Non-English-Language Ethnic Community Schools in the USA

Instruments of More Than Literacy and Less Than Literacy
  • Joshua A. Fishman
Part of the Topics in Language and Linguistics book series (TLLI)


The non-English-language ethnic community schools (hereafter, NELECS) in the United States constitute a sidestream phenomenon that, at first glance, may appear somewhat esoteric to the mainstream pursuit of literacy. Actually, however, a careful consideration of the sidestream may enable us to recognize and see in sharper relief certain aspects of literacy, for example, its necessary links to local culture and to concrete, everyday social experience that the mainstream (not only mainstream USA, but modern secularism in general) recognizes insufficiently because it so easily confuses its own emphases with universality and inevitability. A sympathetic and thorough examination of more traditional expressions of literacy may render us more sensitive to literacy as a phenomenon that requires local cultural validity and that may, therefore, take different forms, pursue different goals, be linked to different contextual and institutional supports from one speech community to another and even from one speech network to another. The sidestream, more than the mainstream, may lead us to the comparative study of literacy as a socioculturally regulated activity on the one hand and as a society- and culture-building activity on the other hand. Overly abstract, overly externalized, and overly generalized views of literacy, based upon exposure only to one or another modern secular setting, may very well represent a professional intellectual bias and, therefore, a fashionable falsification of the reality of literacy and biliteracy in the lives of ordinary adults and children who aspire not so much to international leadership positions as to lives of moderate continuity, controlled change, and respectability at the local level.


Mother Tongue Minority Language Ethnic Community Traditional Literacy Language Resource 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joshua A. Fishman
    • 1
  1. 1.Ferkauf Graduate School of PsychologyYeshiva UniversityBronxUSA

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