I read this article about universal pre-school (école maternelle) in France, and thought it could use a touch more history.
The French language wasn’t widely used throughout France up to the Revolution. The aftermath resulted in a short-lived policy of freedom of languages for all citizens, followed by pretty much the opposite, and forcing everyone to learn French.
I don’t deny that teaching the national language (for countries with a national language) in school is necessarily bad, but when a national policy can be construed as linguicide, it loses some of its luster.
Over here in the United States, there isn’t a national policy, although as the article points out, it’s a hot topic. When I started writing this post, I thought there could be some clever way to include early childhood education taught in English to perhaps make immigration reform somehow more appealing to conservatives. Given what I’ve read of the language policy in the US, it doesn’t seem likely.
With the Bilingual Education Act, we had a policy that was more inclusive than what I suggested. It helped states fund programs for students with limited English ability.
As the Wikipedia article points out, this changed somewhat with the passage of No Child Left Behind.
So with immigration reform a possible hot topic this year, what should language policy look like? This paper goes over the history of US language policy, and provides a list of principles to build future policy around.