Neoliberalism and the benefits of cultural fluency through language education

Plan Author

  • Charlotte Nicholson, 2018

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Course: Brain and Behavior
  • Course: TESOL Certificate
  • Tutorial: First Language Acquisition
  • Tutorial: Critical Pedagogy and Curriculum

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Maggie Cassidy, School for International Training


If we could all express ourselves perfectly, would turmoil and contention vanish? If we learned to understand others’ expressions, would hatred dissipate? How can education serve as a tool to bettering communications? In this Plan of Concentration, I hope to simply scratch the limitless surface of these questions’ answers. The first component, “Belonging under neoliberal order(s),” explores the relationships between language use and social belonging—how might these relationships manifest inside of a neoliberal social structure? In the next component, “Achieving Cultural Fluency: a critical curriculum,” we more explicitly explore the links between education and neoliberal policy and look for ideas for pedagogical improvement. In the third component, a portfolio of essays and narratives written in French, we delve into subjective takes on certain social dynamics. The fourth component is “A personal reflection on my language-learning experience.” Finally, my independent component consists of three English language lesson plans, each one for a different level of English


Clearly neoliberal ideology has not only catalyzed the intersection of national economies, but it has also ideologically connected governments and institutions across many borders, cultures, and languages. This connection is not, however, a golden thread weaving the peoples of the world in a cozy, sentimental web. On the contrary, neoliberalism often co-opts the multicultural ideal in a way that creates fierce economic competition for the securance of resources, rather than reciprocal amicable cooperation between various peoples.

While there is and will always be much more to explore on the path towards culturally sustainable language education, resistance to neoliberal education policies, such as school choice and standardized testing, gives us a starting point on a societal level. The work that citizens of Chicago have been doing for years to increase social awareness of the harms of neoliberal policy can be looked to as an example of how to push back unjust legislature and improve the lived experiences of students, their families, and the faculty and staff in schools. On the level of the classroom, understanding what our top-down requirements are and how to get around them when necessary helps us create an environment that is safe and agreeable to both faculty and students while we wait and push for broader social change.

Il est incontestable que la liberté de la presse et d’expression sont des piliers supportant la fondation idéologique de la démocratie. Mais la démocratie ne gagne pas d’argent, alors les profiteurs, achetant la plupart des médias et anéantissant les résistances, menacent cette liberté. Par conséquent, il est intolérable de permettre l’existence de cette forte menace déterminée ​à réduire au silence le dissentiment.


I will always remember how much support I got from my incredibly wonderful sponsors. A lot of the issues I look at and comment on first became of interest to me after the events in Charlottesville. My studies moved from scientific, psychoanalytic linguistics to social-justice oriented anthrolinguistics. My portfolio of writings done in French interest me the most on a personal level, because I can see how my French has improved.

A map of “correctness” of English language usage in the US from the perception of English speakers in Michigan.
Directions for tying a figure eight follow through knot.
A harkness table with pull-hour slabs for individual student work.