Equity and Justice in Language Education

We recently published Transforming World Language Teaching and Teacher Education for Equity and Justice edited by Beth Wassell and Cassandra Glynn. In this post the editors explain the inspiration behind the book.

Although the work on this book began in 2019, the story behind it begins in the late 1990s. It starts with two White, middle-class, teachers – one in the Midwest and one in the Northeast – who loved languages, loved learning about different cultures, and had a passion, and enough money, to travel. The two young women, Beth and Cassandra, started teaching world languages in middle and high school. They cared about their students and wanted to be just like the teachers who inspired them. But they made a lot of missteps, mostly due to their lack of awareness of their own privilege, their own identities, and their students’ identities.

Fast forward to the early 2010s, when the two met in Denver while at a conference. At this point, each had continued their academic journey and pursued doctoral degrees in education. Each had begun working in university-based teacher education, hoping to inspire a new generation of language teachers. But graduate school, mixed with some powerful experiences in urban P-12 settings, transformed them.

They couldn’t look at those “foreign language” classrooms without noticing issues of access and equity: the students who were told they shouldn’t take a language, or schools where students had to wait until adolescence to be exposed to new languages and cultures. They became increasingly aware of the racial and socioeconomic divides in US schools – the privileged had greater access to robust programming, qualified teachers, and programs that spanned multiple years. Meanwhile, in communities ripe with multilingualism, opportunities and resources for high quality language learning were limited.

They also noticed that the curriculum hadn’t changed much since their days as students – those old lessons on Oktoberfest and mariachi, on how to shop in a department store or order in a restaurant, were still ubiquitous. Lessons that encouraged students to analyze and critique issues of resilience, equity, or justice, that real people experienced daily, were rare.

There were some scholars writing about or enacting critical and culturally sustaining pedagogies in world language spaces – those who saw potential for transformation. This group was growing, and the two women started connecting with colleagues at conferences who were advocating for rethinking the system. They met other scholars and teachers who were theorizing and beginning to disseminate their work on critical approaches. They learned from and started to collaborate with colleagues who propelled their thinking. Like their colleagues, they recognized that this growing body of literature needed to be nurtured before it would take a more significant hold in language teaching and teacher education.

This led those two women – Beth and Cassandra – to a collaborative effort of a text, one that boldly highlights the ways that scholars in the US, and beyond, are not just thinking about, but doing equity and justice work in language education contexts. The result was an edited book that demonstrates how scholars and educators are pushing boundaries to reconstruct a field that has been mired in colonialism and elitism since its inception. The chapters in this book demonstrate what dismantling curriculum, instruction, and teacher preparation looks like. It provides transformative insights on critical language teacher education, intercultural citizenship, disrupting master narratives, teacher identity, decolonizing heritage language pedagogy, and community-centered approaches to teaching and teacher education, written by foremost scholars in language education.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Peacebuilding in Language Education edited by Rebecca L. Oxford, María Matilde Olivero, Melinda Harrison and Tammy Gregersen.

Can a Book Project Be Decolonial?

We recently published Decoloniality, Language and Literacy edited by Carolyn McKinney and Pam Christie. In this post the editors discuss the main themes of the book and how it came together.

Educators in the Global South grapple not only with the stringencies and curtailments of neoliberal economic policies, but also with the deep intersectional inequalities that linger on as legacies of colonialism – summed up by the term ‘coloniality’. In teacher education, the decolonial struggle means working for change within and against deep structural inequalities in schooling and higher education systems: inequalities that are evident in institutional provision, fees, and barriers to access, but are also evident in assumptions about what counts as valuable knowledges and languages.

This book is based on conversations among colleagues that began in response to the intense experiences of campus protests and shutdowns, as university students in South Africa called for free, decolonial education. Our conversations, which extended over several years, grappled with how to prepare student teachers to enter a highly divided and unequal schooling system shaped by coloniality in the Global South, and at the same time work for change. Our key concerns have been to develop a better understanding of the multiple damaging ways in which coloniality shapes the schooling and university experience/environment, and how we as educators might work within the complex dynamics of border conditions in our different practices.

The book reflects on:

  • how teacher educators and educational researchers might grapple with the colonial matrix of power in our daily practice;
  • how we make decisions about what counts as ‘knowledge’;
  • how we teach ‘canonical’ disciplinary knowledge while at the same time challenging this and acknowledging the epistemic violence wrought by the partiality of this knowledge;
  • how we challenge the monolingual myth and enable multilingualism; and
  • how we explore the possibilities and constraints of conducting research and scholarship in times of instability.

As a collective of tenured academics and graduate students, we came together in this project because of the challenges we face navigating multiple ways of knowing and being. The oral mode and embodiment, i.e. physical co-presence, talking, being together and eating with each other (face to face in the same space, even if masked!), feeling, seeing and hearing each other’s affective responses – passion, distrust, anger, curiosity and love – was our starting point. Without this there would be no written texts. Our embodied interaction was also very literate, drawing on a range of disciplinary knowledge (e.g. science education; applied linguistics; literacy studies) as well as our experiences of teaching and learning. To the extent that we needed to turn these interactions into published written form in order for them to count as legitimate academic knowledge, we recognize that the production of a (mostly English) book is itself a legacy of colonialism.

In a recent discussion of the Pennsylvania State University African Studies Global Virtual Forum (hosted by Sinfree Makoni) following a presentation by Bonny Norton, the question was raised ‘can a book be decolonial?’ or ‘can a book project be a decolonial project?’ While Norton asked this question in relation to children’s books produced for the African Storybook project, we believe it is highly relevant for academic publishing as well.

While still questioning whether a book project can be decolonial, or disrupt or delink from coloniality, our collected conversations presented here show some of the approaches and tactics we used collectively and individually to disrupt coloniality in knowledge production and participation, and our attempts to work within border conditions rather than write about them.

During the course of this project, we were joined in conversation by colleagues from Chile, Brazil and Canada whose work resonated in different ways with issues of decoloniality and language in education.  Making South-South connections is the aim of the final part of our book.

Apart from the usual theorized accounts of empirical data, we decided to include a range of genres to show how knowledge is made through different kinds of texts. These include poetry, a photo-essay; short language history narratives; an interview; visual representation of data in comic strip form and dialogues between research participants and the authors as well as amongst authors using call-outs or boxed text. These unconventional genres sit alongside more conventional ones.

How far we managed to delink from coloniality in our book will be up to the reader to decide.

Pam Christie and Carolyn McKinney

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Decolonising Multilingualism by Alison Phipps. You can freely access and download her Short Manifesto for Decolonising Multilingualism here.

Tourination: The Ruination By, Of and With Tourism

We recently published The Impact of Tourism in East Africa by Anne Storch and Angelika Mietzner. In this post the authors explain the concept of ‘Tourination’.

Beaches are problematic spaces. They are the porous sites of uncertain encounters, of contact between humans and spirits, firm ground and uncertainty. In many parts of the world, they are lined by the ruins of imperialism and colonialism, and by the excessive waste produced in global mass tourism. Paradise is depicted on nearby billboards, the flawless white sand and turquoise waters are a promise for all those who can pay their way in.

From places that seem destroyed, ruined or abandoned, new systems of togetherness emerge, as we describe in our book. The ruination by, of and with tourism is a concept we tend to call Tourination. Tourination is found in every single part and corner wherever tourism takes place. It describes how people and places change because of tourism and what emerges out of this change. We would like to propose making Tourination a term of its own in the discourse on tourism and change. A term that does not always imply a negative connotation of the term ruination, but rather a connotation that shows what comes out of it.

Meanwhile, the knowledge and techniques of creating spaces that are alive and allow for resistance and sovereignty remain. In Digo (a Bantu language spoken in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania), like in the languages of many other Indigenous peoples, there is a wealth of ways to express reciprocity and conviviality.

Utsi is managed by a group of elders, who figure out who is in need of the help of others and make this help happen.

Mweria is more about reciprocity. In a community, people help each other handling hard labour.

Harambee is an expression that can be used as a call, or shout, by a group of people who pull something heavy (a boat). It is also the name for asking around in the community for assistance in one’s own financially challenging tasks.

Merry-go-round is another possibility.

Saying nothing at all is a reply to an invitation to join a meal. One simply sits down and eats.

Or maybe we could sit down and listen, engage in a conversation here and there or just watch.

Angelika Mietzner and Anne Storch

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like the authors’ previous book, Language and Tourism in Postcolonial Settings.

Missionary Kids and Colonialism

We recently published Growing up with God and Empire by Stephanie Vandrick. In this post Stephanie speaks about her experience writing the book as a ‘missionary kid’ herself.

I grew up as a ‘missionary kid’ (child of North American Protestant missionaries) in barely post-Independence India. Little did I know that decades later I would become fascinated by the memoirs of other missionary kids (MKs), now adults, about their childhoods in various countries at various times during the past century, and would write a book analyzing 42 of those memoirs through a postcolonial lens. Writing this book has been a personal and scholarly odyssey for me, bringing together my own missionary kid background, my love of memoirs, and my academic interest in the consequences of colonialism and empire.

At the same time, this topic was a deeply fraught one for me. Some of the questions I struggled with were as follows:

  1. How do my dual roles as an insider (a ‘missionary kid’ myself) and an outsider (a critical researcher) fit together?
  2. Can I balance a fair portrayal of the very concrete good that many missionaries, including my own parents, did, on the one hand, with my concerns about deeply problematic aspects of being part of colonialism, on the other?
  3. Is it appropriate for me to weave my own MK experiences into my analysis of the 42 memoirs?
  4. Since I have strong criticisms of colonialism, why am I so nostalgic about my childhood in barely post-British India, and why am I so attracted to all things British (afternoon tea, British novels, English accents)?
  5. How will other missionary kids feel about my book and its thesis? Will they think it is unfair of me to take excerpts from the memoirs of unsuspecting former missionary kids to make points, sometimes negative, about the role and behavior of missionaries in India, China, Nigeria, Brazil, the Philippines, and several other countries? Will they be offended?

I concluded that I had to tell what I perceived was the truth, as revealed during my study of the memoirs and of other sources. At the same time, I had to candidly acknowledge the conflicts and the concerns. I tried to do so throughout this book, especially in my ‘personal epilogue.’

I don’t want to end this post with the impression that researching and writing this book consisted mostly of painfully conflicted feelings and angst! In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in these fascinating MK memoirs, so various and yet with so many common themes and experiences, and in the historical, religious, political, cultural, and linguistic contexts I investigated. The memoirs are intriguing, adventurous, happy, sad, open, guarded, artful, artless, naïve, professionally written, amateur, shaped by their times (mostly mid-20th century), full of engaging and surprising stories, sometimes exhilarating and sometimes heartbreaking. I am happy to have been able to explore and provide a window into the so far very under-examined lives of missionary kids and what their perspectives reveal about the missionary project.

Stephanie Vandrick, University of San Francisco

vandricks@usfca.edu

 

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Spirituality and English Language Teaching edited by Mary Shepard Wong and Ahmar Mahboob.

Our latest books on Indigenous Education

The Education of Indigenous Citizens in Latin AmericaLast month we published The Education of Indigenous Citizens in Latin America edited by Regina Cortina. This book examines the development of intercultural bilingual education throughout Latin America. It assesses the challenges of implementing this educational practice in places where Indigenous peoples have struggled to preserve their cultural practices in the face of colonialism and forced assimilation.

Judy Kalman from Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados del IPN in Mexico City calls the book “A must-read for scholars, students, and others interested in issues of social justice.” The book features the voices of practitioners from the region, including Indigenous scholars, policy makers and educators.

A year ago we published Teresa L. McCarty’s book Language Planning and Policy in Native America which explored language education for the Indigenous people of Native America. The book examines similar themes to that of Cortina’s in that it looks at the imposition of colonial language policies which challenge community-driven efforts to revitalize threatened mother tongues.

Tiffany S. Lee from the University of New Mexico calls McCarty’s work “an insightful, thoroughly investigated, and critical examination of the complexities of Native American language rights and change.”

Youth Culture, Language Endangerment and Linguistic SurvivanceRevitalising Indigenous LanguagesIf you are interested in these topics you might also like some of our other titles such as Youth Culture, Language Endangerment and Linguistic Survivance by Leisy Thornton Wyman and Revitalising Indigenous Languages by Marja-Liisa Olthuis, Suvi Kivelä and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas.