Language in the USA (Prospective Syllabus)
Americans grapple with a number of issues related to language in the areas of education, civil rights, and government policy. In this course, we will explore some of the language issues that have arisen in American society with emphasis placed on the way language itself has become the object of focus in social and political debates. One such case is the decision by the Oakland School Board in 1996 to recognize Ebonics as the primary language of its African American students. This decision created intense nationwide controversy, and illustrates the way race and socioeconomic issues intersect with language attitudes. Another contentious issue is bilingual education. The Bilingual Education Act was passed in 1968; but since 1998 several states have passed ballot initiatives to eliminate bilingual education programs from their public schools. These efforts are often related to the thorny question of whether English should be designated the official language of the United States, as well as immigration issues. Maintaining the languages of linguistic minorities takes on a whole new meaning when discussing Native American languages. When European colonization began, around 300 languages were spoken in North America. Around 150 of those languages remained at the beginning of the 21st century with most being moribund (i.e. no longer being learned by children) or beyond endangered (i.e. having between 10 and 100 mostly elderly speakers remaining). As we dissect issues such as these, we will bring to bear a (socio)linguistic perspective in an effort to consider how such a perspective might inform the debates Americans have about language policy. The goals of the course are (1) to gain an understanding of the (socio)linguistic view of language, (2) to explore the social perspectives that have arisen around language issues in American society, and (3) to critically consider the socio-historical circumstances that surround language policy debates in the United States.
Adam Hodges. "Language in the USA (Prospective Syllabus)" 2012
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/adamhodges/41