Friday, July 27, 2007

Jim Cummins on NCLB

From Daily Kos:

Jim Cummins Demolishes NCLB’s Ideology and Practice

Two days before Jim Cummins stood behind the podium at the annual conference of the organization of California Teachers of Other Languages (CATESOL) in San Diego, the place buzzed about his coming appearance. Four standing ovations indicated that he did not disappoint.

Jim Cummins

No surprise. A treasured, no-nonsense voice in the world of second-language acquisition, during the past three decades, Cummins, now a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, has touched the life of many an English as a second language teacher, inspiring thousands with a thoroughly grounded iconoclastic approach to the pedagogy of language. He has shattered myths, developed new theories and concepts, promoted innovations in the classroom, affected policy, and arguably done as much to shift the paradigm of language instruction as Noam Chomsky 20 years earlier did to shift scientific thought toward a paradigm of innate universal grammar.

Cummins is Canada Research Chair in Language and Literacy Development in Multilingual Contexts at the University of Toronto and a prolific author of books on second language learning and literacy development. His research has focused on the nature of language proficiency and second language acquisition with particular emphasis on the social and educational barriers that limit academic success for culturally diverse students. Recent books include Literacy, Technology, and Diversity: Teaching for Success in Changing Times, Language, Power and Pedagogy, Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment in a Diverse Society, and Bilingual Children's Mother Tongue: Why Is It Important for Education?

In a simultaneously scathing and humorous talk, "I’m not just a coloring person," Cummins laid out a case that what is happening now in the schools is not science but ideology, with federal and state policies imposing a pedagogical divide in which "poor kids get behaviorism and rich kids get social constructionism." In practice, that means skills for the poor and knowledge for the rich. That ideologically based approach ignores and rejects research into the way students learn, particularly how they learn language and how to read, he said.

More here.

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