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

Felicia Briscoe FBriscoe at
Mon Sep 13 13:37:09 UTC 2004

Hal, Lyn, etc.,

Your points are all well taken.  It is not my intent to say that the
Santa Ana program is not a good one.  It is just that often times when
people try to make arguments for a worthwhile program their arguments
contain ideological components which are in effect contrary to the
interests of those whose condition they are seeking to improve.  So, my
first point is that when there is a literacy problem, the term literacy
is often used very specifically in a manner that privileges some groups
over others (generally in a manner that supports the status quo).
Second, often when there is an educational problem especially with the
working class, the first group blamed is the parents for bad parenting.
Seldom are schools or even the political economy held accountable for
their often overwhelming contribution for the problem.  So in effect
while the program is set up to "help" working class Latino kids, at the
same time the idea is perpetuated that those kids need help because of
their "deficient" parents, not because of a political economy AND
schooling system that systematically privileges one group over the
other.  So yes, keep the Santa Ana program, but be careful of where you
situate the problem it is supposed to help ameliorate.


-----Original Message-----
From: owner-lgpolicy-list at
[mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at]
Sent: Sunday, September 12, 2004 12:47 PM
To: lgpolicy-list at
Subject: Re: Aaaargh, again. (Program enlists Santa Ana parents as
'first teachers')

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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