Lau vs. Nichols 40 Years Later - Where Are We Now? A Study of Philosophical, Political, Cultural and Societal Issues Impacting Bilingual Education in the Early 21st Century



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Bilingual education in the United States has been at the forefront of educational politics and debates since its inception. Arguments over language of instruction and program goals overshadow the deeper philosophical, political and societal issues rooted at the heart of bilingual education. This purpose of this study was to present a critical view of the issues impacting a small Central Texas school district?s early childhood bilingual program. Over the course of a year, I conducted a focus group interview followed by individual interviews with two preschool and two kindergarten Spanish bilingual teachers. I collected field notes and observational data on site for two years. Based in grounded theory, the data dictated the focus of the study. The open coding process used to analyze the focus group interview data uncovered the foundational themes for this study. The individual interviews were analyzed using open coding, confirming and elaborating on the themes. Field notes and observational data were used to triangulate the data. The themes were: philosophical and theoretical foundations, politics and policies, and social and cultural issues. Through the lens of the data, I examined the impact of No Child Left Behind, Reading First, and the corresponding Texas regulations. The participants found the testing requirements to be distracting from their teaching. They believed the requirements, particularly for assessment, to be inappropriate and of limited use in their classrooms. From a sociocultural perspective, I discovered discrimination and segregation, but the teacher participants never opened a dialogue about these practices with each other or their administrator. The bilingual classes were isolated, given inferior and inappropriate materials. The school's culture was one of assimilation, not diversity. Finally, I examined the underlying issues that impacted this bilingual education program and the implications for further research. There is a need to conduct further research into bilingual teacher education, including alternative certification and continuing education, the hidden curriculum and bilingual education and empowerment of bilingual teachers through dialogue. Bilingual education holds the promise of closing the gaps in education, but further research must include the critical areas of influence including philosophy, politics and sociocultural issues, not just program goals and language acquisition.