Bilingual Education and Foreign Language Instruction in Progressive Education

On March 29, 2012, Karina Otoya-Knapp of the Bank Street College’s Graduate School of Education was invited for a second time to be a discussant at NYU’s Annual International Education Doctoral Conference: Advancing Global Education in Austere Times. In her panel discussion, panelists from across the country offered a comparative perspective of bilingual education abroad and in the United States. Karina contextualized bilingual education and foreign language instruction in terms of progressive education remarking on the work of John Dewey and Lucy Sprague-Mitchell. Her discussion also called on the need to organize communities to advocate for their right to speak in their native language while acquiring another, especially in light of English-only policies in the United States and abroad, where English is becoming more and more the medium of instruction. She encouraged panelists and audience to rethink the term “foreign” in foreign language instruction from one that describes learning a language as something strange and distant to language learning as a lifelong and dynamic process. She argued that more research must document models of strong bilingual programs that draw on the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the children and their families.

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