Bilingual Education in the USA
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History of bilingual education in the USA
There are 4 overlapping periods of bilingual education in the United States:
1) The Permissive Period
Long before European immigrants came to the United States, the land contained a variety of native languages. Later on, the European immigrants brought with them a wide variety of languages. During the 18th and 19th centuries up to WW I, linguistic diversity was generally accepted and the presence of different languages was encouraged.
Examples of this permissive period in bilingual education are found in German-English schools which had been set up by German communities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Minnesota, Dakota and Wisconsin. Bilingual and monolingual German education was accepted. In some school in Cincinatti for example, half the day was spent learning through German and the other half through English. In most large cities English monolingual education was dominant. This openess to in-migrant languages depended on several factors: it was partly motivated by competition for students between public and private school. Other factors were uninterested school administrators, the isolation of schools in rural areas and ethnic homogeneity within an area.
At the turn of the 20th century, Italian and Jewish immigrants were placed in mainstream schools. However, examples of bilingual education existed.
2) The Restrictive Period
the first two decades there was a change in attitude towards bilingualism
and bilingual education.
number of immigrants increased significantly and therefore there was
a growing fear of foreigners and a call for integration, harmonization
and assimilation of in-migrants. Competence in English was associated
with loyalty to the US and therefore the 1906 Nationality Act required
in-migrants to speak English. California and New Mexico even had "English
only" instruction laws.
During this period several factors allowed a few opportunities to bring back bilingual education:
in 1957 the Russians launched their satellite "Sputnik" into
space, the quality of US education was put into question. Therefore,
in 1958, the National Defense and Education Act was passed, promoting
foreign language learning in schools and universities. This helped to
create more tolerance concerning foreign language.