Native American Languages Act vs. No Child Left Behind

In 1990, the US Congress passed the “Native American Languages Act,” which not only recognizes US practices of oppressing Native American (including Native Hawaiian and Native American Pacific Islander) language and culture, but proclaims that the policy of the US government is now to “preserve, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice, and develop Native American languages.”

As part of a national push to prioritize education, the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” includes the provisions “Requires students who have been in U.S. schools for at least three years to be tested for reading in English. Requires LEAs to obtain informed parental consent prior to placing children in an instructional program that is not taught primarily in English.” An LEA is a local education agency. It seems that the intended focus on ensuring immigrant children learn English wound up contradicting the NALA.

In the article “NCLB Seen Impeding Indigenous-Language Preservation,” Mary Ann Zehr tells of how educators involved with Native American and Hawaiian immersion programs were set to meet last year with the general counsel for the Department of Education to request an exemption from the “No Child Left Behind Act.”

While the meeting had not yet happened and so the outcome is not described, last December, US President Obama reversed US policy and announced the US would sign the “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” Article 13 has provisions for languages, including the “right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit” them.

To date, however, it appears that the US has not, however, actually signed. Moreover, as it is Congress who creates laws and the president who executes them, it does not seem that this conflict has yet been resolved.

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6 Responses to “Native American Languages Act vs. No Child Left Behind”

  1. Alexander Dietz Says:

    U.S.-politicians are surely not that stupid not to remark the conflict between the Native American Languages Act and the No Child Left Behind Act.
    I think that they have passed such an act in order to weaken knowingly the Native American Languages Act. It is clear that the English-Only-Movement is a kind of disease that has to be fighted against. It is actually still the case that the parents place their children into that schooling program what thay prefer. In the case of older students in special, every students must have the right and the choice to study a Native American language of their living area, native and non-native. Yes, in those areas with significant percentages of Native Americans, this ought to bea core subject like English. Parents cannot be forced to give their consent for certain programs, but I wound find it extremely disgusting if parents could force their children not to discover regional heritage against their will. In general, I do not like at all US-policies on youngsters. But this is another topic.

    • wakablogger Says:

      Perhaps someone more knowledgable about this can respond, but the No Child Left Behind Act was a major political initiative focusing on education. I don’t think NA languages were part of the consideration. With English-only as well, the target seems to be immigrant languages, not native ones. In the US, the level of awareness that Native American languages are spoken is very low.

  2. Alexander Dietz Says:

    The people starting the initiative perhaps were not aware of the conflict with the Native American Languages Act. But those involved in legislation certainly became aware of it and therefore ought to have announced:”We have to consider the NALA…”
    With regard to immigrant languages, English-only policies against civil rights and ignore US-American history. The English-plus-movement has suitable suggestions but is unfortunately weaker than its English-only counterpart.
    I am sorry but US-citizens not realizing that native American languages are still spoken are stupid.

  3. wakablogger Says:

    Other than in connection with endangered languages, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Native Americans speaking anything other than English. When an NA language is spoken in mainstream movies, it’s always a setting from the past, like the nineteenth century. Because there is no visibility, people are simply not aware of NA language use today. It is unfortunate, but the situation is improving!

  4. Native American Languages Act vs. No Child Left Behind – Ethnos Project Crisis Zone Says:

    […] In 1990, the US Congress passed the “Native American Languages Act,” which not only recognizes US practices of oppressing Native American (including Native Hawaiian and Native American Pacific Islander) language and culture, but proclaims that the policy of the US government is now to “preserve, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to […] […]

  5. Al Yazzie Says:

    It would seem that NALA sets precedence prior to NCLB being introduced, thus NALA countermands any laws that try to prohibit the the use of Native languages. To do that they would have to repeal or amend NALA.

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