Adam Schwartz: Five Question with the Scholar

by | March 5, 2019 |

Adam Schwartz is Associate Professor of Language, Culture and Society at Oregon State University. He is one of three speakers on the symposium panel “Language Matters” at Duke University on Friday, March 8, 2019.

“Language Matters” is in honor of me – yes, me!

Hae-Young Kim, Chair of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, organized the symposium. I will have the link to the livestream of the symposium on my blog on Friday.

Adam Schwartz: How did you become interested in Spanish language education?

Spanish is a language I’ve been familiar with for as long as I can recall. I grew up in a monolingual English-speaking household in Los Angeles. However Spanish was the language of the city outside. Spanish is the language of LA’s history, its memory, and its citizenry. And along with many other languages, it is also the language of migrants and refugees who find a home in that city.

My initial education with Spanish engaged me with Los Angeles in a new way. From a very early age I remember that these new experiences were always marked by status. Whiteness, White public spaces and monolingual English dominated. Other languages – particularly Spanish – were racialized and marked as disorderly, or undesirable. My Spanish language classes never addressed this social arrangement.

One of the reasons I wanted to learn – and later, teach – Spanish was to understand how language connects to the making of identities and inequities. My relationship with Spanish language education is always in relationship to where I’m from. I’ve had the great privilege of living and speaking Spanish outside of the U.S. However I don’t teach Spanish as a “foreign” language. Such a distinction feels dishonest to me.

Adam Schwartz: Do you have a philosophy of teaching?

My best teaching is guided by my ability to be a better student. And a student of my students. I learn so much from and with them. Much more than I’ll ever have to share, discuss or lecture on. Every day I teach, I come to a classroom full of hearts and minds that have so much to give and receive from each other. It’s a powerful environment. And I never want to take it for granted. I have to remember that it is a privilege to be able to show up for that kind of power.

Adam Schwartz: What is your central research question?

Spanish language education in the U.S., and particularly curricula designed for “native” speakers of English, persistently avoids explicit discussions and treatments of race and racial identity. I’m always seeking to understand two things. First, how de-racialization constructs Spanish language education as an institutional space that effectively protects a dominant culture of Whiteness. And, second, how I can work with both teachers and students to develop curriculum that is actively anti-racist and responsive to a racially dynamic Spanish-speaking world.

Adam Schwartz: What is your current research project?

Currently I’m in the proposal stage of a book project that attempts to address this research question. The working title is Spanish So White. I am writing it with secondary and post-secondary students and educators of Spanish mind. It’s part discourse analysis of classroom talk and texts, part critical linguistic auto-ethnography.

Adam Schwartz: If you hadn’t become an academic, what career would you have chosen?

Oh, it’s an easy tie between cartographer and disk jockey.When I was a kid I wanted to be a cartographer – and I was! I used to pass the time drawing maps of imaginary cities, towns, houses and schools. I wanted to create new worlds where I could see me, my family and friends growing into.

I’ve been making playlists and mixtapes since I could get my hands on a tape deck. I’m a huge music fan and constantly seek to be challenged in my taste and patterns of music consumption. In fact, I’ve always started my classes with an intentional musical selection… just during the first minute or two as the students trickle in. It’s my DJ time and a great way to set energy for our time together. Sometimes it’s reflective of the day’s content or theme. Sometimes it’s just a chance to give space to a voice I know my students are likely hearing for the first time.

My grandfather was a DJ in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, both in Ohio and California. I hardly knew him (he passed when I was very small!), but I’ve been told I look like him. I’m asked all the time if I’ve deejayed or do voiceover work, though I haven’t in any official capacity.

Visit Adam online


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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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