Tongue-tied: Imperialism and Second Language Education in the United States

  • Jeff Bale Michigan State University
Keywords: Language Eduation, Education Poilcy, Second Language Education, Bilingual Education, Americanization, Civil Rights, Chicano Civil Rights, Marxism, Imperialism, Language Planning and Policy, Educational Historiography


This article responds to a conspicuous blind spot in scholarship and commentary on language education policy in the United States. This oversight obtains as much in theoretical terms as in errant readings of the historical record of language education policy and practice. To illuminate this blind spot, I structure the article in four parts. I begin by reviewing the resource debate over language education policy. Second, I contribute to that debate by way of the classical Marxist theory of imperialism and elaborate its social, ideological and linguistic dynamics. Third, I explore this theoretical position by contrasting two key moments in the history of U.S. second language policy and practice. Finally, I maintain that despite the focus on historical contexts, this analysis implicates a fundamental re-orientation of contemporary language education policy scholarship and advocacy if either is to contribute in deed to a more multilingual and just society.

Author Biography

Jeff Bale, Michigan State University

Assistant Professor of Second Language Education

Department of Teacher Education