UC Berkeley L2 Journal Title Neoliberal Discourses and the Local Policy Implementation of an English Literacy and Civics Education Program Publication Date Neoliberal Discourses and the Local Policy Implementation of an English Literacy and Civics Education Program

Dina López
2015 Journal L2 Journal   unpublished
The issue of language, specifically access to English, has emerged as a key concern for both U.S. policy-makers and immigrant communities alike. Many of these debates are framed by neoliberal and human capital perspectives, which view English as a set of skills and linguistic capital that are inextricably tied to employment opportunities and economic mobility. It is within this socio-historical, political, and discursive space that adult English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) classes are
more » ... developed, and implemented in various communities across the U.S. For decades, the federal government had allocated monies for states to fund programs that linked teaching English with the teaching of job readiness and workplace skills. In 1999, however, the Clinton administration launched a $70 million state grants program that integrated English literacy with civics education (EL/Civics). This was a clear departure from language education policies that positioned adult immigrants simply as workers who needed the linguistic skills to participate in the labor system. This paper argues that despite the purported aim to link English language instruction with broader notions of civic and political participation, a neoliberal agenda finds its way into the local implementation of the EL/Civics policy. Informed by poststructural and sociocultural theories as well as a transnational perspective, this paper draws on data from a 10-month ethnographic study of an EL/Civics program in Queens, NY. I employed ethnographic data collection methods such as participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and audio-recorded classroom discourse. Guided by the following questions, the analysis focuses on how neoliberal discourses insinuate themselves into the organizational practices and classroom interactions of an EL/Civics program: How are neoliberal discourses both taken up and interrogated by adult immigrant students? How do neoliberal discourses interact with enduring narratives of immigration? This work adds to the growing research on the critical role that language teachers and language learners play in responding to and remaking policies in their classrooms-a process that is mediated by actors' identities, local contexts, and widely-circulating discourses of immigration and neoliberal logic. The paper concludes with a discussion of how we can begin to rethink EL/Civics programs and approaches and provide an alternative to the neoliberal model of adult English language education.