Equity/Social Justice, Instrumentalism/Neoliberalism: Dueling Discourses of Dual Language in Principals’ Talk About Their Programs

Katie A. Bernstein, Noah Katznelson, Angélica Amezcua, Saida Mohamed, Sarah L. Alvarado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This study explores how principals of dual language (DL) programs draw on two dominant societal discourses around language education—linguistic instrumentalism/neoliberalism and equity/social justice—to make sense of their programs. Through in-depth interviews with 19 principals of Spanish-English elementary school DL programs in Arizona and California, the researchers examine (1) the ways in which the two discourses manifested in the principals’ talk, and 2) the consequences for English learners of each discursive framing. The researchers found that framing a program within each discourse led principals to different conclusions about the purpose of DL, its goals, and who should be included in it. Principals adopting a predominantly neoliberal frame understood DL as a way to gain a competitive edge, both for their schools (competing with other schools for students) and for their students (competing for future jobs at a global scale). Principals drawing primarily on social justice discourse instead understood DL as a historically contingent, collaborative movement for social transformation. The authors illustrate how the first framing can contribute to the exclusion of English learners from DL, while the latter presupposes their belonging. They also discuss future work exploring how principals come to develop their discursive framings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)652-684
Number of pages33
JournalTESOL Quarterly
Volume54
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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