The Recent Assault on Education as a Human Right in the United States with Implications for Linguistic Minorities

10:45am - 12:00pm
Presented at: Language and the UN: Symposium on Language and Equality

This paper addresses the recent assault on the legal rights of undocumented children in the United States to an education (Bacon, 2008; Culliton-González, 2009; Wiley, 2013; Yoshikawa, 2011 p. 30). These rights have been guaranteed since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982). This ruling was also consistent with several previous UN declarations related to education, literacy, and human rights, originally dating back to the United Nations 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately, member states including the U.S. do not always treat universal rights declarations as binding. Moreover, the U.S. focus on ‘human rights’ tends to be directed at the ‘foreign’ rather than ‘domestic’ context (Hertel & Libal, 2011).

Against this background, the paper analyzes the recent assault on children’s educational human rights and its connections with attacks on linguistic human rights. The paper provides examples of recent strategic uses of dehumanizing discourse that is designed to influence U.S. public opinion and legal protections for children’s educational and linguistic human rights, as well as the attempt to end birth-right citizenship. The paper concludes with efforts to combat these setbacks to human rights.