Pedagogy and Language Minority Students: Reframing a Zero Sum Game It seems that the educational options available to teachers and speech-language pathologists for instructing culturally and linguistically diverse students are often dichotomized. Either they must advocate for the cultural value of the student’s native speech community, or they must support an educational system that seeks to reinforce the language ... Article
Article  |   October 01, 1997
Pedagogy and Language Minority Students: Reframing a Zero Sum Game
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Dana Kovarsky
    Department of Communicative Disorders University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI
Article Information
Articles
Article   |   October 01, 1997
Pedagogy and Language Minority Students: Reframing a Zero Sum Game
SIG 1 Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, October 1997, Vol. 4, 11-14. doi:10.1044/lle4.2.11
SIG 1 Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, October 1997, Vol. 4, 11-14. doi:10.1044/lle4.2.11
It seems that the educational options available to teachers and speech-language pathologists for instructing culturally and linguistically diverse students are often dichotomized. Either they must advocate for the cultural value of the student’s native speech community, or they must support an educational system that seeks to reinforce the language practices of the dominant society. From this perspective, only one solution can be supported. This type of thinking is characteristic of a zero sum game. There is a winner, a loser, and competition that tends toward polarization.
In zero sum games, students are victimized by educational planning that attempts to incorporate radically different teaching goals and instructional techniques. When it comes to dominant and nondominant ways of speaking, teaching one way of communicating at the expense of another can invite problems. It is hard to deny that a linguistic marketplace exists: the use of prestige language varieties may lead to greater economic and political capital (Bourdieu, 1991; Delpit, 1988; Gal, l989, Rickford, 1997; Terrell & Terrell, I983). However, practitioners are savvy enough to know that simply changing or transforming the language practices of students does not guarantee a positive educational outcome or life success: Language exists in society, and not the reverse. Furthermore, just teaching the dominant code leaves one with the uncomfortable feeling of blaming the victim for society’s Standard Language Ideology (Lippi-Green, 1994), a position which also ignores much of what we know about the relationship between language and identity (Gilyard, 1991). At the same time, however, to stand back and do nothing may make negative consequences more likely.
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