A new encyclopedia of well-researched, non-technical articles edited by Arizona State University Professor Josué M. González is being hailed as a first-stop reference for accepted knowledge in the controversial and dynamic field of bilingual education.
González is a professor of educational leadership and policy studies with the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education and an internationally known expert in bilingual education. When contacted two years ago by Sage Reference books to edit the 2008 Encyclopedia of Bilingual Education, he said he realized the two-volume project provided an opportunity to compile the best research on the highly politicized and often emotionally charged subject of bilingual education.
“I wanted to get this story out. It’s not ambiguous. It’s not apolitical. The field itself is very political, so we wanted to reflect that,” said González, who also is director of the Southwest Center for Education Equity and Language Diversity within the Fulton College. The center focuses on policy analysis and scholarship in bilingual and dual-language education.
The encyclopedia links bilingual education to its many areas of direct socio-cultural impact, including issues of language and literacy, diversity, education equity, and the effects of shifting demographics across the United States.
“This reference will be a valuable tool for anyone seeking the research behind bilingual education and the implications of current national policies on student achievement among English language learners,” said George W. Hynd, senior vice provost for education and innovation and dean of the Fulton College. “Josué González has written and lectured extensively in the field, and his work with the Southwest Center for Education Equity and Language Diversity is crucial as immigration and bilingual education issues continue to rise to the political forefront in the U.S.”
González selected expert authors as contributors for the project from a wide range of disciplines including applied linguistics, politics, civil rights, history and education. He also developed a unique journalistic style, using essays rather than traditional encyclopedic entries, as a way to communicate with lay readers. It is designed to be a first-stop library reference with cross-references to related works and bibliographic entries of more in-depth research. In total, the encyclopedia contains over 300 articles and 1,000 pages of text.
González, an early innovator in bilingual and dual-language education, served as the first director of the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs during former President Jimmy Carter’s administration. He has served on several advisory commissions engaged in the field and has been President of the National Association for Bilingual Education.
Bilingual education has figured prominently throughout González’ life. He was born in Texas within walking distance of the Mexican border and, because he had Spanish-speaking teachers, he assumed bilingualism was the norm.
“I’ve been bilingual all my life, so essentially I’ve been in this field for more than 60 years,” he noted. Throughout his career as a language teacher, academic researcher and leader of discourse about bilingual education policies, González has questioned the role of language in education. He has seen school curricula shift from bilingual programs that inspired students and teachers to succeed academically to the implementation of laws such as Proposition 203 (English for Children), which made bilingual education illegal in Arizona, and criminalized undocumented immigration to the United States.
“At ASU we have an outstanding body of expertise in the field. We are loaded for bear at a time when the demand for bilingual education teachers has waned somewhat, at least in Arizona. Other states are still looking for bilingual education teachers and have a rising demand,” he said. “The families who benefit from bilingual education tend not to be politically active or even speak English, so they don’t have a way of expressing their interest in having the program to serve their children.”
González argues that the role of language in education supports human development, intergroup relations and respect for other cultures. Yet he believes the public doesn’t grasp the depth of professional knowledge underscoring bilingual education because it is so highly politicized that it becomes distorted as anti-American. He also said journalists have written narrowly on the subject and haven’t fully informed the public, which is why he envisioned his audience for the encyclopedia as a young journalist assigned to write a deadline piece on bilingual education.
González said indigenous languages disappear every year and linguists have determined that English, Chinese and Spanish are the top three languages in the world. He said the Internet has had a profound effect on language choice because more and more people use English to navigate the World Wide Web.
“In the American Southwest we already use two of these languages widely, but English is pandemic. It’s the language of the universe. We’re beaming it into outer space. The pervasive nature of English will continue because it’s all over the world, but we’re the only country that believes things would be better if we only concentrated on English to the exclusion of all other languages. It’s a very retrograde view,” he said.
“We don’t know how to teach languages in this country, even our own,” he added. “Each year there are more people who don’t speak English, and we can’t teach them fast enough, so it looks to the casual observer as if some people are refusing to speak English.”
Because ASU is an epicenter of knowledge in the field of bilingual education, González tapped many of his colleagues for their contributions to the encyclopedia along with other national and international experts. “We have a tremendous knowledge base with experts in linguistics, language, language methods and ESL at ASU,” he said.
ASU faculty and staff who contributed to the Encyclopedia of Bilingual Education include: Professor Alfredo J. Artiles; Assistant Professor Cathy A. Coulter; Christian Faltis, interim associate director for research and graduate studies; Eugene E. Garcia, vice president for education partnerships; Professor Stella K. Hadjistassou; Professor Sarah Hudelson; Associate Professor Faryl Kander; Associate Professor Jeff MacSwan; Professor Teresa L. McCarty; Professor Carlos J. Ovando; Associate Professor Kellie Rolstad; Assistant Professor Mary Eunice Romero-Little; Associate Professor Karen Smith; Pauline Stark, administrative associate, and Elsie M. Szecsy, associate research professional, Southwest Center for Education Equity and Language Diversity; Denis Viri, associate research professional, Center for Indian Education; and Professor Terrence G. Wiley, director of the Division of Educational Leadership & Policy studies.
Current and former graduate students who also contributed include: Jorge A. Aguilar, Valentina Canese, Mario Castro, James Cohen, Gerda De Klerk, Bryant T. Jensen, Eric Johnson, Hye Jong Kim, Kathleen King, Ha Lam, Mengying Li, Na Liu, Kara T. McAlister, Sarah Catherine Moore, Silvia C. Nogueron, Chanyoung Park, Yun Teng, Larisa Warhol, Miku Watanade, and Jinning Zhang.