vendredi 8 juillet 2016

The Pursuit of Habitus: A Bourdieusian Analysis of NYC's French Dual Language Programs

Cependant, là encore, nous eûmes à subir un échec cuisant : je n'ai pas pu entrer au lycée français de Varsovie. Les études y coûtaient cher et dépassaient nos moyens. Je fréquentai donc l'école polonaise pendant deux ans et, aujourd'hui encore, je parle et j'écris le polonais couramment. C'est une très belle langue. Mickiewicz demeure un de mes poètes préférés, et j'aime beaucoup la Pologne - comme tous les Français. Cinq fois par semaine, je prenais le tramway et me rendais chez un excellent homme qui s'appelait Lucien Dieule-veut-Caulec et qui m'enseignait ma langue maternelle. Ici, je dois faire un aveu. Je mens assez peu, car le mensonge a pour moi un goût douceâtre d'impuissance : il me laisse trop loin du but. Mais lorsqu'on me demande où, à Varsovie, j'ai fait mes études, je réponds toujours : au lycée français. C'est une question de principe. Ma mère avait fait de son mieux et je ne vois pas pourquoi je la priverais du fruit de son labeur. (Romain Gary, La Promesse de l’Aube)

Ask anyone to name an excellent institution of French education in New York and you will undoubtedly hear, “the Lycée Français”. The Lycée Français de New-York (“LFNY”) embodies a cultural ideal in the minds of many for their children's bilingual education. However, because of the selective admissions process, high tuition, and limited spaces, few succeed in enrolling their children there. An alternative model of bilingual education, the French Dual Language Programs (“DLPs”) offered in many New York City public schools, is slowly changing the landscape of French instruction. The DLPs’ objectives are threefold:
-to help language-minority children learn English and succeed in U.S. schools; 
-to help language-majority children learn a foreign language without sacrificing their own success in school; and 
 -to promote linguistic and ethnic equity among children, encouraging children to bridge the gaps between cultures and languages which divide our society (Buttaro 15).
Unlike private schools such as LFNY, which draw students from across the city, the DLPs are anchored in their communities and representative of the unique demographics thereof (Cortina, Makar, and Mont-Cors 10). Although some see the French DLPs as a covert hegemonic operation orchestrated by the French government to promote the French language while sparing French middle-class families private school tuition, I will argue that, by virtue of their community-based structure and the spectrum of linguistic variation this allows, the DLPs are actually catalysts for social change, capable of engaging agents of varying interests as they go about social reproduction and enculturation. Examining the agents served by the DLPs (French families residing in New York, non-French Francophone families, and Anglophone families eager to exploit the cultural capital of French language and culture as part of a boundary work strategy), I will demonstrate how their respective interests converge to make the programs sui generis “open systems,” new social institutions for navigating language, culture, national identity, and class. I conclude that while the DLPs do indeed serve as vehicles for boundary work and for the transfer of symbolic capital, they nevertheless represent an unprecedented opportunity to revolutionize the habitus of the French language in the U.S. and build confident Francophone identities by divorcing the French language from its national roots and colonial past and complicating the hegemonic cultural and linguistic models that have bound it to the elite habitus for so long.

Habitus, or the Politics of Aesthetics

Pierre Bourdieu coined the concepts of symbolic capital and symbolic violence by observing the relationship between class and status in France in the 1960s. Based on his observations in a country where higher education was still reserved for a select few, Bourdieu concluded in his Outline of a Theory of Practice that academic qualifications were a form of symbolic capital in that they conferred a collectively recognized and respected status to their holders measurable in economic terms. In a process known as symbolic violence, this status served as a banner of legitimacy that allowed holders of such academic qualifications to dictate the cultural terms of a society, thereby perpetuating their own class superiority and keeping the underclass in its place (257). Moreover, Bourdieu wrote that symbolic capital was the most valuable kind of capital in that it conveniently encompassed economic, cultural, and social capital in symbolic form and could readily be converted back into any one of latter as needed, effectively guaranteeing the social position of its holder through economic crises and across generations (245, 252). Because symbolic capital carefully concealed its relationship to these other kinds of capital, its accumulation was considered legitimate by society at large, naturalizing the authority of its holders (254). In this sense, symbolic capital was very much a form of violence in that it served to restrict access to certain positions in society on the basis of an individual’s perceived legitimacy (256).

According to Bourdieu, symbolic capital is delimited along the lines of one’s habitus, or the internalized set of external aesthetic choices one can comfortably assume as a result of their education and life experience (Distinction 49). “Habitus is that presence of the past in the now that makes the presence of the future possible now,” he wrote (Méditations pascaliennes 251). Speaking a given dialect of a language with a given accent is indicative of a given habitus and carries with it a certain worth in symbolic capital. Speaking a non-standard variety of French, for example, may suggest a colonial relationship of domination or the experience of immigration.

Habitus, however, is not static, and the worth in capital of the elements therein can change with time, contemporary art being one such example. Governments work to ensure the cultural capital of the endorsed dialects and accents of their official language(s) by engaging in language regulation, promotion, and diffusion. These practices can be understood through Nilsson’s framework of “legitimacy work,”or “changing, reinforcing, or disrupting the criteria by which people evaluate practice” (373). Legitimacy work can be either symbolic, when imposed officially by the institution, or experiential, when experienced subjectively by the agent (373). Governments engage in symbolic legitimacy work through their institutions, such as the Agence pour l’enseignement français à l’étranger (“AEFE”), but ultimately, agents’ evaluations of these institutions will determine their legitimacy. Institutions whose structures allow for feedback and redefinition by their agents are better equipped to maintain legitimacy (377). I hypothesize that French DLPs in New York are innovative structures conducive to experiential legitimacy.

The AEFE and National Subjectivities

Prior to 2007, French-language education in New York was only offered by a handful of private establishments, ranging from LFNY to the École Internationale de New York, the Lyceum Kennedy, the United Nations International School, and the French-American School of New York. These schools are accredited by the AEFE, under the authority of the Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, and belong to the largest school network in the world (Miguel Addisu 174). As a condition of their accreditation, the schools are required to follow a core curriculum set out by the AEFE and the Ministère de l’Éducation nationale and to deliver French national examinations (176). They are required to recruit teachers trained in the French curriculum and having passed the Ministère de l’Éducation nationale’s competitive recruitment exam for teachers, the concours. The concours is in French and successful candidates must have an excellent command of French and in most cases experience in the French educational system to pass. As with any national examination, the concours has a strong French cultural bias with the potential to exclude candidates who were not raised in France or educated in the French system. And while the concours is widely recognized as an excellent way to ensure teacher quality in schools within France, it may not be the most culturally-sensitive way to recruit teachers having local cultural knowledge in those Francophone communities abroad served by the schools of the AEFE.

The concours can be seen as a test of one’s cultural capital and as a mechanism by which the French state reserves the role of diffusion thereof, including the standard prestige variety of French, to certain model individuals, as defined by Ammon:
An officially valid source of the content of the prescriptions are the models, i.e. the model speakers or writers or rather the texts they produce. These models are roughly speaking, the educated elite or rather their speech behavior on certain occasions (88).
The linguistic policy of AEFE institutions, then, is one of “full endonormativity” (Ammon 90), in which all models are sourced from within the country of origin of the standard prestige variety . Upon passing the concours, teachers may then be recruited directly by the AEFE establishments in New York. These establishments only consider local candidates who have not passed the concours for teaching positions in English, EFL, or other world languages, and on rare occasion social studies (histoire-géographie). This recruitment policy ensures that the AEFE schools offer a French hegemonic model of instruction that guarantees transmission of hegemonic cultural capital and the standard prestige variety of French.

In determining who is a “native speaker,” then, the AEFE schools use the criteria Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipsen would classify as “external identification” (what others consider our native language to be) and “origin” (the language we learned first) (453). In fact, the concept of “native speaker” or “mother tongue” is polysemous. “A person can have several mother tongues” and “a person’s mother tongue can change during her lifetime” (452). In addition to the “external identification” and “origin” definitions, linguists also recognize the categories of “competence (the language(s) one knows best),” “function (the language(s) one uses most),” and “internal identification (the language(s) one identifies with)” (453).

The AEFE schools ensure that students, regardless of their nationality, will speak the standard unmarked variety of French and the standard unmarked variety of American English, erasing their individual differences of nationality and class and ensuring conformity to the national French and American stereotypes with their respective symbolic capital and symbolic violence . This elite student body then continues to perpetuate the standard prestige varieties of both languages in the elite circles to which they belong, maintaining the capital of these language varieties in the elite habitus. The hidden curriculum of the AEFE establishments is a national one via a linguistic one, based on state-sanctioned subjectivities enforced through teacher recruitment and linguistic policies. Teachers enact the roles of model national subjects bound by nation and language, imparting the message that the nation-state and its standard prestige dialect are still relevant in defining personal identity and opportunity. Although the AEFE schools emphasize their global orientation, it is only ever through the national lens. Their project is not only to produce bilingual students but especially “native speakers.” Raffarin is very direct about the role AEFE schools play in contributing to the prestige of the French state: 
“These establishments are the principal vectors of diffusion of French language and culture. The influence, image, and standing of France on the international stage will play out there in the coming years”  (26).
Such a hegemonic cultural and linguistic policy is sometimes removed from the everyday realities of its students. Mazières found:
In lycées français, the number of national students surpasses the number of French students. This sociolinguistic evolution seems to be ignored by the AEFE, which is still diffusing the official French curriculum from metropolitan France in these establishments (...). A curriculum conceived for French students cannot take into account local bilingual practices. (...) The risk is to render the instructional content so far removed from the educational practices or habitus of the local students that they will be unable to assimilate it correctly. Moreover, the curriculum policy of the AEFE ignores the unique sociolinguistic profiles of the students, which are not the focus of instruction. The policy also ignores their linguistic and cultural habitus. Lycées français practice a strange kind of bilingualism. Everything happens as if all the students were French, only they aren’t. We’re not taking into account their home cultures and their affective dispositions. Teaching and learning French does not come naturally and is even a potential source of malaise, as much among teachers as among those they teach, especially the most vulnerable. (...) Does this curriculum policy suggest a rejection of local plurilinguisms? Does it express a kind of linguistic ideology?  (117-118)
The AEFE and Social Reproduction

The schools of the AEFE import not only their teachers and curriculum but also many of their students, who are frequently the children of expat parents temporarily in New York with multinational companies or on diplomatic assignment. The schools can be seen as belonging to a global network implanted in the core locations of global capital whose goal since decolonization has been to provide a consistent education in a prestigious language and educational system to the children of elites the world over (Miguel Addisu 176; Rabeuf 134). Graduates of AEFE schools have “excellent chances to belong to a social, cultural, intellectual and economic elite”  (Marchi-Barbaux 103).

Often such an education is a family affair, with many families educating generation after generation in the AEFE network (Marchi-Barbaux 102). Bourdieu explains that such legacy matriculation is an investment in the continued economic success of a family, by maintaining the symbolic capital associated with its name (Outline of a Theory of Practice 245). He writes that it is “by choosing (...) the best school for his son, that the possessor of economic or cultural capital perpetuates the relationship of domination” (Outline of a Theory of Practice 253). In her study of the Lycée Franco-Ethiopien d'Addis-Abeba, Miguel Addisu found:
While the reputation for excellence of these schools is no doubt founded, the selectivity of the schools privileges families from elite circles. Is the objective to be a ‘school for all’ or a ‘school for elites?’ The fact that the tuition keeps going up hardly leaves a doubt  (175).
Linguistic Relativism

France is a country where a national standard dialect and accent confer great prestige. This accent is unmarked, meaning that it is considered neutral and accentless (Esling 170). By contrast, speaking with a Breton accent is considered uncultured (Giles and Niedzielski 86) and Québec French is still received with a certain “disdain” (Szlezák 13). Whatever these persisting folklinguistic beliefs, in accordance with the theory of linguistic relativism, there exists no superior language or dialect, only languages and dialects considered more or less prestigious (Szlezák 9). In reality, the unmarked dialect and accent are only unmarked because they are endorsed by the ruling group (Esling 170) who ensures their diffusion on an institutional level through media and education (Giles and Niedzielski 88). Ammon explains:
The existence of national varieties can be explained within a normthetical frame in the following way: the respective country, or more specifically its sovereign, is the highest ruling authority of the prescriptive relationship on which standard languages are based. It authorizes subordinate authorities (e.g. teachers) – usually via intermediate authorities (e.g. the school administration) – to issue prescriptions regulating language use (for certain subjects (students) on certain occasions (class)). These issuing authorities make the use of standard forms obligatory and forbid the use of nonstandard forms. Their prescriptions are valid on the basis of such an authorization. The issuing authorities are authorized to use the linguistic codex as a source for the context of their prescriptions, namely the linguistic forms, the use of which they tend to make obligatory (88).
Linguistic Self-Hatred

Many children who do not speak the standard prestige variety of their language suffer “linguistic self-hatred,” according to Giles and Niedzielski (87). Because they speak in a marked way, they are bullied and develop an inferiority complex (87). Even “educational institutions denigrate the way certain ethnic minorities and working-class children talk. Such institutions, teachers, and even parents attempt to obliterate this expression of themselves to accommodate a ‘better’ way of talking” (87). This denigration can begin as early as three or four years old and is later formalized by the school system:
While (non-standard sounding) children of six would laugh and disparage the accents of prestige speakers, by nine years of age they had been socialized into accepting unhesitatingly just such prestige forms to emulate. Findings from Italy also echo the inclination for children to like non-standard speech until they spend time in the school system (89).
However, an individual’s understanding of their “mother tongue” and dialect and accent thereof can evolve once they develop a sense of agency in this regard. In his study of Francophones living a minority context in Canada, Deveau found that while one’s ethnolinguistic identity was indeed a product of initial socialization, life experiences had the potential to transform it. Once an individual became aware of the impact of their life experiences on their ethnolinguistic identity, they could choose their life experiences according to their preferred ethnolinguistic identity and cultivate it accordingly (163). Interaction at home and school, with family and friends, had the greatest influence on this identity (163).
Linguistic Anomie
Szlezák, however, worries that the absence of a standard prestige dialect, such as is the case in Canada, could lead to an anomic linguistic situation and result in language abandon:
It is important to highlight that the co-existence of varieties of Canadian French is very complex, in Canada as in the U.S., and this has led to a linguistic situation characterized by inferiority and stigma and the absence of a widely-recognized prestige variety, making it difficult to define a Canadian norm, and that could result in the diaspora in the abandonment of the French language  (23).
Such a concern is unfounded according to Nilsson’s theory of legitimacy work, which maintains that, “enclosure may actually destabilize positive institutions in many cases,” because with experiential goals, “the more they spread, the more they are strengthened. And when confined to particular groups – whether social classes, work roles, or members of a given organization or field – they are diminished,” while relaxing group boundaries can actually reinforce institutions (384). Making French relevant to everyday life and liberating it from the elite habitus may allow the language to gain in function and status while being discontinued as an elite class marker. The mingling of different classes, cultures and language varieties in the DLPs has the potential to transform the language’s worth in symbolic capital. As Lareau explains:
He (Bourdieu) would never suggest, for example, that more parents could improve their children’s school success by adopting particular practices. Instead, he would point out that the number of elite slots in society is limited. Thus, any effort to spread an elite practice to all members of the society would result in the practice being devalued and replaced by a different sorting mechanism (277).
Linguistic Vitality

Language vitality depends on the opportunities available to use a language in everyday life, “on its attraction as a flexible tool of communication” (Haarmann 177). Opportunities to use a language increase its status, which can then increase exponentially (Mackey 17). In Cortina, Maka, and Mont-Cors’ study of seven DLPs, including one French, on NYC’s Upper West Side, one teacher commented of the students’ relationship to their language:
It is their language (Spanish), they speak it, but they become proud of it and that’s very important...they acknowledge that their language is more than ‘go to bed,’ ‘(brush) your teeth’... if you talk to the students, they will tell you that they are really happy and proud to be in a school called a dual language middle school, because they feel we are giving them something that they were losing (11).
In her study of the Lycée Franco-Ethiopien d'Addis-Abeba, Miguel Addisu found that the greatest source of students’ language learning difficulties was the disconnect between the language used in class and that used in other aspects of life, with tension also created by the distance between the French culture of the school and the students’ home cultures and the absence of cooperation with parents to change this situation (656, 659, 689). Mazières similarly found that there was no feedback mechanism for communication between the Lycée Français de Bogotá and the students and families it served (122). By contrast, in her study on DLPs, Hunt found that “teachers in all three schools demonstrated commitment and profound understanding of the benefits of bilingualism in students’ lives” (249). In Cortina, Makar, and Mont-Cors’ study, all the DLPs were found to be firmly anchored in their communities through a network of “institutionalized neighborhood groups such as the multilingual committees or the community education councils” (11). DLPs offer an advantage over the AEFE model by making French relevant to everyday community life.

The DLP as Community Project

In contrast to the AEFE model, the DLPs can be seen as “locally grown” establishments, staffed by resident teachers, using a local curriculum and populated by resident students. DLPs encourage long-term community cohesion since most children enroll in kindergarten and there are very few open spaces thereafter, and Anglophone students must enroll at this age because the French level thereafter becomes too advanced. A study of the degree of academic achievement and acculturation of middle school students in grades 6-8 who participated in a Spanish DLP while in grades K-5, compared with a control group who participated in a monolingual program, found “a positive relationship between participation in the DLP and subsequent strong, measurable biculturalism up to three years after students exited the program” (Baralis 167). The groups of Spanish-speaking and English-speaking students, by virtue of the DLP structure which guaranteed them the same cohort of classmates every year, became closer to each other than monolingual students who habitually spent only one year together in the same classroom, a situation conducive to bilingualism and biculturalism.

Teacher Diversity and Linguistic Tolerance in the DLP

The DLPs, in contrast to AEFE schools, provide better opportunities for agents to challenge standard cultural and linguistic forms, since teachers in the DLPs are not recruited by the concours, with its French national and cultural bias. Teachers in the DLPs are required to be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and their long-term engagement can reinforce the French language as an authentic form. The DLPs recruit their teachers according to the New York State requirements and discrimination based on country of origin or on being a “native speaker” is illegal, although native-like fluency is required. “At present, most teaching candidates are from the United States” (Jaumont and Ross 16). Thus the DLPs employ “full-exonormative” (Ammon 90) models, in that all come from outside of France. Teachers using non-standard dialects and making transgressive linguistic and cultural choices expand their symbolic role as models and delegitimize their hegemonic counterparts. Furthermore, “non-native” speakers can bring a unique post-national perspective to their acquired language (Kramsch 260) which can influence the DLP curriculum and instructional materials. A third grade teacher at P.S. 84 explains the latitude the DLP teachers have in their classrooms:
The way the day typically goes, well, every other day we teach in French or English, so we alternate days (...). We teach pretty much all subject areas in both languages (...). It is very challenging, I think we need to think, we don’t necessary have resources as readily available so we do a lot of research to find materials, we do a lot of translations and we adapt the materials we have really to the needs of our students (France in the US, “A French Revolution”).
DLP students will grow accustomed to hearing different accents and dialects, providing an opportunity to challenge national stereotypes and paving the way for greater linguistic vitality and less stigma of non-standard varieties as the ownership of French is transferred from the French nation to the Francophonie at large.

Students also learn French from each other as they are exposed to as many varieties of French as are present in their communities. “Francophone parents recorded themselves reading poems, short stories, and spelling tests to help Anglophone parents and students with French homework” (Mokha 2). Where they exist, self-contained classrooms in the DLPs alternate the language of instruction every other day, unlike AEFE establishments which exclusively use bilingual teaching pairs (binôme), in which students must speak exclusively in English with the American teacher and exclusively in French with the French teacher. As a young student explains:
Le binôme c’est quand on a deux maîtresses, une français une anglais [sic] et on fait quelque chose avec elles quand on parle à la maîtresse de français on lui parle en français quand on parle à la maîtresse d’anglais on lui parle en anglais on peut faire des histoires ou d’autre choses, en alternant la langue française et la langue anglaise
 (Lycée Français de New York, “The Binôme Classroom”)
As students grow accustomed, in the case of the self-contained DLPs, of hearing Francophone teachers speak English with a non-standard accent and Anglophone teachers speak French with a non-standard accent, or, in the case of the side-by-side DLPs, of hearing non-standard accents and dialects of French spoken by teachers from the Francophonie who do not fit the model French national subject, agents can denaturalize the normative forms of the hidden curriculum and move the DLPs towards change.

The DLP and National Subjectivities

In Nilsson’s theory of legitimacy work, meaning is “linked” or “encoded” into “visible forms of behavior, relationships and language” and these links are enforced through displays such as “symbolic management” and “mythologizing”, with a view towards “cultural fitness” (374). The DLPs are not exempt from national efforts in symbolic legitimacy, even though they employ exonormative models. Linguistic forms such as dictionaries and textbooks are usually based on what Ammon calls “endonormative codex” (90), that is, on the standard prestige dialect of French and on metropolitan French culture, with France being the locus of French instruction. This is encouraged by LabelFrancÉducation, the French government’s quality certification program for schools outside the AEFE network which provide instruction in French and integrate French cultural literacy into their curriculum (French Republic). The DLPs certified by LabelFrancÉducation contribute to the linguistic and the cultural prestige of France among the children of French residents as well as among groups other than those traditionally served by the AEFE schools. As one French parent whose daughters are enrolled at P.S. 58, explained, “It’s not just learning the language. It’s a whole experience because my kid will want to go to France and have an attachment with the country, the culture and the food through language” (Mokha 3). 

Experiential Legitimacy in the DLP

But symbolic legitimacy is complicated by experiential legitimacy, that is, by the lived experience of the agents who comprise the institution. So while nationalism is certainly on the agenda in the DLPs, the situation is more malleable than in AEFE schools thanks to the DLPs’ community structure and exonormative teacher models. Nilsson writes that experiential practices have the potential to undermine original intent and transform the institutional structure (376). “In terms of legitimating (or delegitimating) dynamics,” he explains, “it is actors’ evaluations of explicit behavioral and linguistic forms that structure the institutional spaces in question. And therefore, it is those forms that are being reproduced or challenged” (374). Dissonance between institutional form and subjective lived experience brings about reflexivity among agents, who are then well placed to evaluate the legitimacy of the institutional practice and take necessary action (380). For this reason, change can occur even within a hegemonic structure (377), such as a curriculum imbued with national stereotypes and standard dialects, provided there are expressive outlets and feedback mechanisms in place for agents.

Boundary Work and Class Politics in the DLP

Indeed, the DLPs have already undergone an important transformation, originally conceived in the 1970s as a necessary step for the integration of Spanish-speaking ELLs (Reyes) and not as vehicle for middle-class boundary work. Today many Anglophone parents are interested in the DLPs because they believe that the programs will give their children greater access to resources, such as smaller student-teacher ratios and team teaching, much like popular inclusion programs. Parents of DLP students are perceived as being of a higher social status and students as having greater social capital and benefitting from greater parental involvement.

Even though the DLPs are public school programs and as such do not traditionally belong to the elite habitus that favors private education, upper-class parents are choosing to enroll their children in DLPs. Census data have shown that the majority of elite foreign-born residents of the city prefer public schools “because they believe such schools are in closer touch with the problems of the real world” and provide “the opportunity to become more deeply involved in the neighborhood” (Semple). The DLPs provide a competitive alternative to the AEFE schools for many French residents who were unable to justify the tuition or secure a spot in the latter:
Gilles Bransbourg and his wife considered the Lycée Français de New-York (...), but were also attracted to the public system’s dual-language programs. The couple settled on a public school in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, that offered a French-English language curriculum with a good reputation – and the opportunity to become more deeply involved in the neighborhood. (....) He was also relieved to avoid paying the Lycée’s annual tuition of $26,100 (Semple).
The DLPs’ capacity to attract children of higher socio-economic status is indicative of a new kind of elite habitus, an aura of worldliness Khan calls “embodied ease” (197). In his study of an elite American high school, Khan found that “elites are generally indifferent or display ease across cultural symbols” (197):
Whereas elites of the past were entitled – building their worlds around the “right” breeding, connections, and culture – new elites develop privilege: a sense of self and a mode of interaction that advantage them. (...) They deemphasize refined tastes and “who you know” and instead highlight how you act in and approach the world. (...) Privilege defines elite belonging and thus helps drive inequality. Culture can be thought of as a kind of “capital” – like money it has value and can be put to work to acquire social advantages (14-16).
Therefore, middle-class parents who choose to enroll their children in the DLPs, even though private school may well be an option for them, are not foregoing the elite habitus, since that now includes “embodied ease,” a sense of being at home in the world that can be cultivated through the varied linguistic and cultural encounters on offer in the DLPs. As Meshulam describes one of his informants:
One self-described “White” mother (she presented herself as such during the interview) recounted that she had heard from friends how good the school is and that she likes its diversity and bilingual program. When I asked what she likes about the bilingual program, she responded, “Knowing two languages in very important to me. As the world keeps changing more and more, I think that it's important to be bilingual in some way, to be able to function.” This response reflects and is representative of what can be regarded as the middle-class (“White”) aspiration to improve one’s child’s position and chances in a competitive global world by enhancing their cultural capital. The desire to be bilingual is not driven by a commitment to transform society nor by an attempt to reduce racial biases. Rather, bilingualism is a means of “upgrading” oneself within the hegemony of becoming a “well-rounded individual” from the hegemonic perspective, with an edge in capitalistic markets (215-216).
Implications of French as Symbolic Capital

Video interviews of DLP students, teachers and parents reveal the allure of the commodity of the French language as symbolic capital. In contrast to the imposed norm hypothesis which maintains that affects elicited by language varieties vary according to one’s awareness of the social status of their speakers (Giles et al. 406), the inherent value hypothesis maintains that certain languages, such as French, “viewed as romantic, cultured, and sonorous,” develop prestige because they are simply more pleasant to the ear, without regard to the social situation of their speakers (Giles and Niedzielski 85, 87). Interviews of DLP agents confirm the persistence of the inherent value hypothesis as concerns the French language:
Le français a cette réputation qui permet de grimper l’échelle sociale langue de la littérature – DLP parent (TV5Monde, “Destination Francophonie #115 Brooklyn Bonus 1”) 
Because I like learning about different cultures and French seems like a popular so it’d be very fun and very cool to learn French – DLP student (News12 The Bronx, “French Navy”) 
Because French looks like a language that will really help me in my life and I don’t know very few people that know French – DLP student (News12 The Bronx, “French Navy”)
ils (ses parents) veulent parler le français parce qu’ils pensent que c’est une langue merveilleuse et moi aussi je pense que c’est une langue merveilleuse – DLP student (France2, “Français Troisième Langue”)
La directrice elle voulait un programme bilingue parce qu’elle avait besoin de remplir son école et elle voulait pas que ce soit une langue de son quartier c’est-à-dire polonais ou espagnol donc elle cherchait des langues qui n’existaient pas dans le quartier et on est arrivés nous avec une liste de trente parents qui étaient intéressés dans un programme bilingue et on lui a dit c’est c’est pour un programme français et elle a dit bien écoute j’avais pas pensé au français mais vous avez les familles moi j’ai une école allons-y – DLP Parent (TV5Monde, “Destination Francophonie #115 Brooklyn Bonus 3”)
It is because of the reputation of French as a language of culture, erudition, diplomacy, and art de vivre that many Anglophone families want to send their children to the DLPs. “French is the language par excellence in fields such as the fine arts, culinary arts, enology, archaeology, museum studies, fashion and luxury goods. Students will need French to reach the highest ranks in those fields,” reads the official brochure of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. Fluency in French can be understood for many middle-class families as part of a boundary work strategy, with schools serving as a structure of opportunity that enables families to move closer to the upper class habitus and distinguish themselves from the working class (Draelants 407). Sometimes this reputation has even proven to be a burden for the DLPs, with one parent remembering, “it was often even harder to persuade other parents that French was useful for more than watching art films or reading a wine list” (Bosman).

Unfortunately, there are many Anglophone parents who are lured by promise of such symbolic capital but who are unable to make the intellectual and time commitment required by the DLPs. Some parents break their commitment and pull their children out at key grades in advance of standardized tests (Cortina, Makar, and Mont-Cors 11; Paciotto and Delany-Barmann 235). This lack of parental commitment to the programs as perennial bilingual projects may hinder the level of the programs’ language instruction. None of the seven DLPs in Cortina, Makar, and Mont-Cors’ study adhered to the 50/50 language distribution set out in their curriculum (12) and similarly Torres-Guzmán et al. found in their study of Chinese and Spanish DLPs in NYC that only two of the 60 programs studied actually provided 50/50 language instruction (259), leading the authors to conclude, “We fear that the sustainability of DLPs, in the long run, is compromised by the labeling of second-language and heritage-language enrichment programs as dual-language” (470). Robert similarly found that Anglophone parents considered the DLP to be a kind of enrichment program (85).

Factors for Disengagement: Habitus and the Commodification of Language

In disadvantaged Francophone neighborhoods in New York, there is sometimes adversity or ambivalence towards the DLPs and working-class communities may have a neo-colonial impression of the programs. The persisting elite habitus of the French language may well be the elephant in the room. “Aesthetic intolerance,” writes Bourdieu, “can be terribly violent. Aversion to different lifestyles is perhaps one of the strongest barriers between the classes” (Distinction 49). The main preoccupation of working-class Francophone families is often socio-economic advancement, not necessarily the preservation of their linguistic heritage, a situation further complicated by the fact that many of the families also speak a third language at home. Robert found that many Spanish-speaking parents chose to enroll their children in monolingual programs rather than in a DLP because they felt that, since their children were already immersed in Spanish at home, school should be used to learn as much English as possible (84).

There is also the possibility that some Francophone communities may not appreciate having their language made into a commodity for middle-class children. Robert found that the Spanish language was treated as a commodity in the DLP (110) and that “the State (...) is trying to take ownership of the Spanish language from the native Spanish speakers and transfer it to the English proficient population, who in many respects are affluent and white” (132). Meshulam found that, as a result of the commodification of the Spanish language that took place in the DLP, second-generation Spanish-speaking students were devalued by DLP teachers, who favored “native” ELLs for their linguistic and cultural purity (101), and that non-Spanish speaking African-American students were also devalued, despite being a majority at the school (270). This lead him to conclude:
The school has reinforced the hegemony’s marginalization of minorities in the way of contributing to “White”, middle-class students’ social currency. (...) The need for “White”, middle-class, English-speaking students (and teachers) to ensure the crucial counter-hegemonic effects of transformativity in the context of two-way bilingualism is what ultimately undercuts multiculturalism, and antiracism, in the school (270).
Factors for Disengagement: Parental Habitus and Affective Outcomes

Draelants found that even being interested in certain academic programs usually requires an elite habitus (416), and that because parental aspirations for their children precede information gathering on educational options, some parents may not even have in mind those outcomes which could best advance their child’s social situation (417). Because the French language still belongs to the elite habitus, working-class Francophone families may understandably exhibit ambivalence toward the DLPs, which may be received as inauthentic and irrelevant to the family’s habitus in accordance with Affect Control Theory:
The basic proposition of affect control theory’s self model is that individuals are motivated to enact identities with sentiments as close to possible to their self-sentiment. Enactments of identities that express the self-sentiment create a sense of self-actualization. Enactments of identities that do not express the self-sentiment create a sense of inauthenticity for the individual. Accordingly, the motivational proposition can be restated as: individuals select their identities in order to minimize inauthenticity (Heise 109).
This habitus mismatch may be further exacerbated by the racial stratification between the school hierarchy and the community. Meshulam found that African-Americans only occupied working-class positions in the school of the DLP he studied (213) and that ‘White’ teachers and parents dominated the school governance (211). This is no doubt off-putting to minority students and their parents and a threat to experiential legitimacy.

Another habitus clash that may help to explain working-class ambivalence towards the DLPs is the class preference for parenting style. With a view to the outcome of “embodied ease” described by Khan, Lareau found that middle- and upper-class parents, regardless of race, chose to raise their children in the authoritative style she calls “concerted cultivation” (2). This strategy calls for strong communication both within the family and between the family and the school as well as a critical approach to hierarchy (Lareau 5). Children raised in this way become confident, autonomous and commanding, knowing how to manipulate any situation, especially academic ones, to their advantage (Lareau 6). This is in contrast to working-class children who are often raised in the uninvolved style Lareau calls the “accomplishment of natural growth,” characterized by a laissez-faire approach, reverence to hierarchy and increasing alienation from school (6, 238). In comparable situations, working-class parents who attempted to secure a better educational experience for their children usually failed compared to their middle-class counterparts (Lareau 243). “The middle-class strategy of cultivation appears to have greater promise of being capitalized into social profits than does the strategy of accomplishment of natural growth found in working-class and poor homes” (Lareau 244).

In his study on French elites, Draelants too found that parental proximity to school culture was part of class culture (405) and concluded that success in school today has more to do with “parentocracy” than “meritocracy” (425).

Echoing Robert’s findings on the disengagement of working-class Spanish-speaking families in Arizona DLPs (85), Makropoulos’ study of a French immersion program in Ottowa found that different parental academic priorities for the children followed class boundaries and corresponded to different student academic outcomes:
Middle-class families were more preoccupied with getting a return on their elementary school placement investments than working-class families who in contrast were more centered on short-term and practical issues related to everyday living (200).
The study found the French immersion program to benefit mainly the middle-class Anglophone students who enrolled to acquire “cultural capital” for later conversion to economic capital, whereas students from Francophone homes tended to disengage:
Students who were doing well academically, and who depended on the program to learn French for economic and communication purposes, were likely to stay engaged. Students with access to French outside of school, who were not seeking long-term economic returns on bilingualism, and whose marks were suffering in the French immersion program, were likely to become disengaged. In practical terms, this meant that students with a Francophone parent eligible for minority French instruction (...) were more likely to disengage from the program than students without a Francophone parents eligible for minority French instruction” (Makropoulos 197).
Draelants considers those middle-class parents invested in the academic life of their children as belonging to a new well-informed, proactive, socially-mobile elite, the initiés, and suggests that this could well be proof of the conversion of economic capital back to cultural capital, since these families can afford to live in those neighborhoods with the best schools (426). “The reproduction of this culture from generation to generation and its periodic conversion into hard economic assets and then back into cultural capital constitute the reproduction of the class system,” writes Bourdieu (Outline of a Theory of Practice 242).

In contrast to the entitled héritiers of yesteryear with their abundance of economic capital, Draelants proposes that, in an era of accessible mass education, the initiés' greatest asset is not economic capital, but rather the wealth of high-quality information their close social networks afford them and which helps them to choose those academic programs which most benefit their offspring (408, 409). Draelants considers teachers as being initiés par excellence (410). Because teachers engage with their DLPs for the long-term and because the DLPs are deeply invested in their communities (Cortina, Makar, and Mont-Cors 11), the DLPs are well-positioned to provide parents with better access to information about their child’s academic situation and may help more working-class parents to adopt initié-like behavior. Attesting to the fact that being an initié does not depend on one’s economic capital, Morales found, in her study of a Spanish DLP, that teachers attributed the achievement gap between the different student groups in the DLP (“socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged, ‘White’ and Latino, ELLs and Anglophones”) solely to parental education level, not socioeconomic status (206-207).

Current Obstacles: Capacity

Currently, the DLPs need to increase capacity, as most of the programs are now saturated. “Since 2007, there have been more than 1,000 families who could not enroll their children in these programs for lack of space” (Bouteillon and Jaumont 1). Cortina, Makar, and Mont-Cors cautioned that such competition for resources can result in feelings of animosity between parents in the community:
Attention must be paid to the particular characteristics of parental initiatives in order to guarantee that all parents are provided the same opportunities for engagement and the programs do not become elitist enclaves mainly spearheaded by the well-educated, wealthier segments of the population for which DLPs are “foreign language education” (12).
Hutchins’ study in Toronto, for example, found that upper-class families preferred public French language programs to monolingual classes, with only 4% of students in the French programs coming from the poorest families, compared to 23% of students in monolingual programs (17). One teacher in the programs complained that the model students were concentrated in the French program, causing the monolingual programs to suffer (17).

Potential Obstacles: Community Relevancy and Interest Convergence

DLPs may be the solution to the city’s educational segregation and to middle-class social ambitions, but care should be taken to ensure that they do not import ethnocentric practices and that they reflect the socio-cultural attributes of their communities. Meshulam concluded his study of the DLP:
The school has been successful in structurally countering the hegemonic mainstream public education (...) in ensuring diversity of class among its student population, the school challenges the traditional class-based asymmetric power relations in education (268).
Morales concluded, in her study of the Californian Spanish-language DLP, that the school’s success among all students regardless of background was due to “interest convergence”:
Different populations’ – in this case, ‘White’ middle-class families and Spanish-speaking/Latino families – interests fortuitously converge in this language program. This is not a negative situation; both parties are benefiting from this arrangement (223-224).
The curriculum should be conceived with community input, and instructional materials and teacher-exchange programs should reflect the diversity of the origins and cultures of the students and the linguistic profile of the community of practice. French parents may prefer to turn a blind eye to issues of linguistic discrimination and “native-speakerism” (Holliday), but they should bear in mind that in doing so they would only be reproducing the same practices of “linguicism”  (Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipsen 455-456) from which they suffered before having the option of a public education in French for their children. While the pre-existing symbolic violence of the French language was certainly useful in garnering the support needed to bring the DLP project to life, it may now be tempting to use the symbolic violence of national origin and prestige dialect to prevent prospective teachers from infiltrating the “native” ingroup subset. Gatekeepers of the DLPs and the NYDOE should be educated in fair and legal teacher recruitment practices in order to encourage a diverse teacher body representative of the various communities of practice and to learn to recognize and avoid “native-speaker” preferences which are unfortunately still commonplace in many job postings for teaching positions.

Potential Obstacles: The Memorandum of Understanding

One such structural change that could undermine the DLPs as models of tolerance and multiculturalism, if not exercised with great caution, is the proposed memorandum of understanding (“MoU”) between the NYDOE and the French government. Under this proposed agreement, which has already been concluded between different French academies and 24 U.S. states, teachers from France having passed the concours would be allowed to teach in the DLPs directly, without having to first obtain state teacher certification (Cultural Services of the French Embassy, “French Dual Language Programs” 10). For this reason, the MoU could potentially cause tension among the ingroup subsets of French-speaking teachers. Meshulam found that there were tensions among DLP teachers according to their perceived level of assimilation to American cultural and national identity, with those Spanish-speaking teachers who had not been raised in the U.S. questioning the cultural and linguistic competence of those who had been or who were second- or third- generation Americans (239). Braine suggests that “native-speaker” teacher recruitment policies exist to ensure ingroup social reproduction, and writes that “this attitude is highly ironic, considering the profession’s strident championing of multiculturalism, diversity and other sociopolitical causes” (xvii).


While some reactionary agents guided by class and/or national interest may try to enclose the DLPs within symbolically legitimate boundaries to maintain the symbolic violence of the French language, the programs are ensconced in an educational system that has a much more complex notion of cultural capital and that is community-responsive. Since the NYDOE requires the DLPs to satisfy a numerus clausus of half Francophone students (who must also be ELLs), the habitus of the DLPs can be understood as one that recognizes “social reality” (Bourdieu, Distinction 280). The traditional cultural and social capital of the elite habitus associated with the denial of social reality has since been renegotiated and now includes exposure to a variety of linguistic and cultural practices. The rigid national subjectivities of closed systems of symbolic legitimacy lose their relevancy in a post-national context that values the local. The DLPs are a still-fragile nascent success story of how middle-class Francophone families, concerned for their children’s enculturation, have come together, by recruiting members of the Francophonie and like-minded Anglophone families, to build a strong program that has benefited the city. The DLPs have invigorated French education in New York and have proven to be a creative solution to the limitations of the AEFE schools, not just for students, but also for teachers, who need not be “native speakers.” With time, these growing communities may lead to the renegotiation of the place of the French language and non-standard varieties thereof within the American habitus.

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