The Schools and the Minority Child's Language


  • Richard L. Light

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      RICHARD L. LIGHT (Ph.D., Georgetown Univ.) is Assistant Professor of TESL in the School of Education at the State Univ. of New York at Albany. He has held the post of Program Specialist in the U.S. Office of Education, and was Director of the International Student Program at St. Michael's Coll. He is currently the Director of an EPDA Bilingual Education Project and is a member of the National Advisory Council on Teaching English as a Foreign Language. He is now Editor of the TESOL Newsletter and Review Editor of the TESOL Quarterly. His articles include “Some Observations Concerning Black Children's Conversations,” in The English Record (Spring 1971), and “On Language Arts and Minority-Group Children,” in the Florida Foreign Language Reporter (Fall 1969).


ABSTRACT  Despite some progress, many schools continue to ignore or suppress the linguistic and cultural strengths which minority children bring with them to the classroom. We spend perhaps a billion dollars a year on foreign language instruction for Anglos, yet school policies and state laws have prevented some three million bilingual children from becoming adults fluent and literate in their own native foreign languages. Influential educators have called for a change in teacher attitudes toward minority children, but at the same time they put forward unsubstantiated views concerning the language of such children which are likely to affect teacher attitudes adversely. Mexican-American children enter school with a valuable knowledge of Spanish language and culture, yet their parents are forced to sue the schools to prevent their assignment to classes for the mentally retarded as a penalty for possessing this special knowledge. On the positive side, the Bilingual Education Act may be one sign of a shift toward linguistic and cultural tolerance in the schools.