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Barriers to multicultural initiatives: The case of Mandarin and Arabic foreign language in an American high school

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Abstract:

Background: As American education adapts to global institutional environments, multicultural innovation becomes increasingly important. Yet, while district mission statements express this need, entrenched social and structural barriers remain. For example, despite calls for teaching "critical" non-Western languages like Arabic and Chinese, these struggle to gain a foothold outside of large districts with high percentages of native speakers; a situation seemingly out of sync with multicultural goals. Goals: This paper explores how structural, political, social, and economic factors cut against a school district's efforts to introduce Mandarin and Arabic courses into high school curriculum. It serves as a cautionary guide to policy makers, educators, and citizens concerned with multicultural curricular change. Theoretical Concepts: Our study integrates four key frameworks to account for the success of curricular innovation. Open systems: successful innovation depends on actors and structures outside the organization. Curricular change: success relates to the innovation's "rationalistic," "transactional," or "organic" standing. Language ecology: "foreign" languages are like "species" whose survival depends on characteristics of their new habitats (in this case, the school and community). Language planning: new languages become viable as they pass through specified stages of decision making and resource acquisition. Methods: Based on analysis of documents and numerous interviews with key district and community actors, we present a case study of what happened and why over a three-year decision making period. Findings: Though the findings indicate economic and structural barriers, "exotic" language instruction appeared to fall outside the social mindscape of local decision makers. We conclude that shifting world language programs toward new global orientations may require resources and commitments beyond levels currently available for many non-urban school districts.
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Association:
Name: 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society
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http://www.cies.us


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p492402_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Sun, Jinai. and Shouse, Roger. "Barriers to multicultural initiatives: The case of Mandarin and Arabic foreign language in an American high school" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Apr 30, 2011 <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p492402_index.html>

APA Citation:

Sun, J. and Shouse, R. C. , 2011-04-30 "Barriers to multicultural initiatives: The case of Mandarin and Arabic foreign language in an American high school" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p492402_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Background: As American education adapts to global institutional environments, multicultural innovation becomes increasingly important. Yet, while district mission statements express this need, entrenched social and structural barriers remain. For example, despite calls for teaching "critical" non-Western languages like Arabic and Chinese, these struggle to gain a foothold outside of large districts with high percentages of native speakers; a situation seemingly out of sync with multicultural goals. Goals: This paper explores how structural, political, social, and economic factors cut against a school district's efforts to introduce Mandarin and Arabic courses into high school curriculum. It serves as a cautionary guide to policy makers, educators, and citizens concerned with multicultural curricular change. Theoretical Concepts: Our study integrates four key frameworks to account for the success of curricular innovation. Open systems: successful innovation depends on actors and structures outside the organization. Curricular change: success relates to the innovation's "rationalistic," "transactional," or "organic" standing. Language ecology: "foreign" languages are like "species" whose survival depends on characteristics of their new habitats (in this case, the school and community). Language planning: new languages become viable as they pass through specified stages of decision making and resource acquisition. Methods: Based on analysis of documents and numerous interviews with key district and community actors, we present a case study of what happened and why over a three-year decision making period. Findings: Though the findings indicate economic and structural barriers, "exotic" language instruction appeared to fall outside the social mindscape of local decision makers. We conclude that shifting world language programs toward new global orientations may require resources and commitments beyond levels currently available for many non-urban school districts.


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