able to identify with my family, with my culture and so on. And so those two things seem to be more in contrast then the language as resource orientation, which I think, is a kind orientation that um—that maybe transcends the other—the other two. And so I—I conceived of it as that, as a kind of tricotonomy or a—a—a sense of—of a conflict or a tension between language as problem and language as right. Out of which, uh one hopes comes a sense that neither one of these—two are adequate, sufficient to deal with the issues that we have, especially for language minority kids. The important thing I think is for us to—to transcend those and to see how it is that in fact languages—all languages and language diversity itself is a resource to be used for their benefit.
Well, actually my uh my initial conceptualization of this idea was in Wisconsin when I first went there as a brand new faculty member. They had just passed a language policy—actually a bilingual education policy in the state. Um, one of the first states, 1975 that passed uh its own bilingual educational law and it occurred to me that it was a very strange kind of law because it defined the people who were involved in the program um and all of them were called bilingual, bilingual teacher, bilingual teacher aid, bilingual counselor, bilingual counselor’s aid, bilingual everything, except for the student who was call—not bilingual, but limited English proficient or actually in Wisconsin, limited English speaking. Um, that seem to me very curious and so I investigated further and talked with the legislators who had passed the law and—and those sorts of things. The other thing I discovered was that the law itself on bilingual education in Wisconsin and I—I think it’s still true, is embedded in a—in a chapter on handicap children. So it’s on the—the educational handicap children includes the education of minority students. Um, and so automatically they’re—they are identified as having a particular kind of problem. Academic problem, uh perhaps even cognitive and emotional and other kinds of problems associated with kids in school. So it seemed to me that it was im—it was an important way to convey what this policy or this law was about to teachers, to administrators, to—to parents, to the students themselves that somehow I’m a problem, I have to get fixed. If I don’t get fixed then I continue the way I am. And teachers had that same, I think, uh orientation as well. Um, so one of the—one of the things that I think that it does, encoded in policy in that way, is to create a set of expectations and perhaps even a set of responsibilities on the part of the teacher, uh, specifically the teacher but also the parents uh that this person has to get fixed. What he’s coming in with to the classroom is not good, it’s bad and so the faster we can get the student away from that background and away, therefore from culture and family and community and neighborhood and so on, the better for the child. So I don’t see it as necessarily malicious although there are obviously people who can use it that way that is the language is problem orientation. I see it as a kind of status quo idea that somehow these—the problem or the harm that these kids are doing to themselves, they’re doing it as a result of their hanging on to something which is dragging them down. And in this case, it’s their language. I—I think it makes a great difference whether or not teachers see these kids as coming in with something valuable in their background or whether they see them as coming in with something to their detriment. And teachers who want to act in the child’s best interest, believing that one or the other is true, we’ll act differently depending on whether or not they see it as problem or as a resource.
Well, um often in my classes I—I quote uh W.E.B. Dubois. He’s—he wrote a—an interesting book at the turn of the century called, “The Souls of Black Folk.” Um, and in—at the very beginning of that book, he asks a question or he says that the life of the Negro or the black or the African-American person in this country is characterized by a question. Uh, and it’s a question that is he says unasked, generally unasked but is explicit in everything that they do in their life. And it’s—it’s a question which I’ve take to heart and which I often convey to people and ask them how they would feel if in fact this question of asked—were asked constantly of them. The question is, “How does it feel to be a problem?” It’s an incredible question because Dubois then goes on to talk about how the whole history of the black person in the United States uh really is characterized by that question. And the history and the sense of who they are and the identity and so on is determined in large part by whether they ask that question of themselves and how they answer it. Um, I—I think it’s the—it’s similar with other groups in the United States, in this case, language minority kids. If they are constantly faced with this question, whether implicit or—or outright, it seems to me that after a while it—it has an impact on your sense of who you are, your identity, the people around you, those folks who you love but perhaps um you’ve become—you’ve become alienated from because you be—you become convinced that in fact they are the problem in your life. They are the ones that are creating this disadvantage in your—your school achievement. So again, it seems to me that it’s much deeper than just language. It’s a whole question of identity and how you see yourself. On the other hand, uh if in fact you see yourself not so much—not—not merely as having a right to express yourself and however you might express yourself because if you think about it, you can talk about your having a right to do something and still think that it’s wrong, that it’s—that’s a problem, right, for you. And say, “Well, I have my—I have a right to act in this way” and you can still see that acting in that way creates problems for you. Um, but on the other hand it seems to me that there are other ways to see your—to see yourself and your identity and so on. It’s not just a question of right because it’s who I am, it’s right because it’s right. That is, that there is a goodness involved in who I am. There’s goodness involved in what I can do uh and how I can express myself. And that goodness needs to be somehow nurtured in me. I can nurture it in myself, my parents, and my community can nurture it in myself and it can be promoted in all kinds of ways. Um, and one hopes the teacher in the school would also promote as a way of building on something that I already have is a good thing as opposed to trying to—to subtract it out and replace it with something else.
Well, one of the things that I do with teachers is to ask them how they feel about variation at all, any kind of diversity. I’m not just talking about language or cultural or ethnic diversity. I’m talking about diversity of any sort. Is this a good thing or not? Is it a good thing for us to have a variety of choices? Is it a good thing for us to be able to look and see a whole gamete of things that are either at our disposal or—or for our enjoyment or for our use, whatever. Um, then we look at issues of language variation and culture variation and so on. (clears throat) Why—why in fact would a person who sees variation and diversity and choice and so on as good, as an essentially good thing, part of a kind of democratic way of life uh, if not a more uh enriching world? Um, why would that person then look at cultural diversity and language diversity and so on as something bad, as something not useful, as something perhaps to be uh limited. Um, we talk a lot about language variation and the way in which language itself uh can—can be useful to express uh variety of ideas in way that if you speak only one language, it’s—you can express it but—but the var—the variety, the richness of the variety is important. Uh, so that’s where I b—basically start to talk to teachers about these sorts of things. Um, whether or not they are convinced by legal uh arguments or by other more kind of lofty policy arguments, I—I think, that’s a later issue. Uh, initially I think I want to—I want to deal with this—this question of how they see themselves in the world and how they see the benefit of a—of a kind of diverse world for them.
Well, I—I think uh generally as human beings there are—there are ethical and moral issues involved. Um, but also specifically as teachers there are ethical and moral issues involved. It seems to me that one of the important aspects of being a teacher is that rather than do no harm as—as—as um physicians uh, I guess want—want to assert, it’s important for teachers to build on what—what—what is there, what exists, what is good and not to uh tear down what’s there. Not to eradicate. So and education, not just a good education, but any kind of education is one that doesn’t subtract out good experiences in children, doesn’t assume the children come with nothing at all, with nothing good. Uh, but in fact, assumes that they come with something very good, with something that has served them for us a number of years in their lives and not just the kid—the children, but also their parents and their communities and their tradition and so on. So from a kind of ethical and moral point of view, it seems to me that it does—it does—again, it doesn’t make sense to see uh language or cultural or anything else as a problem in this sense, as a negative consideration. Um, because then what you do is you negate um—you negate all of those—all those good things that have allowed that child to grow up to this point. Uh, and therefore, you set yourself up as the person who in fact is going to bring whatever growth uh, uh is going to come to this person. Um, and—and again, it seems to me that that’s—that’s an ethical and a moral issue, but it’s specifically related to what teachers do.
Well, the role of Federal policy is an interesting one. I—I don’t know how far you—back you want me to go. I mean, it goes a long—a long way back. Um, one of the things that we’ve struggled with forever in this country is the way in which we see languages and—and how they—that might be encoded in policy. Of course, everyone knows by now or for the most part people no by now that we don’t have a coherent national policy on language in the way that other countries do. Uh, we certainly don’t have a policy that says English is the official language of anything, at least at the Federal level. That’s one of the reasons people—some people would like to—to do that—to move toward that. But we’ve always been reluctant to do that and I think it comes as Shirley Heath and other people say from our inherited British reluctance to legislate in matters of language, which is always—which has always predominated by choice rather than by legislation. Um, it seems to me that there are significant, critical events in the life of the nation that have changed our way of looking at minority uh community, especially language minority communities. Um, one of the first we looked at is during the language scare of the—of the 1920’s, early uh—well, 1919’s and 1920’s. Uh, 1919 and 1925 for example. Uh, when it wasn’t just a question of being—being concerned with foreign language or foreign elements, it was also concerned with the alien, the immigrant, the new uh—the new stock of immigration coming in the country. Very, very—much darker, for the most part on no longer Protestant and so on and so all of these kind of characteristics that were creating the kinds of problems that—that people were fighting with at the Federal level at that point. There were lots of court decisions at the time, there was some effort to restrict immigration and some of that based on language dominance and proficiency, reading, literacy tests for example and so on. Um, but I—I guess per—perhaps we should confine ourselves to the more or less modern era. Um, the pass of the Bilingual Education Act, for example, in 1968 um most people I think know that that particular law was a kind of amorphous law. Uh, didn’t really define bilingual education all that well or very definitely, but what it did do, I think uh was it created an association which is still with us that somehow language variation or speaking a language or having a language background that’s other than English, um is a source of disadvantage and perhaps linked specifically to poverty. The—the 1968 act had a poverty criteria attached to it. In other words, in order for you to be eligible for the bilingual—to—to participate in a bilingual program, um you had to have three characteristics. One is that you had to be what was called then LES, later cha—changed to LEP, limited English speaking or not—limited English proficient. Um, that was not—it was not clear what that was at that time, but—but people generally had an idea that it meant uh having a background where your parents or your family spoke a language other than English in the home and so on. Uh, the second criterion was that you had to make less than $3000 a year. Even in 1968 that was very poor. Uh, and the third criterion was that for a school to be eligible to receive funds to give you that program, a predominance of the families in that area had to be of—of this poverty level. So it wasn’t just individual poverty, it was also community poverty. Um, what I—what I think that did reinforced um through subsequent reauthorizations of—of Title VII or the Bilingual Education Act was to crystallize and reinforce in people’s minds the idea that if your language background is something other than English, uh you are more likely to be poor. Or—there is this kind of association with poverty and bilingualism. Uh, fast forward now to uh today. While we have a Bilingual Education Act, I think uh it passed in 1994, which is very uh hopeful, um very different, which uses the term uh national resources that is languages as national resources for the very first time. We don’t—we’ve never seen that before at least in the—in the Bilingual Education Act. Uh, perhaps it was there in foreign language education, legislation and so on, but certainly not with respect to ethnic language communities, we’ve not usually thought of them as national resources and now we do that in our—in the law. The very same time that that law was being passed, Title VII, Title I was being passed. And Title I um included a definition of people who were eligible for that. And I’m sorry I didn’t bring it with me but you might—in fact, I—I could certainly provide you with that um—that part of the law uh at some point. But it’s—it’s—it makes these juks positions, these associations which are—are perhaps even worse then the ones that were created in 1968. It talks—it talks about those people who are being eligible—who are eligible for Title I, who are likely to be at-risk for school failure. It talks about gang membership, it talks about teenage pregnancy, it talks about uh vandalism, it talks about a variety of things and in the list, it talks about having a language background other than English. And again, Title I, we’re talking about 8 to 9 billion dollars. It reaches basically every county, every district in the United States as a post-bilingual education, which is half a million—uh, half of 500 million or so—something—about a half a billion. So there—there’s a sense there in which while the bilingual education act has—we have been able to turn that language around and perhaps start people thinking in other ways about it. The mainstream of education that is embodied and codified in something like Title I, still tends to see non-English language background or the language minority child in general, as having these—this—this essential disadvantage and perhaps because of that, likely to fail in school.
Forecasting where we might be from where we are is difficult. Um, one of the reasons it’s difficult is, for example, just in case—in the case of Title VII, um there have been wide shifts in the way in which the minority child is viewed um as result of elections—uh, presidential elections. In—you know, in 1968 when the first Bilingual Education Act was passed, there was this poverty criterion and a lot of it was tied up with uh the initial war and poverty—Johnson’s war and poverty and the great society. Our effort to try—to attach this to the—to our efforts to um make people uh improve their lives and so on. And—and—and since—and since then a lot of the shift in bilingual education occurred because then we had Richard Nixon come in who had a very different idea. Uh, after that it was Jimmy Carter who presided over another author—reauthorization and then we had George Bush and uh we had Ronald Reagan and then we had George Bush and uh then we have Bill Clinton. So there have been changes constantly in—in this. So it’s difficult to no exactly unless you can forecast who’s going to win the next election and what kind of orientation they’re going to have toward the language. I would say this, there are—there are two uh—our um—our history and our future perhaps could be bifurcated in this way. On the one hand, you have some hope—well, perhaps I should say first, the kinds of problems I see and then I’ll end with the hopes. The problems I see are um a continuing sense of threat from the other—the alien, the—and not just the alien but the alien among us. The fact that Hispanics, for example, are—are projected to be the largest minority group in the United States, anyway from 10 years to 40 years to 50 years from now, between 2010 and 2050. And in many parts of the country and many urban areas, they are now the largest group. (clears throat) There are many areas that are majority minority, minority majority that is where, you know, 50, 60, 80 percent; sometimes even more of the school population is uh minority and many of those Hispanic. Um, that creates a sense of threat, a sense of um conflict, the sense that perhaps we need to figure out some way to cretale to temperate and that’s, I think, one of the things that you see in California. Ca—The—California’s law um—California’s problems are not just an issue of language. It seems to me that one of—one of the things that you um—that you can understand if you look at the—the history of language, policy and language um movements in the United States is that um language problems are never language problems. They index other social problems. They—they are a kind of epiphenomenal. Right? They—they lay on top of other things which are the real problem, whether they’re economic or political or religious, even, conflicts that we’re having. Uh, so—but language is an obvious way to index that in a way that perhaps raises as well. Uh, so these—these problems that people perceive, the—the competition from these groups, not just for economic resources but for um a—the strain on our health and welfare system, on our educational system. Uh, and just resources in general, some people are always going to be threatened by that and they’re going to be able to persuade other people that that’s a threat and therefore, you’re going to have initiatives that passed like Proposition 227, or like the impending proposition in Arizona and other propositions and um—and uh political movements that thrive on this question of threat. That’s the one aspect of it which I see as problematic and which I see as continuing in—indefinitely. The other—the other possibility, the good possibility (cough)
Well, I—you know, in many ways the—the child and especially the minority child, it’s always been a kind of—it’s always been a political consideration. It’s—it’s—the education itself uh and especially when we’re talking about the education of minority children, and especially since the late 60’s when we’ve been talking more specifically at the Federal level of provision of services to language minority children, these have never been without major political consideration. And so it’s one of the reasons that I suggest that these—this is an important thing to look at. (clears throat) The tragedy obviously for the child is that these services are cretaled or they are expanded depending how this—how these political considerations play out. Should give you—just to give you one example, when Jimmy Car—Carter came in uh and was looking at the reauthorization of Bilingual Education Act, he was concerned with the—that the um Nixon administration had tried to narrow the definition of bilingual education and had um—had created this sense that um we were spending too much money on that—what they sometimes referred to as that end of the social spectrum. And so he wanted to restore some of the cuts and some of the programming and so on for these children, very important. Uh, one of the—one of the things that was important about the designation of limited English speaking is that it made a lot of children inelig—ineligible for these services. For example, one of the things I noticed in Wisconsin—in Wisconsin, not one Indian child was being served by state funded bilingual programs because that—that law um designated as LES—or designated the kids who would be eligible as limited English speaking. Now, Indians in Wisconsin are not considered to be limited English speaking because they speak English. Um, so—so they were totally cut out of the program. When Jimmy Carter came in he was interested in spanning that so it was at that time, 1978, the law was changed to—to create a new designation to limit English proficient, which is—the—the definition is tricky, but you can imagine that speaking in proficient expands the pool of people who are eligible a little bit. Actually, it expanded it a lot. And so that particular change created services for children who never had services and it was incre—incredibly important that they be included, uh, especially Indian children, but there were other children as well. Later when uh the Reagan administration came in, in the um, early 1984, Bilingual Education Act was passed. It was an effort once again to restrict that eligibility and in fact there was great restriction of the—of the pool of children who were eligible. So I’m very concerned about the way in which these laws affect children. Um, but I think we miss a lot if we don’t acknowledge that political factors will always probably be at the center of these considerations.
I think the possibilities um stem from the fact that people are starting to understand that we could become more and more isolated in the global world. Global, multilingual, multicultural, multinational world even um where nations are starting to cooperate and become uh sup—super national uh entities, in Europe for example, and—and to some degree in South America where there’s a sense of—of cross national—transnational cooperation among these groups. Now part of that, especially in Europe, entails a sense of the—of the value placed on uh multilingualism and multiculturalism and so on, a sense that these things are valuable. That—that pressure to compete with those sorts of—of entities perhaps will bring us to the point of—of seeing our language communities or at least uh language diversity, language proficiency in languages other than English, as important for our own well being for our own economic survival in the coming world and so on. You can see that a little bit already with the emphasis that some um—some people in—in Washington and other places, presidential candidates are placing on language proficiency—the development of language proficiency and foreign language education. One of the interesting things about um Secretary Riley um in a speck—in one of his recent speeches on—on education, he said he had a long uh—along passage on the question of language and language education. Part of it was on foreign language education the competitiveness and—and all of that. But some of it was also on these—to weigh immersion programs, these uh, dual language programs. One of the—one of the proposals is that he would like—and I don’t remember the time frame, I think it was fairly short though, one of—one of his proposals was that he wanted to establish a thousand more dual language or two-way immersion programs in the country. Given the fact that in the last what—I mean it’s been possible for us to have these programs since at least the early 80’s uh at least in terms of Federal legislation, certainly before that in terms of st—of state legislation. And up to now we—we have what, about 250 of them. For him to say we want to now quadruple that or act—actually quintuple that, that is he wants a thousand more, it seems to me uh radical in terms of that. Where—where are the resources going to come from, how are the teachers going to be trained, where is the uh value within communities going to be promoted and so on. But it shows, I think, a sense that in the future we’re going to have to become a lot more concerned not just about the creation of um language proficiency in our English monolinguals, it’s going to also come—have to come from our preservation of those language resources that we already in our children. And I should say that I think it’s still probably true. Uh, in the 1960’s Bruce Garder, a well-known writer in bilingual education at the time estimated that something like 90 percent of the bilingualism that exists in the United States exists because non-English speakers are learning English. It’s not because English speakers are learning anything else. Uh, now it seems to me there is this effort to try to change that at least incrementally to see if we could—if we can start impressing on our English monolingual population, the sense that they can no longer survive that way. They need something more besides English in order to—to get ahead in this world.
Can I say one other thing about the Orientation’s Model because I—I think it rounds it out a lot. I—I’ve done uh a bit of work since then, kind of conceptual work since the initial tricotomy, um and it seems to me that the orientation’s model um in—involves in the language problem write and resource paradigm an evaluative—these are evaluative orientations. I think it’s also important to—to acknowledge that there are what I—what I call descriptive orientations. Um, for example, the idea that language is a tool, the idea that language is a carrier of—of cultural knowledge and sentiment and so on. The idea that language is a means to something else, those I—I think and—and initially in my work I—I did mention these, but I didn’t—I didn’t come forth very explicitly in talking about how they fit in with the model. If you think about it in the United States, we have for at least the—the last couple of hundred years uh, uh start—developed to a very kind of um—in a—in a very definite way the idea that language is a tool, that it’s an instrument. Um, we probably care less as English speakers, especially US English speakers, about the fact that our language might be used—used—uh, beautiful or expressive or esthetically pleasing or whatever. Then we care about the fact that it’s powerful. Uh, in fact, if we—if we had that choice, there—there is no choice. We—we want a powerful language. It doesn’t matter if—if it pleases people. If it’s pleasing to the ear or—or whatever. We will be as ugly as we have to be in our language if it’s powerful. That’s different from the orientation that other language communities have in the world. Um, it happens to be true, I think, and you—you might want to ask me about indigenous communities, but—but one of the things that I think creates some of the concerns that—that I have about the way in which we see lang—language communities in the United States, is that we see it through this orientation of language as tool, as instrument. We look at uh; native communities, indigenous community and we ask as English speakers “What good is that language? So what if you’re going to lose it. In fact, our sense is it’s better that you lose it because if you’re losing it, you’re probably losing it to something better. That is English. That is it’s—it’s a more powerful tool, it’s something that gets you stuff, it—it allows you to advance in the world in a way that your language would never allow you to advance.” But you see, their sense—their orientation toward language obviously includes some instrumentalism, but it’s overwhelmed I think by a predominance on these—what some writers have called, Herbert Kellen for example, calls “Sentimental Attachments.” That is, they’re more concerned with the fact that their language attaches them to their history, to their culture, to their families, to their communities, a sense of who they are. In other words, language is a carrier of identity. Uh, and—and—and as a carrier of identity, it’s part of who they are. If they lose their language, they lose part of who they are. I think one of the things that characterizes US English speakers is that we use language as much like we use tools. And—and it’s almost as if it’s not part of us, it’s something we use. It’s—it’s a proficiency, it’s a skill that we have, but it’s not part of our identity, um, and so if we lose something or if we gain something, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s useful to me. For many indigenous communities and—and other language communities, um whose languages have been reduced in a lot of ways in terms of their usefulness or capital or instrumentalism or whatever in the larger society, they hang on to the importance of their language because it’s part of who they are and I think we don’t understand completely that orientation. If we understood it, I think we would be less indifferent toward—sometimes even hostile toward the idea uh that people lose or retain their language.
Well one—one of the concerns that I have about in—and actually lots of people have about indigenous groups in the United States as opposed to language uh minority immigrant groups, um is the specter of language death. You see, language loss, language shift in language minority communities uh of the immigrant sort, or of the non-indigenous sort say—let’s say Spanish speakers in Tucson, uh or in the southwest generally, uh there’s massive language loss among individuals and within communities. There is replacement of their languages with English generally. Uh, that’s happening on a massive scale. That’s tragic for those communities and for those individuals, but Spanish survives. Spanish survives in the world and—and in many ways, this uh North America, South America—the Americas are uh Spanish/English uh to some extent other language uh complex. We—we have these other languages and they survive in their native state and their vibrant and they have literatures and they media and they have all kinds of things that are going to allow them survive—to survive perhaps forever. Um, so—so the tragedy is—uh, community tragedy, it’s an individual tragedy and we should minimize it. People uh are not able to communicate with their families and with their grandparents and that kind of intergenerational problem seems to me is—is problematic. However, um it’s not qualitatively the same as a language that if the community loses it’s gone, it dies, it’s gone forever. The idea of language, the specter of language death um should create in us all a sense of urgency. There are lots of analyses about the number of languages that exist in North America, the numbers of languages that have existed in North America and the extent to which they have um disappeared. The rapidity, the increase—the increasing rapidity of their disappearing to where on a vitality scale, they’re very, very few languages that um are being transmitted in the—the normal way of—of what Fishman calls “Intergenerational Mother Ton Transmission.” That is the sense that people are learning their languages from their families that are growing up and speaking it and they’re transmitting it to their—to their children. There’s increasingly fewer of those kinds of—their—their very top of their pyramid. Uh, and the rest of the pyramid is moving up. That is there’s a sense in which all of these other languages are very much endangered and threatened. Um, so while our policy towards languages needs to have this kind of resourceful orientation, it seems to me that with respect to indigenous languages, our policy has to be much more urgent with them—with them. And frankly it hasn’t been. The Native American Languages Act that was passed initially in 1990 reauthorized the 1992 uh has all the right words. And in fact, it talks about language resources and so on and patrimony and all these good things that are—should be in policy. But there’s a million dollars given over to this effort, which is nothing if you think about the 175 or so languages that need to be uh addressed uh in this way, and very urgently it seems to me that that’s problematic and we need to deal with it immediately.
In some ways uh Arizona um follows California’s leads in many ways. It tries to resist it. I think we—we’re all conscious in—in Arizona the fact that—that many good things and many bad things come to us from California. And so we try to scrutinize them as best we can. Give you an example, in 1986 when I first got to Arizona, um California was in the middle of passing a um—a law which essentially made English the official language of the state and so it created uh an up—an uproar. It was passed overwhelmingly by the population by initiative and so two years later that same initiative—the same initiative but actually harsher um was written up by US English, the same folks who promoted it in California and—and brought it to Arizona. Uh, and actually there were three states uh that were considering that same initiative. California—sorry, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida, same time, same election. Uh, Colorado and Florida passed it overwhelming much like California had. Arizona on the other hand uh, passed it unfortunately but by about a half a percent, with a half percent to spare. It was bitter fight in—in Arizona. We were concerned in all kinds of ways. I think—I think we’re considered in Arizona, for example, um about the effects that this has generally on the state, not just with Hispanic population, but for—for example, with our indigenous Native American population. And they were very strong in suggesting the problems we’ve—in spite of the fact that our legislatures, our senators, and others have been in uh the recent past at least, Republican and somewhat conservative, they’ve also been extremely concerned about the well-being of the Native populations and those communities and how such laws affect them. Um, the um the deaf community became extremely active in Arizona in uh—and in educating people in Arizona that an anti uh—and English-only law affects them as well because American Sign Language is not English. It’s not signed English in the way that some people—and so a lot of us became very much, not just educated, but also energized by these movements. Unfortunately, I think it was impossible for us completely to overcome the kind of influence and power and money and other things that frankly came into this state. Another that affects Arizona in a way that’s similar to California in the same sorts of negative feelings, I think, um has to do with the immigration issue. Uh, Arizona uh became a kind of militarized border uh, you know, off and on, the kind of reinforcement of the borders the, you know, presidential candidates coming to Arizona and looking at the border and seeing the fence and those sorts of proposing ways to reinforce and—and giving us more uh more immigration officers uh, IS officials and things like that. These—these created a lot of problems for us in Arizona to overcome, um, but I—and—and—and frankly we—we have the same sort of concern now. Um, several years ago, a couple—three years ago—well, actually two years ago, propositions passed in California that severely restricted bilingual education and other language services for a language minority children. That’s—basically that same proposal has now come to Arizona funded by the same person with the same—uh, apparently with the same motivations and ideas and so on. Um, it’s um—it’s a bit beguiling I guess, the—the fact that there are many Hispanics who are up front and visible um and our papers—our newspapers who in large part give us a sense of what’s going on and—and shape a lot of perceptions don’t quite know what to make of it. We—we had—we had a meeting—we’ve had meetings with the editorial boards of some of these papers and—and they keep asking us and say well, “I don’t understand, there are Hispanics on this pro-side of this initiative to restrict bilingual education and so on.” My response to that is um how—in a political climate, how—how would it—how could it be otherwise? You’re always going to have—find someone uh who is—who is able to articulate that side of it. And—and, of course, you’re going to find—you’re going to try to find Hispanics to do that and you’re going to put—put them there and you’re going to reinforce them and so on. It’s not to blind their motives, it’s just to understand it’s a very political process. It’s a very political movement that creates symbols and creates ideas and ideologies or reinforces them. Uh, and in Arizona, we are very much affected by this. We are very concerned about it. Teachers and—and school administrators and others are very concerned about how it is that they’re going—their best are going to be able to educate these children when essentially a law is going to tie their hands about what—what they—what they can do. Well, one—one thing I should say about Arizona um and that is that—that we have now started to make some in roads into the thinking of editorial writers and others about the fact that even if they don’t agree that bilingual education is a good thing, even if they don’t think that bilingual education is very affective and—and—and so on. Even if they’re—they’re not completely bought into the idea of bilingual education, they have to admit that there are some people, including parents and students and others who are. The problem with the law is that it’s going to take choice away from parents and from those students. And it’s going to take the—the um—it’s going to take the judgment away from—from those school professionals, teachers and others, who are closest to the children in giving them whatever it is that they think is best with their—obviously with their parents permission. So, I’m hopeful—I—I—I’m—I’m ruing the day when it comes—when it comes because it seems to me that they are going to get enough signatures. But I’m also hopeful that in fact, in Arizona, um this law, this initiative has perhaps a flaw, a fatal flaw. And that—that fatal flaw is it takes choice away. Even—even those programs that the promoters of the law consider to be good programs, dual-language programs, uh two-way immersion programs, even those programs will be outlawed by—by this initiative and eventually by the law. And—and—and so there’s a sense in which the law perhaps, or the initiative has within the seeds of its own destruction, we hope. Uh, and—but we—beyond that seems to me, we hope, that it—it doesn’t even—it doesn’t come to that.
Well, I think the most critical factor for me uh with respect to the education of language minority students um is that they not—they not be put on the defensive about who they are. See, it seems to me that there’s—there is a difference between challenging uh kids with high standards and challenging kids about who they are. Uh, creating anxiety about high standards which school creates anxiety. And whether you have high standards or not, school creates anxiety. But it’s another kind of anxiety and it’s another kind of challenge to those children if they are faced with a cruel choice. And the cruel choice is this, that they—that they buy into the idea that their language and their culture and their background and their family and all those antecedent conditions are holding their back, are hindering them from school achievement, are creating in them a barrier or an obstacle to getting ahead in this society. Uh, if they feel that, if they feel that the school is asking or it’s telling them that, then the school is really creating in them what I call a cruel dilemma. The dilemma is, do I give my allegiance to my teacher who I know has the best interest—my best interest in mind, who I know is—knows a lot and is a professional and so on, or do I give my allegiance to my parents, and my family, and my community who I also know has my best interest in mind. Uh, but perhaps who—they don’t—maybe they don’t know better. Maybe they—maybe—maybe I should be listening to my teachers, but no, how could I because I’ll be denying my identity. So it’s that sort of thing that—it seems to me if there’s a critical factor in the education of these children, is to sense that their—who they are is not bad. It’s a good thing on which to build. There’s a—there’s uh an interesting uh, very important uh project we have in Arizona. Um, there are a lot of people who’ve heard about the Funds of Knowledge Project in which you might have already talked about, but the Funds of Knowledge Project is—is one such project that tries to impress on the community, the school, the administrators, the teachers—especially the teachers, and therefore also to the parents and the students. That the students—when the students come to school, they know a lot already. They have a lot of proficiency, they have a stock of knowledge that’s extremely valuable as a way to build on uh and—and a way to—to develop other knowledge for further growth. Um, and if we can instill in our communities that idea that they’re not bad, they’re not—they—they—they’re not without resources coming into the—and without knowledge and without skills and so on, coming into the—the classroom. It seems to me that that’s—to me that’s the most critical factor.
Well, the difference between ESL and bilingual is the difference that again unfortunately has been um exaggerated by political and funding issues. Um, when I first started working bilingual education the—in the early 70’s in California, there was not a bilingual program, whether it was considered good or bad, that didn’t have any uh a very strong, important central ESL component. That is, where ESL classes uh were—were offered to all the children in the—in the program. The ESL teacher and—and the bilingual teachers were uh part of a coordinated team. They didn’t see themselves as working in different ways at cross-purposes, whatever. They were always working together to try to figure out how best to—to uh teach this—this—this child in an additive kind of way so that they would be adding their English as—at the same time that they’d be um keeping up in a subject matter in their—their own language. It’s mainly—my—my sense is that it’s—it’s become a political ideological issue that perhaps was um, uh pushed along, impelled by funding questions um that somehow ESL is cheaper then bilingual education, you don’t, you know, you—you can create uh a bigger teaching force because you don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re speaking a—you know, they—they have proficiency in the child’s first language, you can combine different language backgrounds within the classroom and the teacher doesn’t have to know all these class—these uh languages. So, one of the good things about um the whole discussion these days is that, in fact, it seems to me ESL and bilingual are getting back together uh conceptually speaking. The whole question of whether or not—how—how best to teach subject matter and language um is—has occasioned in us this discussion about how to integrate uh English language development with subject matter learning, the idea of integrated language. We use to refer to that as content-based ESL. And—and, in fact, I, you know, content-based ESL, well, it seems to be a totally natural kind of way to do this, it’s—it’s just not uh ever—it’s not always been true and in lots of places it’s still not true. You still have ESL teachers—ESL classrooms where the kids are pulled out for a certain number of da—hours a day and they’re put into uh sometimes a classroom if you’re lucky, sometimes a small corner of some place. Sometimes a hallway that’s been turned in—you know, that has some chairs. And the kids uh recite these words in English and they learn those for the year and that’s basically all they get. I’ve been in these classrooms, I—and I—I know how those are. And the—the people who are in charge of them, as sincere and as willing and uh interested as they are have no training. Uh, I—I’ve been in—in these classes where literally this person was pulled off the um—behind a counter at Macey’s—or at Penney’s I guess it was. She was working at Penney’s. Her—her sister who was the ESL teacher was going to be—her husband was going to be shipped out—they were in the military and going to be shipped out so they needed a replacement. So this person was asked by her sister whether she wanted to replace her. Uh, the—the principal asked her—her if she could find her own replacement for ESL and so they brought—they brought her in and she had not—not a clue what she was doing. There was no coordination or—or whatever. So those are extreme cases but it seems to me that they give us a sense of what we shouldn’t be doing and how we should be coordinating. So I—I see the issue of ESL and bilingual as being one of a kind of polarized view of how things should be, but I also see hope in the sense that ESL teachers, ESL endorsements in states, and bilingual teachers and bilingual endorsements in states are coming closer together and they’re creating more of a sense of a—of a coordinated view of teaching for these—for these—for these children.
Well, my personal view is—is actually very reasonable. You might be surprised uh because I—I see it as—as uh—I see the responsibilities being spread across many different groups, not just teachers, and teachers have a great responsibility here. The greatest responsibility it seems to me for teachers is what I—what I have already tried to articulate and that is that teachers have to understand that students come in with great uh resources for their own learning. The important thing is to recognize that talent and to take advantage of it. But see, in taking advantage of that and understanding who your students are, you also have to make connections with their community, where they come from, their families, and so on. That’s especially critical for teachers with language minority students and other minority students because increasingly, not decreasingly, teachers do not come from those communities. They don’t live in those communities. They don’t know those communities. A teacher will come from across the tracks to teach in these—in these classrooms. It’s good that they do, but it’s also important that they know what community they’re teaching in and where these kids are coming from. So there’s—there’s a sense of responsibility there that needs to—to happen. I think teachers also have to—have to understand that while they have a great role in—in the education of their children, they’re not the only of their students. They’re not the only educators of their children. They’re not the first, they’re not the last, they’re not the only. Uh, and it’s not even that other people educate, uh the environment educates children, the—the way in which the classroom and the school and—and—and the stat—all of those things are organized. Educate, create a sense of value and so on in children. That’s important to convey. Uh, often, you know, teachers ask—complain and ask me, uh how—you know, I’ve got five, six, 10, 12 different languages in my classroom, how could I possibly, you know, uh educate these children. As in many ways, one of the things that we need to do as child—as teachers is create a structure by which we can get out of the way and—and allow these kinds of things to blossom and bloom and so on. Uh, not just within the children themselves, but also within the community and with the—the parents. Um, historically when we’ve looked at language minority student, we have also asked their parents not to speak that language with them. Don’t interact with them, turn off the television, don’t let them read in that language, speak to them in English. It’s been the worst piece of advice we’ve ever given them because what it means is that they—if—if they speak to them at all, they’ll—they’ll often have very bad language models and if they—and—and—and often what happens is they stop speaking to them. They don’t have—so they have no language development of any sort, at least not—not—not of the sort that they would have, obviously, if they had this kind of normal enriching experience at home. So, for teachers the important thing for them to do is to say, “Give them the most diverse, richest, the most varied language experiences that you can possibly give them whether, you know, they’re purely uh—they’re purely familio, or they’re cultural, or they’re religious, or whatever. You know, get—get them in to that language because that—that’s the foundation on—on—that—on which everything else is based. But I also have to say that if these children are going to uh not just survive but also thrive in schools and in society, the parents and the communities, and the traditions themselves from which they come, also have a great part. Um, they need to understand their role in promoting this. Uh, if in fact they want their language—their language to survive in their children, they have the greatest role. Not the teacher or the school. They have the greatest role. They need to make those efforts. They have to start understanding how it is that they might create opportunities for their children to use these languages. Um, but beyond that, they have to understand that they’re their child’s most effective teacher in those things that are going to persist. You know, my uh, greatest love in high school was geometry. I loved geometry. And yet if you gave me right now the most—the simplest geometry problem, I probably couldn’t do it. Uh, it’s not content for the most part that you learn in school and on which you build, it’s all these other values and attitudes and—and traditions and so on that are extremely important on which you build. And that’s where families and communities and so on have a—have a—have a sense—have a—have a—have a way of—of entering into the child’s life and creating these experiences that no other institution does. So I, you know, I see this uh—this gamete, this range of people having responsibilities, the child, the teacher for sure, the school administration, but also the community. And if these things can be working in concert to uh develop these kids, it seems to me that we’ll—we will—we will surpass—we—we—we—we will overcome lots of these problems that we’re—we’re finding now.