Two-way immersion, gentrification, and critical pedagogy : teaching against the neoliberal logic
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This nine-month critical ethnography documented a TWI (two-way immersion) school and community in a rapidly gentrifying urban context in the southwest US in 2015-2016. This gentrification process coalesced with the surging interest of its TWI program by mostly English dominant families, most of whom were transfers and did not live in the immediate neighborhood. The growth of TWI at the local and national levels coupled with the urgent warning from critical scholars in bilingual education about the potential neoliberal assault of TWI (Cervantes-Soon, 2014) were the impetus for the study. The documentation of neoliberal processes on the ground revealed dual gentrifications at the community and schoolwide level; increased property values that pushed the traditional Latinx population to the margins and the gentrification of a TWI program (Valdez et al., 2016) as it became a highly sought out place for English dominant families. I conducted interviews with multiple stakeholders, participated in myriad school meetings and events, and most importantly documented and collaborated with a fifth-grade teacher who integrated critical pedagogy as a response to these neoliberal processes. Findings at the classroom level revealed the teacher’s deliberate stance to move beyond TWI’s laudable traditional pillars of academic and linguistic proficiency in two languages and multicultural competence to include a new fourth pillar of TWI around the development of students’ critical consciousness (Cervantes-Soon et al, 2017). A key facet of this response to both macro and micro neoliberal processes was our decision to position gentrification as a “generative theme” (Freire, 1997) and carry out a thematic unit with students. Student dialogues, blogs, and interviews demonstrated a deeper sense of critical consciousness about how gentrification was impacting their communities and schools. The findings offer empirical support for the proposed fourth pillar of TWI, and how a critical pedagogy of “love, imagination, and fury” (De Lissovoy, 2015) impacted the lives of students, parents, and the researcher. Implications for TWI policy, practice, research, and bilingual teacher preparation are discussed.