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Fast capitalism, school reform, and second language literacy practices
Modern Language Journal (2004)
  • Meg L. Gebhard, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

This 2-year qualitative study explores the ironies of educational reform in the United States as experienced by three second language learners attending a school attempting to transform itself into a high-performance elementary school in California's Silicon Valley. Drawing on the concept of “fast capitalism” in a globalized economic work order (Gee, Hull, & Lankshear, 1996) and the tools of critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1989), the findings from this investigation reveal that the discourses of school reform in the United States visibly and invisibly placed second language learners in new highly vulnerable positions. In what follows I provide an analysis of this vulnerability by relating the experiences of three families and their attempts to enrol and stay enrolled in the school of their choice. Next, I provide a critical analysis of the discourses of reading and writing instruction and of a text produced by a focal student named Alma in this context. This analysis highlights the ways in which classroom literacy practices inadvertently constrained the efforts of second language learners to acquire academic literacies and ultimately legitimated the school's decision to declare Alma “not Web material.” The implications of this study relate to better understanding classroom SLA from a historical, institutional perspective and to supporting teachers and policy makers in addressing the needs of second language learners in a time of rapid social and economic change.

  • Educational Change,
  • Economic Change,
  • Discourse Analysis,
  • Criticism,
  • Second Language Learning,
  • Literacy Education,
  • School Choice,
  • English (Second Language),
  • Academic Achievement,
  • Case Studies
Publication Date
Citation Information
Meg L. Gebhard. "Fast capitalism, school reform, and second language literacy practices" Modern Language Journal Vol. 88 Iss. 2 (2004)
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