The Current State
Language education in the nation’s schools, colleges and universities is enjoying unprecedented success in raising proficiency levels of graduates, through
- strong teacher education and professional development,
- expanding informational and instructional technologies,
- innovative pedagogies and program designs, and
- ground-breaking psychological, cognitive, linguistic and educational research.
Community-based programs for American Indian and Heritage learners are expanding and improving effectiveness.
In addition, language education is becoming increasingly relevant, as better understanding of the importance of languages for US domestic life is added to long-standing appreciation of the value of languages for careers in international business and government, namely:
- growing awareness of the social justice issues involved when availability fails to reach learners in ignored and disadvantaged communities; and
- increasing preponderance of underserved emergent bilinguals and People of Color in the nation’s PreK-12 system.
These positive developments notwithstanding, language education remains skewed towards more affluent communities, with ethical as well as practical ramifications:
- We are far from providing the nation’s underserved bilingual communities as well as disadvantaged rural and urban populations the language programs for which they have a need and to which they have a right.
- The language profession is facing severe practical consequences of this neglect: Language enrollment levels have remained consistently low over the decades (at approximately 20% of the K-12 student body and 8% in higher education), resulting in language programs threatened with recissions if not discontinuation.
More effective and relevant language education cannot be separated from domestic social justice considerations. Systemic change in the way language education is perceived and implemented in this country is needed in the form of increased and equitable access for the millions of historically underserved bilingual & disadvantaged monolingual learners. This access must be to effective programming in a much broader range of America’s languages.
If these neglected learners can be brought into the language education system, the benefits would be significant:
- for learners: intellectual, educational, social, and economic;
- for society: broader diversity and inclusiveness; and,
- for the language profession: a more secure and critical place in the nation’s education system.
This is the goal of the America’s Languages Platform. See more.