Bilingual Education Act (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: In the face of a changing U.S. populace, legislation authorizes bilingual education studies.
Summary of Event
When the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, English was not the only language spoken in the thirteen colonies. Twenty percent of the colonists were non-English-speaking Europeans, including Dutch, French, and German settlers, while twenty percent spoke African languages, and a variety of languages were spoken by the indigenous peoples. During the early nineteenth century, the United States occupied the Louisiana territory, absorbing French speakers. Later in the century, more Europeans arrived, especially from Germany. Spanish-speaking territories, as well as Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, and the eastern part of Samoa, were incorporated into the United States, mostly by conquest. Bilingual constitutions were written by the new states of California and New Mexico, preserving certain language rights of Spanish speakers. Nevertheless, English was the principal language of commerce and government throughout most of the United States.
Languages other than English continued to be spoken at home. In the nineteenth century, the state of Ohio permitted each public school district the option of allowing instruction in German, fearing that otherwise, parents would withdraw their children and send them to private schools. During World War I, however, the tide turned against instruction in...
(The entire section is 1347 words.)
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Congress Enacts the Bilingual Education Act (Great Events from History II: Human Rights Series)
Article abstract: Congress in the late 1960’s moved to provide federal assistance to schoolchildren of limited English-speaking ability.
Summary of Event
Although hailed as the world’s melting pot, for most of its history the United States has been a nation of one language and culture. This conformist ethic maintained that as immigrants came to the United States they should give up their native customs and languages and assimilate as quickly as possible into the Anglo-American mainstream. Underlying this drive toward conformity was the unwritten rule in both Anglo and immigrant communities that to succeed, immigrants must bend to American culture instead of expecting American culture to bend to them. Although ethnic neighborhoods and enclaves did exist and in some areas even flourished, the mainstream of American society was one of English-derived Anglo tradition. It was believed by many educators that the best way to prepare the children of immigrant parents for life in this culture was to immerse them in the English language and customs as quickly as possible. In this process of immersion, it was thought that the children who could learn would; those who could not were obviously of inferior mental abilities and therefore were not capable of obtaining the American dream. This philosophy, besides confirming the prevailing notion of Anglo-American superiority, also fit well with the notion of social Darwinism popular...
(The entire section is 2572 words.)