A post-monolingual education.

Author:Soto, Lourdes Diaz
Position:United States

In a colonial context education reproduces the power of the colonizers and is designed to serve their needs. The colonizer purposefully ignores the culture and history of subjugated groups nor are they consulted. Subjugated children are never educated to become leaders of society except when it serves the needs of the colonizer (Altbach & Kelly 1978; Zweigenhalf & Domhoff, 1991). The colonizer imposes his culture upon subjugated groups and seeks out their cooperation by pacifying their minds. This pacification limits the creativity of vision of the subjugated and destroys their ability to act in their own interest. In the United States, African, Native and Latino Americans who have been historically subjugated, colonized or exterminated when it benefited the U.S. were indoctrinated in schools to be proud to be Americans (even while they live in racially segregated, dilapidated communities) and recruited by the military to serve as colonial soldiers to subjugate others around the world and enforce the hegemonic entrenchment of American culture, language and consumerism. While subjugated groups spend their time trying to survive, the colonizer understands that culture gives people group identification and builds on shared experiences, creating a collective personality. Culture represents the values that are created by the group out of shared knowledge as a methodical set of ideas into a single coherent affirmation. It includes history, language, literature, poetry, art, music, religion, law, philosophy, customs, and values. Therefore, culture provides the foundation for obligation, priority, and preference that gives direction to the development and behavior of the group. Culture is the basis for informing the world as to whom a people are; it also serves to inform the people themselves about how they look at the world. The epistemology of a culture constructs knowledge, inquiry, and the way research is accomplished (Ani, 1994; Carruthers, 1994). Therefore, it is imperative that colonizers impose their own cultural norms and traditions upon subjugated groups. For instance, Native Americans were immersed and deculturalized from their own indigenous culture into Anglo-American culture but not prepared to go back and lead their own people out of the poverty and off the reservations (Spring, 2001).

It is important to understand that the colonizer constructs a white supremacist culture by imposing their discourse on subjugated groups. Deculturalization becomes the mode of instruction for all subjugated people as they are educated to devalue their own culture and language. Subjugated groups are taught to see Western Civilization as universal and in the U.S. the English language is taught not just as a second language, but to replace the student's first or home language (Spring, 2001). Colonizers propagate their ideas through politics, education, and the media; thus the images nonwhites center on are sexual promiscuity, laziness, criminal activity, and an unwillingness to conform, presenting the public with ideas that subjugated groups are to blame for all the problems in society and therefore need to be controlled.

The colonizer maintains a grip on subjugated people through cultural hegemony, tolerating individuals from subjugated groups, volunteering allegiance to the subjugated group, and pacifying the will to resist. For example, hegemonic institutions in the U.S. have convinced many that the Civil Rights Movement was a success and racism has been resolved. Hegemony never ignores the demands of subjugated people-instead it makes concessions to the demands of resistance and allows the emergence of a small group with gains (e.g.,black middle class) that has a vested interest in sustaining the dominant social structure (Artz & Murphy, 2000; hooks 2000). White culture tolerates the assimilation of particular aspects of African American culture into the dominant white culture until it feels threatened; at the same time, the colonizer guards and protects their dominance and hinders or marginalizes any attempt by nonwhites to form any independent cultural or political coalitions. Although the black middle class is frustrated with marginalization and racism, they consent to the status quo of the dominant white society (Feagin, 1991; hooks, 2000; Scott, 1990; West, 1993). The colonizer will always tolerate nonwhites who align themselves with the dominant culture such as conservative blacks because, as bell hooks (2000) states, "the miseducation of underprivileged black groups strengthens the class power of the nonprogressive black elite" (p. 97).

Linguistic Terrorism

Stripping children of their home language has left the U.S. intelligence sectors scrambling to find experts who can speak particular languages or can understand particular cultures (e.g., during the Gulf War, after the World Trade Center tragedy and during the War in Iraq). Yet, these very linguistic and cultural gifts have been present in our classrooms. These bicultural/bilingual immigrant children with linguistic gifts are forced to discard their own culture and language and then fill the void with American culture and language just to be accepted amongst their peers. Many immigrant children accept American traditions such as Christmas and Thanksgiving as their own and forget their own cultural traditions that have survived for hundreds or thousands of years, thus making themselves vessels of their new masters.

The monolingual, mono-cultural educational model has successfully wiped out possibilities for multilingual American children. We have relied on outdated teaching methods. Macedo (2000) notes the irony of how America has dismantled bilingual education, a field with decades of research, while promoting foreign language education, a field with well-documented failures. Whites who fear that the United States will lose its Anglo Protestant American cultural roots to the hordes of nonwhite immigrants have eliminated the very programs that can help our children and our nation (Soto, 1997).

This stripping of bilingual education is no more than the continual expression of white supremacy and its continual advocacy to Americanize all others. In 1796, George Washington gave his farewell address and spoke of the need of all white European immigrants to be made to come together under the Anglo Protestant umbrella and form one culture, one homogenous society if the new Republic was to survive (Grant & Davidson, 1928). This meant that the religion, language, and traditions were to be established and set in place as the cultural norms of the new nation. A nationalist ideology had to be created to ensure continual growth whereby the people would give allegiance. Those who advocate a monolingual society realize that a theoretical foundation allows for an understanding of culture as a distinctive product that develops into a political ideology. Since knowledge is based upon cultural constructs, culture becomes the lens of the people and communicates the structure that defines a people. For example, analyzing dominant white institutional practices through Afrocentric cultural constructs, rather than through Eurocentric theoretical paradigms, reveals supremacist philosophy and behavior.

Language is important because it can either enhance a child's education or destroy a child's progress in school and leave the child to languish on the margins of society. Schools have even gone so far as to forbid children from speaking their own language altogether (Stubbs, 2002). In Trinidad mastering the Queen's English can decide one's economic status and success in life, whereas the local Trinidadian dialect is disenfranchised and those who resist the Queen's language are relegated to living in poverty and/or working in low paying positions. In the U.S. rap music is tolerated because it brings billions to the coffers of white record owners; calypso singers in the Caribbean are allowed to use their local dialects to 'entertain' the colonizer (Dowdy, 2002). The...

To continue reading