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The master's tools will never dismantle the master's school: Interrogating settler colonial logics in language education

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2022

María Cioè-Peña*
Montclair State University, College of Education and Human Services
*Corresponding author. Email:


Racialized students are overrepresented in special- and English-learner education programs in the United States. Researchers have pointed to implicit bias in evaluation tools and evaluators as a cause resulting in calls for more culturally competent/relevant practices/assessments. However, this paper argues that racial overrepresentation is reflective of larger settler colonial frameworks embedded in linguistic standards that continue to drive education and language ideologies/practices globally but especially in U.S. schools. First, through an analysis of an orthoepic test used during the Parsley Massacre of 1937 on the island of Hispaniola, I present how the evaluation of accented language has been used to racialize and pathologize people. Secondly, through a comparative analysis of bilingualism in the U.S. and Canada, I show how linguistic variation is only devalued when it emerges from marginalized communities, affirming the white normative gaze as a mechanism for maintaining inequitable power structures. Finally, the paper presents how these logics are present in current manifestations of bilingual education. By indicating how racially, physically, and/or neurodivergent people are othered, this paper calls on the decolonization of applied linguistics in order to effectively address the over- and disproportionate representation of Black, Indigenous, and/or Latinx students within special- and English-learner programs.

Spanish abstract

Spanish Abstract

En los Estados Unidos, estudiantes afrodescendientes, indígenas, y latines están sobrerrepresentados en programas de educación especial y aprendizaje de inglés. Investigadores académicos han señalado problemas en las herramientas de evaluación y los evaluadores como una causa que ha dado lugar a solicitudes de prácticas / evaluaciones más competentes / relevantes en términos de cultural. Sin embargo, este artículo sostiene que la sobrerrepresentación racial es un reflejo de marcos coloniales incrustados en los estándares lingüísticos que continúan instigando ideologías / prácticas sobre educación y lenguaje a nivel mundial, pero especialmente en las escuelas de EE.UU. Primero, a través de un análisis de una prueba ortopédica utilizada durante la Masacre de Perejil, presento cómo se ha utilizado la evaluación del lenguaje acentuado para racializar y patologizar a las personas. En segundo lugar, a través de un análisis comparativo del bilingüismo en los EE.UU. y Canadá, muestro cómo la variación lingüística solo se devalúa cuando surge de comunidades marginadas, afirmando la mirada Blanca y normativa como un mecanismo para mantener estructuras de poder desiguales. Finalmente, el artículo presenta cómo estas lógicas están presentes en la educación bilingüe corriente. Al indicar cómo se diferencian las personas a bases de raza, físico, y capacidad intelectual, este papel pide la descolonización de la materia de lingüística aplicada para atender de manera efectiva la representación excesiva y desproporcionada de estudiantes afrodescendientes, indígenas, y / o latine dentro de programas para educación especial y aprendizaje de inglés.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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