Important work on bilingualism and its effect on the educational development of children by social psychologists at McGill University in Québec had been underway since the 1950's (Lambert 1967). Their findings that bilingualism was not detrimental to the psychological and educational development of Canadian majority-language children, and could in fact be cognitively and culturally enabling, prompted American educators to apply these findings to comparable situations in the United States. Limited bilingual programs to deal with persistent problems of underachievement among American linguistic minority communities were launched, especially after early efforts in South Florida were successful in bridging the `language gap' for the children of Cuban refugees. The passage of the Bilingual Education Act (1967) provided funding and research monies to both implement and study bilingual programs of various sorts in the US.
The Supreme Court decision in Lau v. Nichols (1974) seemed to mandate (or so some people thought) quality bilingual programs for all children who, by virtue of speaking a home language other than English, entered school with limited English proficiency. Bilingualism joined Sociolinguistics and the Sociology of Language as the three pillars upon which rested studies of language policy; the fourth, Language Planning, had also been developing within the disciplines of Sociology (Sociology of Language) and Political Science (Language and Politics), as more and more newly-emerging societies (especially in Africa and Asia) attempted to formulate language policy for the post-colonial age. While on the one hand the Soviet language policy model was extended after World War II to polities in Eastern Europe, China, and even India, on the other hand international bodies such as UNESCO sponsored conferences to assist post-colonial societies to cope with the educational demands of a world being brought closer together by high-technology developments in communications, travel, tourism, and international migration. Even Western Europe, where it was thought that language minorities issues had long since been laid to rest, now found that the demands of both indigenous minorities and new migrant-worker populations (and their more indigenized children) had to be dealt with, often in a context fraught with racist and other prejudices. The break-up of the former Soviet Union and of the former Yugoslavia have driven even more migrants into western Europe and beyond.