The Civil Rights movement during the 1960s and 1970s created many changes for American society and its schools. The transformations resulted from movements such as Bilingual Education, women’s rights activism, and the passing of Public Law 94-142. Incorporating these new laws and ideas into society had consequences, but each helped to lessen the inequality of minority groups in America, including students whose primary language was not English, women, and handicapped children. However, certain groups opposed their inclusion in American life.
Those fighting for minorities were steadfast in their efforts and made many successful strides. The Bilingual Education movement in America began in the late 1960s. It was an important issue because many Spanish-speaking children were attending schools that only included English in their curriculum, resulting in low academic achievement rates. Bilingual education programs were developed to resolve this dilemma in American schools by providing teaching in both Spanish and English.
Some attempts were made to set a standard for bilingual education and make it a nationally recognized idea. The Bilingual Education Act, passed by Congress in 1968, legitimized the instruction of non-English speaking children (U & W, 317). However, it did not set any standards, leaving the observation of the act up to whose arguments were stronger – the opposers or the defenders. The Supreme Court popularized the issue in 1974 in the Lau vs. Nichols case.
This case involved Chinese American children in San Francisco who spoke little or no English. Those fighting for the children wanted them to receive extra attention in teaching English. After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the children, various proposals were given to attempt to solve the issue. The inclusion of bilingual education in America’s school curriculum brought about different ideas on how to resolve the issue.
The first approach suggested a special curriculum for non-English speakers to concentrate on learning English. The second involved removing non-English speaking students from regular classrooms until they fully learned the language. The third approach, bilingual education, suggested teaching the students their native language and English equally. According to Urban and Wagoner in American Education: A History, advocates of this approach sometimes emphasized biculturalism. These attempts were both supported and opposed by various parties.
Those who defended incorporation of bilingual education into American schools included politicians and other Hispanic leaders who were trying to prevent assimilation. Opposers included teachers, Anglo politicians, and some Hispanic intellectuals who thought that it was important for the children to assimilate into society (ibid.). Women’s rights activism also became popular in the 1960s but did not have many large effects on the schools. Teachers did not want to be involved with the feminists, and so the activists also distanced themselves from the teachers.
The hard work and determination of feminists, however, brought about the passing of Title IX of the Higher Education Act in 1972 (ibid., 320). This act instilled gender equality in institutions of higher education and played a monumental role in regulating fairness among the sexes in colleges. The Title IX continues to aid in maintaining equality between college men and women, among other things, although there is still work to be done. The act has been successful in supporting attempts to bring more female administrators into schools. In actuality, however, women principals and administrators in schools and school districts are still scarce (ibid).
Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, was an act of legislation passed by Congress in 1972. It assured that all handicapped children received equal public education and allowed disabled children to be students in regular classrooms, an idea called mainstreaming (ibid).
Included in the act was a development called the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This plan was for all handicapped students enrolled in the program, and it would analyze the children’s progress as well as any goals. Public Law 94-142 encountered intense debates from both supporters and opposers. The children and their parents greatly approved of the special education program because it provided a much more favorable education than what they were receiving previously. They were getting a chance to be educated.