Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Notes on "Citizens vs. Aliens: How Institutional Policies Construct Linguistic Minority Students"

Kanno, Yasuko, and Linda Harklau, eds. Linguistic Minority Students Go to College: Preparation, Access, and Persistence. NY: Routledge, 2012. Print.

First off, Kanno and Harklau's definition of "linguistic minority students": "students who speak a language other than English at home" (vii). Also called "language minority students or non-English language background (NELB) student[s]" (1).

Yasuko Kanno and Linda Harklau: "Linguistic Minority Students Go to College: Introduction" (1-16):

Distinction between LM (linguistic minority) and EL (English learners) students: 
ELs are a subset of LM students whose academic English proficiency has not yet developed sufficiently to benefit from the regular English-medium instruction. Although these two terms are often erroneously conflated, they are, most emphatically, not the same. Many LM students are native or highly proficient speakers of English. It is common for LM students, especially among second-generation immigrant students, to be more dominant in English than in their home language. To assume that all LM students are somehow less than fully proficient in English is a highly reductive deficit orientation that ignores the complex linguistic landscape of the United States. (2-3)
Shawna Shapiro: "Citizens vs. Aliens: How Institutional Policies Construct Linguistic Minority Students" (238-254):
Chapter examines "the conditions and effects of ... institutional alienation [where non-US citizens "were subject to a distinct set of expectations for language proficiency" at "Northern Green University"], as well as its ideological underpinnings. In cases like Northern Green, the institutional response to linguistic minority students reflects an ideology of deficit: Linguistic difference is seen as a liability, rather than as an asset, to institutional excellence" (238).
Makes the argument that 
when policies discriminate against a particular group because of linguistic background (and, in this case, because of national citizenship), they not only hinder the institutional integration of those students, but also call into question that institution's commitment to equity and diversity. If linguistic minority students are recruited and admitted under the the assumption that they have something valuable to offer, then the institution must treat them as "promises" instead of "problems" (Van Meter, 1990, pp. 4-5). Language policies that are deficit-focused do precisely the opposite: They construct students as unwelcome aliens, rather than as institutional citizens. (239)
Argues that remediation programs are ways of admitting students like LMs without having to change institutionally--LMs have to change, not the programs into which they're accepted (240).
Shapiro is focusing in this chapter on LMs who are "permanent residents, most of whom were undergraduates to transferred to NGU from local community colleges" (241).
The institution she examined required all students who weren't US citizens to give evidence of language proficiency unless they were from an English-speaking country. That meant that in some cases students who had successfully gone through 2 years of community college in the US were suddenly required to give a TOEFL test result--not to be accepted into the institution, but to "prove" their language proficiency and avoid having to enter the remedial ESL program.
Some interesting (and, unfortunately, familiar-sounding) quotes from the language program's 2007 Operations Manual (which Shapiro says has been since revised): 
one of [the program's] goals was to help students improve their English so that they "do not pose an excessive burden to instructors." This would also "ensur[e] that students who graduate ... possess adequate English language skills that maintain the university's academic standards and reputation." (246, ellipses in original)
Shapiro uses this case study of NGU to point out the need for institutions to consider how language requirements or required language programs might be more of a burden than an aid to LM students, particularly if they're non-credit courses that cost extra money, and particularly if they discriminate based on a student's national origin. These programs alienate LM students and undermine the institutions' professed commitment to diversity and equality.

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