Spanish for Americans?: the politics of bilingualism in the United States
This dissertation addresses the tension between multiculturalism and national unity within the context of Spanish and English language usage in the United States. Will moves to promote bilingualism and dual-language school programs lead to a fragmented society? Under what circumstances might bilingualism be compatible with American identity? Where bilinguals have high status and Hispanics have political power, I find that English-speaking Hispanics are much more likely to maintain Spanish. The project first documents the role that language has played in national identity formation and, in turn, how beliefs about what it means to be American have shaped school policies relative to second language learning and the education of immigrant children. Then---using the Census, NCES, and other data sources---I develop and quantitatively test models of the macro- and micro-level contexts that influence (1) the level of bilingualism among Hispanic adults, and (2) the adoption of Spanish-English dual-language programs in public schools. The latter is one of several indicators of a more generalized valuation of bilingualism that extends beyond Hispanics and Hispanic communities. Qualitative case studies augment my findings by elucidating the motives and process behind decisions to institute dual-language school programs. The U.S. is not moving toward a bilingual norm, but my findings provide evidence that, under certain circumstances, Spanish-English bilingualism has become a compatible and stable part of what it means to be an American.
- Sociology