ERIC Number: EJ832910
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Dec
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 50
Language Rights: A Framework for Ensuring Social Equity in Planning and Implementing National-Education Policies
Hossain, Tania; Pratt, Cornelius B.
New Horizons in Education, v56 n3 p63-74 Dec 2008
Background: An important issue in the discourse on language rights is the degree to which they influence the development and implementation of language policies or perpetuate inequalities in many language situations. Skutnabb-Kangas (1996, 2002a, 2002b) and May (2000), for example, have argued that language rights offer a reasonable framework for protecting minority languages. In contrast, Brutt-Griffler (2002a) argues that a focus on language rights is neither theoretically justified nor realistic as a means for protecting the interests of linguistic minorities. This article uses the antithetical views expressed by Brutt-Griffler, a critic of language rights, and by Skutnabb-Kangas, an advocate of those rights, as a point of departure in marshaling arguments to advocate human rights as both a mechanism for ensuring social equity, for expanding educational offerings particularly to school-age children, and, in turn, for fostering national development. Focus of Discussion: Skutnabb-Kangas observes that the most important of linguistic human rights (LHRs) that is needed in the educational process to maintain the world's linguistic diversity is the unconditional mother-tongue medium (MTM). Brutt-Griffler holds a contrary perspective, arguing that an emphasis on language rights is not theoretically justified, and that they cannot protect the interest of linguistic minorities. This article uses those disparate views to frame arguments on social equity and educational policies. Arguments: Skutnabb-Kangas (2002a) has been an ardent advocate for the education of linguistic minorities worldwide and proffers answers to a key question: "Can a human rights (HRs) approach to language planning and policy promote educational equity for diverse student populations?" (p. 180). She argues that indigenous and minority education is congruent with the U.N. definition of linguistic genocide and that the dominant language (e.g., English as a world language) often morphs into a killer language. Brutt-Griffler holds an antithetical view, arguing that linguistic human rights not only have little impact on peoples' lives, but that they are inconsistent with the theoretical standpoint of language policy and planning (LPP). She notes that language rights are not effective vehicles for social change and that an emphasis on such rights limits LPP theory. Conclusion: Both Skutnabb-Kangas and Brutt-Griffler note the limitations of LPP theory. Even so, Skutnabb-Kangas, on the one hand, supports adopting and implementing worldwide language rights and promoting a policy on such rights as a desideratum for accomplishing social equity at a national level. Brutt-Griffler, on the other, argues that because language rights offer an inadequate framework for applying LPP theory, they cannot provide an effective pathway to meaningful social change. This article avers that language rights can be a mechanism for enhancing social equity in language policies, and, in turn, national development, by emphasizing two justice-driven perspectives: procedural justice and distributive justice. Because of the limitations of LPP theory and the lack of empirical research on the interface between language rights and national-education policies for social change, this article concludes by suggesting future directions for that much-needed research agenda.
Descriptors: Language Minorities, Language Dominance, Language Planning, Equal Education, Linguistics, Social Change, Civil Rights, Educational Policy, Student Diversity, Social Justice, Language Research, Language Maintenance, Language Attitudes, Language of Instruction
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Education; Elementary Secondary Education; Postsecondary Education; Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A