Latinx Students and their Teachers Rompiendo Fronteras sin Miedo

This month we published Transformative Translanguaging Espacios edited by Maite T. Sánchez and Ofelia García. In this post the editors tell us what readers can expect from the book.

Even before you open this book, Transformative Translanguaging Espacios, you will be confronted with the image of Latinx students raising their fists without fear, sin miedo, drawn by Ángela Paredes Montero. The Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd, the #metoo movement, and the pause caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have given us the impetus to “lift the veil,” in the words of W.E. du Bois, to reveal the social and cognitive injustices of US language education policies for Latinx students. Sin miedo, and joined mainly by other Latinx scholars and teachers, this book shows how translanguaging spaces in education can weave a different tejido, a weave that is different from the tight knots that institutions have drawn around English and Spanish. The chapters here show how translanguaging spaces in education create openings through which we can view Latinx students and their communities desde adentro, so that from the inside, through their own knowledge system and ways of languaging, we can see their capacidad and inteligencia.

Sin miedo has been at the forefront of our trajectory with this book on the transformative power of translanguaging. Both of us have witnessed how opening up translanguaging spaces is transformative for Latinx students and the teachers who enable it. We bring the experience of CUNY-NYSIEB where Maite was project director and Ofelia was co-principal investigator. But we also have witnessed the refusal of many school leaders to allow their teachers to implement these spaces because they supposedly go against the strict language policies that are said to “benefit” students. We have seen teachers disagreeing with the possibilities of translanguaging pedagogical practices because they themselves were victims of elitist notions of academic standard language and additive bilingualism as separate languages. And we have experienced the fear of state education systems to adopt translanguaging theory and pedagogical practices because they thought that the teachers were just too unprepared, the students too deficient, and they too dependent on federal policies that made them mainly accountable for students’ “standard English.” After many years of trying to work with individual teachers and transform practices one by one, our outrage has enabled us to speak out sin miedo from the perspective of the Latinx students and communities themselves. The death of civil rights leader John Lewis, during the writing of this book, reminded us that it was time to get into “good trouble” – “Speak up, speak out, get in the way.”

Through this book, and thanks to the contributors in this volume, we get in the way of educational institutions that do not put racialized bilingual Latinx students and communities at the center of their efforts. We made a conscious editorial decision to begin the book with chapters that look at how translanguaging pedagogical practices open spaces to disrupt the trends of gentrification that are working against the interests of Latinx communities. That is, we are convinced that translanguaging pedagogical spaces must be foremost of benefit to the Latinx community for its own sociopolitical good. The question raised by Heiman, Cervantes-Soon and Hurie in their chapter – Good para quién? ­– must always be at the forefront of translanguaging pedagogical practices.

We identify and call out educational policies and practices that serve the interest of white dominant communities, families, and students, but that have been camouflaged as good for Latinx communities. The book questions, for example, the logic of the dual language/two-way immersion model that is becoming prevalent as the only way to bilingually educate Latinx students.

We have spent our academic careers working for the benefit of Latinx children and youth and upholding their right to bilingual education. At the same time, we have questioned and been critical of the assumptions that have been made about language, bilingualism, and language education policy. Career-wise, Ofelia is at the end of her academic path; but Maite and many of the other Latinx scholars in this book are moving along a camino that not only questions and disrupts established knowledge, but that also produces new knowledge. This book, in which Latinx theorists, scholars, educators, and students co-exist as agentive beings, reconfigures power and reinvents who can produce knowledge, who can name it, and who can access it.

We have insisted throughout the book that translanguaging is transformative. The chapters show ways in which real teachers and students engage with the transformative power of translanguaging.  Some chapters also envision what needs to happen so that these translanguaging transformative espacios can support the education of Latinx children and youth. The path P’alante with which Maite ends the book includes questions for educators so that they can reflect on ways in which translanguaging in education can be transformative for their own contexts. As Ramón Martínez and his colleagues say, translanguaging may not transform the material inequalities and systemic oppression that racialized bilingual students face, but it is transformative “in the everyday actions of students and their teachers.” The concepts of standard academic language and additive bilingualism that have plagued the education of racialized bilinguals in the US have only succeeded in producing academic failure and creating subjectivities of inferiority. By enabling Latinx communities and their children to become critically conscious of how language and bilingualism operates to produce their domination, translanguaging pedagogical spaces indeed are transformative. We hope that this book brings all of us – scholars, educators, students, communities — along a transformative path, as we take steps sin miedo to center the knowledge system and ways of languaging of Latinx communities in our efforts to enact a more equitable educational system.

Maite Sánchez and Ofelia García

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Bilingualism for All? edited by Nelson Flores, Amelia Tseng and Nicholas Subtirelu.

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