Aaaargh, again. (Program enlists Santa Ana parents as 'first teachers')

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Sep 12 17:46:31 UTC 2004

I'm wondering if I've missed something. I thought that the point of this
Santa Ana program was to get early literacy going in Spanish, as a way to
counteract replacive bilingualism (or at lest replacive biliteracy) to
take over once these children got to school.  I thought there was good
evidence since the 1960s' when Hauser (I think) talked about "the build-in
curriculum in the middle-class home" and Head Start programs got going.

We certainly have evidence that children with no reinforcement for their
literacy in their mother tongue never develop it, and may also never
develop very good literacy skills in the dominant language, either. My
wife teaches remedial reading/writing in a high school in Camden NJ (one
of the poorest cities in New Jersey, if not the whole US) and she
regularly gets students (in 9th grade) who read at a 4th grade level. Many
are from Hispanic backgrounds, and most have no literacy skills in
Spanish. She tries to (subversively, it turns out) get them to realize
they can probably read Spanish with some help, but it's clear to me , at
least, that if they had some introduction like this Santa Ana program,
they might have better skills. And research tells us (I thought) that
these skills are transferable, so skills in Spanish should enhance skills
in English.  (Or am I still missing something?)  And, literacy in Spanish
should help those children resist replacive bilingualism, and language
shift to the dominant language.

Journalists typically misunderstand these issues, and may misrepresent
them.  (One of the goals of the establishment of the Consortium for
Language Policy and Planning was to have summer institutes where we could
present these issues to journalists, legislators, school principals, etc.
"The objectives of the Consortium are to enhance the quality of research,
teaching, and information dissemination on the subject of language policy
formation and study; to strengthen similarly-oriented programs of its
member institutions, and to foster dialogue on the process of language
policy formation in situations of ethnic and linguistic conflict in the
modern world. [...] In particular, the Consortium for Language Policy and
Planning will have as a primary focus projects that are educational and
informational--the Consortium will sponsor workshops, summer institutes,
informational and short-courses designed to bring to public discussion
issues affecting schools and other multilingual sites of contention in
contemporary America and other parts of the world.")

I have been unsuccessful in getting funding for such programs, but it's
still a good idea, and I hope Rachel has some success with her idea.

But tell me what's wrong with the general thrust of the Santa Ana program
(ignoring misconcptions about language "deficits" and all that.)

Hal Schiffman

On Sat, 11 Sep 2004, Rachel R. Reynolds wrote:

> Hi Everyone.
> Reading these two "Aaaaargh" threads about linguistically ignorant/outdated
> journalists with baited breathe (my most hated, by the way, is the
> literacy/orality divide).  I'm in a department that has a very large
> program in Communication that trains journalism majors, to whom I teach
> Intro to Sociolinguistics and an upper level Intercultural Communication
> class.  We're thinking of revamping the program to better train our
> students to cope with the decline of a real research-basis in journalistic
> reporting.  So all of your comments on this thread are making me realize I
> have a tangible opportunity to develop a course called something like
> "Linguistics for Journalists" that would not only include some basic recent
> research on major issues that come up again and again in the press, but
> also some ideas for budding reporters about how to network with reliable
> scholars to stay current.  If any of you have:  a) ideas for syllabi
> including readings, and/or b) comments on this enterprise in general, I'd
> love to hear from you.  On or off list...
> Thanks,
> Rachel Reynolds
> Drexel University
> At 07:01 PM 9/10/2004 -0400, you wrote:
> >At 12:39 PM -0700 9/10/04, Aurolyn Luykx wrote:
> >
> >>Is anyone else out there suspicious of articles that cite that old study
> >>about low-income parents speaking on average 300 fewer words per hour to
> >>their children?...
> >
> >And even if they do, what does it really mean? Don't we have ethnographic
> >evidence of normal language development among children who are hardly
> >*spoken to* at all, until they themselves have begun to talk well enough
> >to be considered worthy conversational partners?
> >
> >>Maybe we need a program whereby linguists go into the homes of
> >>journalists to educate THEM.
> >
> >What we really need is programs that teach linguistics in schools. I mean,
> >we don't teach 19th-century biology, do we (unless we happen to be in
> >Texas)? Why do we still (apparently) teach 19th-century ideas about language?
> >
> >Ron

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