I have already indicated that this is not a book ‘about’ bilingualism. However, because the bulk of the book looks at cultural issues through examining the experiences of young learners who are bilingual, because it is necessary to provide some theoretical context to support our understanding of these experiences, and because the bulk of current theory and research works oppositionally to much classroom practice-including the physical and symbolic withdrawal of students and the missionary approach to teachingit is necessary to provide some brief background, and in particular to outline the principal arguments, drawn from research, that have informed my own presentations and analyses of classroom events. Having summarized these arguments as a way of simultaneously suggesting some basic principles of effective classroom practice, I will consider in a little more detail the possibilities of three particular strands of bilingual education theory for promoting greater physical-symbolic inclusion in the school classroom. These three strands are: • notions of language-in-context • distinctions between ‘everyday’ and ‘academic’ language • the ‘transferability’ of language skills The following, then, are the central research arguments to which this book subscribes: 1 There is an impressive-one might say irresistible-body of research evidence
to show that bilingualism has the capacity to be linguistically and cognitively advantageous (and therefore should be linguistically and cognitively advantageous), provided it is allowed to be so by monolingual-dominated schools. (This research has included several longitudinal studies, including those by Malherbe 1946, Phillips 1972, San Diego City Schools 1975, Carey and Cummins 1983.) While it is true that not all theory and research has
pointed to academic advantages for bilingual students (for example, Coleman et al. 1966, Christopherson 1973, Skutnabb-Kangas and Toukamaa 1976), the weight of argument leans very heavily the other way. Furthermore, as Cummins has argued, any actual problems related to bilingualism are less readily attributable to ‘bilingualism per se’ than to ‘the social and educational conditions under which minority students acquire their…languages’ (Cummins 1984, p.103; see also Little and Willey 1981, Miller 1983, Wright 1985).