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Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    True American is a look at the history and current politics of languages - English and the many native languages of immigrants - as they play out in schools, historically a central force for assimilation and Americanization. While she does discuss the history of and debates over bilingual education programs, her focus is an analysis of the passionate support for an English-only America. She uses the myths about the assimilation of previous immigrant groups and the debates over how best to educate children of the “new immigrants” as a window for exploring what it means to be a “true American” in an age of globalization and transnationalism.Underlying her discussion of these various debates is Salomone’s call for a more inclusive sense of the “we” that demands respect for linguistic and cultural differences, rather than mere toleration. She argues that we can politically equal and culturally compatible without being culturally identical or monolingual.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-05683-1
    Subjects: Education, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Preface
    (pp. IX-XIV)
  4. CHAPTER ONE The Symbolic and the Salient
    (pp. 1-14)

    In the spring of 2006, the news media were abuzz with talk of “Nuestro Himno” (“Our Anthem”), a Spanish version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Sung by Latin pop stars and loosely translating the English lyrics, within hours of its release the song triggered a firestorm of negative reactions from news commentators, bloggers, and the general public. The original version, written in 1814 in the throes of battle against the British, brought to mind images of war’s devastation and patriotic fervor; the new one suggested a nonviolent struggle for freedom, with reference to a “sacred flag.”

    For many Americans, the...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Americanization Past
    (pp. 15-45)

    All too often the educational philosophy and practices of the past are implicitly invoked as a model for the present. Third-and fourth-generation Americans proudly declare that their grandparents or great-grandparents “made it” without any cultural affirmation or acknowledgment. Opposition to language accommodation is justified partly on that premise. Yet this story is overly sentimentalized in popular memory. The narrative, more universally uplifting than factual, both understates and overstates the commonalities between past and present periods of intense immigration.

    That being said, many of today’s fears and anxieties echo those from a century ago when the United States faced an even...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The New Immigrants
    (pp. 46-67)

    The no. 7 subway train in New York City traverses an eight-mile route from Times Square through the borough of Queens. Nicknamed the “International Express” for the diverse communities it serves, in 2000 the White House officially designated the No. 7 line as one of sixteen “National Millennium Trails” for representing the immigrant experience. Built on the labor of European immigrants in the early twentieth century, the elevated train rumbles above the traffic as it punctuates, at regular intervals, sidewalk conversations in some 138 languages.¹

    Queens is one of the most multi-ethnic and multilingual counties in the nation. An estimated...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Language, Identity, and Belonging
    (pp. 68-97)

    Looking back over the past century from the “old” immigrants to the “new” underscores the deep divide between two competing visions of what it means to be American—one locked in the old assimilation ideal and the other embracing a more complex sense of self built on diversity and ethnic ties. A series of events in the summer of 2008 in a small Louisiana town poignantly illustrates these connections and contrasts. Once again language was at the center of the controversy.

    Two cousins, daughters of immigrants from Vietnam and co-valedictorians at their high school commencement, each delivered part of her...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Rights, Ambivalence, and Ambiguities
    (pp. 98-138)

    For the past four decades the issue of language and schooling has acquired a legal dimension with broad implications for policy and classroom practice. The arguments hark back to the 1960s when the momentum of the civil rights movement carried the education of English language learners into a dramatically new and unforeseen discourse of student rights, state and local duties, and federal mandates and proscriptions. In tune with the times, legal advocacy became the strategy for resolving the tension between the new diversity and the country’s continuing need to maintain social and political stability. In the process, the notion of...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Backlash
    (pp. 139-165)

    As the 1970s wore on, the idea that schools should accommodate linguistic differences attracted mounting criticism and open hostility. Critics pounded the media with tales of excesses nationwide, laying blame on the federal government for funding a project with neither a research-based rationale nor wide support within the educational establishment. Anxieties especially over the mounting number of Spanish speakers gave force and direction to an organized movement ostensibly promoting Official English and more directly English Only in the schools. The continued onslaught of ambivalent, ambiguous, and conflicting directives from Washington prevented local educators from establishing a coherent set of best...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN More Wrongs than Rights
    (pp. 166-181)

    The testing mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act have come to dominate discussion and debate over the education of English language learners. It is easy to forget that the law is merely a funding measure that neither grants nor technically denies English language learners a legally enforceable right to a particular education. Yet as a practical matter, its built-in incentives toward English instruction, largely tied to student testing and school accountability, are powerful and effective. There is indeed an ironic twist to all this. Though the testing question has provoked sharp criticism, at the same time it...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Setting the Record Straight
    (pp. 182-199)

    The “what works” standard, now apparently endorsed by the Supreme Court, implicitly raises the question of whether dual language instruction for English language learners is good educational policy. The response necessarily confronts several contrasting arguments resting on facts and assumptions that beg for closer scrutiny than the Court itself seems willing to apply.

    Some critics, including many proponents of English Only, suggest that bilingualism is potentially harmful to ELLs’ cognition and learning, a theory once widely embraced and now increasingly discredited. They and others more forcefully maintain that developing native language proficiency inevitably prevents students from gaining the English skills...

  12. CHAPTER NINE Looking Both Ways
    (pp. 200-231)

    Above the corner doorway of a residential building in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood, home to the city’s Turkish community, rests a captivating sculpture molded to the façade. Entitled “Looking Both Ways,” it depicts a colorful androgynous figure, marionette-like and seemingly dangling in midair. Tugging at the figure in opposite directions are two men in Western laborer’s clothes on one side, and a man accompanied by a woman in a long skirt on the other. Its Janus-like face gives the illusion of movement looking back and forth, hence the title. Here is the abstract rootless immigrant caught between two worlds. Fifty years...

  13. CHAPTER TEN A Meaningful Education
    (pp. 232-240)

    The relationship between language and national identity in the United States is indeed a web of paradoxes. The nation has never established an official language by law, yet English has become a symbol of what it means to be “American.” Though we pride ourselves on our racial, ethnic, and religious diversity, we pull back when it comes to language. While as a nation we emphasize pluralism, whether from guilt over slavery or satisfaction in the success of our “oneness from many,” we deemphasize linguistic differences based on an American pretense that culture is separate from language. We admire multilingual skills...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 243-290)
  15. Index
    (pp. 291-306)