Language Policy & Identity In The U.S.

Temple University Press
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Well over thirty million people in the United States speak a primary language other than English. Nearly twenty million of them speak Spanish. And these numbers are growing. Critics of immigration and multiculturalism argue that recent government language policies such as bilingual education, non-English election materials, and social service and workplace "language rights" threaten the national character of the United States. Proponents of bilingualism, on the other hand, maintain that, far from being a threat, these language policies and programs provide an opportunity to right old wrongs and make the United States a more democratic society.

This book lays out the two approaches to language policy -- linguistic assimilation and linguistic pluralism -- in clear and accessible terms. Filled with examples and narratives, it provides a readable overview of the U.S. "culture wars" and explains why the conflict has just now emerged as a major issue in the United States.

Professor Schmidt examines bilingual education in the public schools, "linguistic access" rights to public services, and the designation of English as the United States' "official" language. He illuminates the conflict by describing the comparative, theoretical, and social contexts for the debate. The source of the disagreement, he maintains, is not a disagreement over language per se but over identity and the consequences of identity for individuals, ethnic groups, and the country as a whole. Who are "the American people"? Are we one national group into which newcomers must assimilate? Or are we composed of many cultural communities, each of which is a unique but integral part of the national fabric? This fundamental point is what underlies the specific disputes over language policy. This way of looking at identity politics, as Professor Schmidt shows, calls into question the dichotomy between "material interest" politics and "symbolic" politics in relation to group identities.

Not limited to describing the nature and context of the language debate, Language Policy and Identity Politics in the United States reaches the conclusion that a policy of linguistic pluralism, coupled with an immigrant settlement policy and egalitarian economic reforms, will best meet the aims of justice and the common good. Only by attacking both the symbolic and material effects of racialization will the United States be able to attain the goals of social equality and national harmony.
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About the author

Ronald Schmidt, Sr., is Professor of Political Science at California State University, Long Beach.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Temple University Press
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Published on
Nov 9, 2010
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Pages
296
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ISBN
9781439906095
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Public Policy / Social Policy
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / General
Social Science / General
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This content is DRM protected.
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---F. Chris Garcia, University of New Mexico

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Ronald Schmidt, Sr. is Professor of Political Science at California State University, Long Beach.

Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh is Associate Professor of Political Science and Dean of the Office for Women's Affairs (OWA) at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Andrew L. Aoki is Professor of Political Science at Augsburg College.

Rodney E. Hero is the Packey J. Dee Professor of American Democracy at the University of Notre Dame.

Winner of the NBCC Award for General Nonfiction

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