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Chapter 14 History of bilingual special education

History of Special Education

ISBN: 978-0-85724-629-5, eISBN: 978-0-85724-630-1

Publication date: 28 January 2011


Over the course of several decades, the field of bilingual special education has found much support in the reform movement that has become known as multicultural education. Born out of the 1960s civil rights movement (Mclaren & Muñoz, 2000), multicultural education “is a field in education that is dedicated to equal opportunity for all students. Even groups who appear to be monocultural are diverse in regards to class, gender, and language” (Ooka Pang, 2005, p. 213). Multicultural education “assumes that race, ethnicity, culture, and social class are salient parts of U.S. society. It also assumes that ethnic and cultural diversity enriches the nation and increases the ways in which its citizens can perceive and solve personal and public problems” (Banks, 2002, p. 1). Thus, multicultural education supports the call for bilingual special education in teacher preparation and in schools. For special educators, in particular, understanding the link between exceptionalities and cultural diversity is fundamental to their professional role (Hallahan et al., 2009). In the context of a multilingual and multicultural country, such as the United States, bilingual special education is no doubt the best way to ensure that a subgroup of our population (i.e., bilingual exceptional children) has real opportunities to succeed. A major concern for any educator, but especially for bilingual special educators who value and seek to implement multicultural education, is to ensure that bilingual exceptional learners are not placed at a disadvantage because of their linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Here the term culture encompasses all the various aspects (subcultures) that contribute to define an individual. These are race, ethnicity, language, exceptionality, sexual orientation, gender, religion, socioeconomic background, and age.


Ehlers-Zavala, F.P. (2011), "Chapter 14 History of bilingual special education", Rotatori, A.F., Obiakor, F.E. and Bakken, J.P. (Ed.) History of Special Education (Advances in Special Education, Vol. 21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 343-361.



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