Language Policy

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 75–98 | Cite as

The Fall and Rise of Linguists in Education Policy-Making: From “Common Sense” to Common Ground

  • Mike Wallace
  • Alison Wray


This article explores how academic linguists have become marginalised from policy-making aimed at reforming English teaching in English schools,and how they are now beginning to contribute again. A pluralistic model of interaction between central government politicians,linguists and media professionals is applied to two “critical incidents.” First, linguists were commissioned by the government a decade ago to produce materials for teaching English in the National Curriculum. The materials were rejected as reflecting the “progressive” educational ideology that ministers claimed had led to poor standards. Second, in 1998 the successor government introduced a “National Literacy Strategy” into primary schools, developed without linguists' input and reflecting a “traditional” view of language. The materials were flawed, prompting a constructive response by linguists that resulted in unpublicised modifications. Our model shows how linguists best serve theirinterest by staying out of the media spotlight while they engage in seeking common ground with government politicians.

descriptivism English teaching linguists literacy mass media mutual parasitism and symbiosis pluralistic perspective prescriptivism policy-making 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mike Wallace
    • 1
  • Alison Wray
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of BathBathUK
  2. 2.Centre for Language and Communication ResearchCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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