Empowering minority students: An analysis of the bilingual education debate

  • Jim Cummins Ontario
    Institue of Studies in Education
Keywords: students, bilingual, pedagogy of empowerment, border


This paper argues that the nature of the bilingual education debate, represents a drama of societal self-definition. On one hand the commitment to preserve traditional power structures, and on the other, the desire to live up to theideals upon which the U.S.was founded. The latter implies the creation of a society where equality, freedom and justice represent more than just empty rhetoric. In order to build his case, the author examines the historical context of minority education in the U.S. and the surface text of the arguments both for and against the effectiveness of bilingual education. He concludes that the fundamental causes of minority students' school failure are rooted in socio historical processes of minority group disempowerment. The ways are outlined in which schools have traditionally reflected the societal power structure and rationalized the education disablement of minority students. An invention framework designed to reverse this pattern and prevent minority student academic failure is proposed. However, the author cautions that the implementation of empowerment pedagogy is unlikely to be facilitated by the dominant group because, almost by definition. empowerment pedagogy requires educators as individuals and schools as institutions to challenge the institutionalized racism that still persists in many aspects of society.
Jim Cummins Ontario
Native of Ireland, received his Ph.D. from the University of Alberta in Canada. He worked at the Educatiooal Research Center, Dublin, investigating the consequences of Irish-English bilingualism and bilingual education. Researcher at the Center of Modem Language at the Ontario Institue of Studies in Education, Tormto, Canada.