In 2002 Massachusetts voters passed a voter initiative that changed the way children who are not fluent in English are taught. The initiative overturned the state’s requirement for “transitional bilingual education,” through which children are gradually transitioned, usually over a three-year period, from instruction in their native language to instruction entirely in English. Transitional bilingual education was replaced with “sheltered English immersion,” which places children with little or no English-language fluency in classes where almost all instruction is in English, with the expectation that they will move to regular English-only classrooms after one year.

We used frame analysis to examine news coverage of this issue in the Boston Globe for the decade following the election, aiming to assess the press’s contribution to public understanding of the controversy over bilingual education and to shed light on the press’s role in enforcing the dominant language ideology of the United States, which supports English monolingualism. The study examined fifty-seven news articles identified through the use of key words. We organized the articles into three periods and focused on (1) headlines, (2) main events and themes, (3) characters, (4) use of expert sources, and (5) the placement of stories. We found most articles bunched in the period immediately following the election. The press frame featured conflicts among politicians and struggles with implementation and emphasized local concerns through placement of the stories in the paper. Some stories reported lack of success for sheltered English immersion, but very few experts on language learning or bilingual education were brought into the press frame. The news stories provided the reader little information about language learning and no perspective on the potential importance or usefulness of bi- and multilingual education. As a major news source, the Boston Globe told the story in a manner that reinforced a language ideology supporting the hegemony of English.


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