Rebranding bilingualism: The shifting discourses of language education policy in California's 2016 election

Noah Katznelson, Katherine Bernstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Using the methods of critical discourse analysis, we examine California Proposition 227, English Language in Public Schools (1998), and its repeal measure, Proposition 58, the California Education for a Global Economy Initiative (2016). Through comparative analyses of framing, keywords, spatial and temporal markers, actors, and legislative titles, we illustrate a discursive shift. While Proposition 227 presented bilingual education as a threat to children's—and, by proxy, the nation's—well-being (a language as problem orientation), Proposition 58 represents multilingual education as key to students’ future economic success and to the state and nation's continued global economic advantage (a language as resource orientation). We argue that Proposition 58's approach to “marketing” multilingual education may have contributed to its passing in November 2016, a result that we celebrate. At the same time, we raise questions about whether policies framed within one discursive regime (e.g., neoliberalism and global human capital) can eventually serve the aims of another (e.g., equity, plurality, and social justice), or whether discourse is destiny in policy making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-26
Number of pages16
JournalLinguistics and Education
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • Bilingual education
  • California Proposition 58
  • Dual language education
  • Language education policy
  • Language planning orientations
  • Neoliberalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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