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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Robert Harold Duke
Doctor of Philosophy
Title: Language, Landscape, and Law: Uncle Sam and Schools on the Frontiers of Bilingual Education, 1964 1980
Dr. Nora Faires, Chair
Dr. Gunther Hega
Dr. Edwin Martini
Dr. Kristin Szylvian
Dr. Wilson Warren
Date: Monday, June 30, 2008 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
10th Floor, Sprau Tower
Five decades of English-only orthodoxy in American public schools came to an end with the passage of the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 (BEA). This research investigates how the convergence of community activism, ethnic pride, and union clout shaped and reshaped bilingual education programming at the local level within the broader context of post-WWII American society. By comparing and contrasting the experiences of communities in Texas and Michigan with the newly enacted BEA, this study illuminates the changing political culture of school governance from the high-water mark of Johnson-era liberalism to the surging tide of Reaganite conservatism. It asserts that the tradition of local control of community schools looms much larger in the actual implementation of bilingual programming in America’s classrooms than existing studies acknowledge. Furthermore, this research demonstrates how issues of race and ethnicity intersect with the longtime quest by classroom teachers to have a meaningful voice in the operation of their schools. The advancement of workplace democracy by NEA and AFT affiliates at the local level coincided with federal initiatives involving bilingualism, which challenged sensibilities of members and non-members alike.
Beginning with an analysis of the teacher’s historic role in Americanizing immigrants, the study introduces the concept of “policy echo” to explain the dynamics of federalism in the context of K-12 public education policies. The discussion of policy communities emphasizes the evolution of teachers’ unions as stakeholders in the political culture, not only in local school districts, but in Washington, D.C., as well. With this foundation, case studies of school districts in Waco, Texas, and in Kalamazoo, Michigan, illuminate responses by communities to the changing expectations of the federal government, as well as those of the Mexican-American community.
These case studies demonstrate the importance of the local political culture in shaping community response to new federal education policies, thereby serving as an example of how the hopes and aspirations of people with differing agendas take form through legislative, judicial or executive action, and how the results are embraced, adopted, and adapted in some communities yet ridiculed or ignored in others.