Arizona: New ASU program tackles state's language issues

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Jun 30 12:29:39 UTC 2008

New ASU program tackles state's language issues

Andrea Natekar, Tribune
Spanish. English. Pima.

Some of Arizona's greatest education dilemmas deal with the languages
that are heard - or not heard - in its classrooms and homes. Now,
Arizona State University is hoping to create a body of doctoral-level
scholars, and research, to tackle those issues. A new Applied
Linguistics Ph.D. program, which is seeing its first five candidates
enroll this fall, aims to prepare linguists to find solutions to
challenges dealing with issues of language and literacy. "This very
much taps into the needs of the state," said program director Jeff
MacSwan, associate professor of curriculum and instruction at the
Fulton College of Education, where the program is housed. "We have a
lot of immigrants here and you hear a lot of chit-chat about this, but
we want real, informed public policy decisions. ... We need informed
citizens throughout the state."

First on his list: Taking politics out of the issue of how to best
educate English language learners. "It's not unlike the climate
research. There you have something really politicized, too, and
activists on both sides," he said. "Our state has really politicized
issues around English learners, and its very unfortunate for the state
and for the students. ... We want to create an ongoing body of
research to help level-headed legislators make policies that help -
that aren't destructive." Other universities in Arizona already offer
advanced linguistics degrees. But by organizing faculty who study
linguistics, but who are spread out in departments as varied as
engineering, psychology and education, the university will offer a
unique, interdisciplinary program, MacSwan said.

"This isn't what most people think of when they hear it - just
breaking words apart," said Daisy Fredricks, a former Mesa junior high
school teacher who will enter the program in the fall. "This is more
in a social context of how people learn languages, not necessarily in
the brain, but through the communities they are in." Students can
focus on areas like bilingualism, language planning and policy and
indigenous language education. Taunalee Bradshaw, who taught a dual
language class at Tempe's Holdeman Elementary School last year, will
also start in the fall. Bradshaw was already working on her master's
in education at ASU, but the new program piqued her interest after she
saw the list of its professors. She said many are leading researchers
in the field.

Bradshaw believes her years of teaching experience will make her a
valuable researcher. "I'll be studying educational linguistics,
because I wanted to stay in my field of education but also study
linguistics. I think that there should more of a bridge between those
two fields and I think my background as classroom teacher could help,"
she said. MacSwan said he also hopes that by creating the program,
more opportunities could become available for undergraduate students
to begin taking more linguistics coursework, too. Ultimately, he said,
it will benefit the university, as well as the community and state.
Fredricks hopes her research will ultimately help teachers.

She has a degree in Spanish education and has spent several years
working with ELL students. Now, she will research second-language
learners in middle and high school. "I just feel that so many teachers
out there think, 'What do I do with these students who are coming to
me in 10th and 11th grade and they don't know English?' How are we
going to prepare them to graduate?" she said. "It's a very difficult
N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list