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It's a defining.
Became very intense but if they were observed very closely it often became clear that the rulers were often arguing about different things. It was just something that was proposed to be taught to students to teachers. The whole thing would just go away. Well it hasn't and so we have decided on exchange to try to clarify the issue and to have some debate on it. And here in our gratification segment our first segment the academics first Dr. Richard Wright who is the professor of social linguistics here at the Howard University School of Communications good to have you here thank you. He was joined by Dr. Ron Kirk who is the chairperson of the department of languages and communication at the University of the District of Columbia. And let me start with you. That is used to refer to language patterns
used by some African American people. Those patterns also refer to are called African-American binocular English and also Black English. I meant thing I should point out though it's very very important that has come to my attention after reading the introduction to the book Ebonics and that is that term was coined by a group of. Black scholars mainly psychologist sociologists and Smiths language pathologist and some linguists. As a way of defining and characterizing the language spoken by black people. They rejected the term nonstandard English and this happened in St. Louis at a conference on cognition and language development in black children. Richard is there any distinction to be made at all between what is called mix what is called Black English which is called Pan African communications or any of the names or labels attached to this speech.
I think the label will be consistent with the particular orientation that the group finds palatable clearly Bionics is a term that I think is very strong in an attempt to establish a clear. Since our BRAC mess around language that is not just rang which but it's a way that black people have come to grips with it. It's their way of communicating is there we have sharing meaning their experiences through a corridor that they consider In tried in military Ebonics sort of captures that sort of group identity about this language. Brad Barrett tends to be a little bit more of the roots and it sure is in the Dalek's prep but the Bronx tries to give a kind of clear distinctiveness to the language and makes it authentically black. That's what the essence of that term is it means a combination of the words Ebony and phonics Yes you have written at some length that it is not only structurally important and should not only be examined in that way but that it has
a relationship to an entire way of life. Well I think that the essence of language is not so much its structure. I think once we get into structure we can describe it or refine that within a language of variation and structure is is pretty general. The essence of a language is how a group takes structure and converts it into a tool of specialists in terms of how they feel how they think how they relate how they experience the world. Every group will put its mark on the way it talks. And a group will express that through its style of life that relates how would how would how would makes us how it has run out seeing as how it prays how it talks how it has run how it just basically Howard tries to make its way in the world. It put its mark on our language. Well it has been written that a language is a barrier left with an arm but that does not help us to. End our confusion about the difference between what a language is what a dialect is what a language pattern
is what slang is and whether a dialect can be a dialect every language or not so let us attempt to clarify that Ebonics is a language. That's a very good question from the point of view that. There are people who do not want to accept the fact that a body x is a language. You brought X as I said early is a variety of English spoken by some African Americans in this country. Every riot is. Our languages. We bought x is a language in the same sense that standard English Standard American English is a language it's a language in the same sense that British English is a language that our strategy in English is a language that Jamaican English as a language. So yes it is a language and it's a language because a language is a Quaalude whereby ideas about the world are communicated. So. So that a person who uses the dialect as a language with an army is in fact saying that regardless of what people speak once it has structure
once it has Mexico and once it is rational. Then. Technically. It is a language. Absolutely it's a language because it's systematic it's rule governed. It's passed on to the children in that community. It is the vehicle of communication. People are not using jibberish. Having a language clear only to those of you who study this phenomenon of academics. Those of us laypeople tend to think of languages as those things which are spoken in the proper grammatical structure that we are taught in the school system and everything else is a derivative of that. That's as a result much of Iraq confusion arises because seeing something that we thought was our only derivative of a language characterized as a language in and of itself. Many of us felt might have been sending a wrong message to people in general and young people.
But I think that attitudes about language of a general across any society it is very common that. People will tend to think that the standard is of our language. Anything else outside of the standard is an unacceptable deviation. We call it jibberish we call it while we call it jargon we call it slang but we will not call it language or language we reserve for that question. Variety that has status and that allows you access into the institutional life. That understanding must be entered because we have to understand that the human brain does not generate confusion. Our language is the product of human brain. It is orderly a language may be different in firm and in character but it still participates in the concept language. In that case you can explain to me that if there is a different world the rioting of England's English spoken. In the black community if there is a variety of English spoken by Cockneys in Britain if there was a variety of English spoken by
people who live in the Appalachians. Then what is bad English. People may be bad English really is a judgement. That that term is used to reflect a judgement about some varieties of English and generally those are the nonstandard varieties that are spoken often by people who are economically disadvantaged. Are politically oppressed. We use the term bad English to characterize everyone is what they are speaking has structure and has precisely as precise hire about. If someone is in the process of learning English and is making mistakes is that technically bad English. What if they are if you're talking about child labor who is acquiring language a shot of somebody who has not spoken language before is learning how to speak the language in a formal setting or an informal setting and simply makes mistakes. OK that meant that that's certainly a case in which we could say that that person
is violating some of the rules or they haven't learned all of the rules but we don't have to even there use the pejorative term that it's bad English a but it's a case in which a person is acquiring the language they haven't fully become fluent in the language. And I raise the question because a lot of people who have objected to the respect and acknowledgement of Ebonics have said why would you want to acknowledge and recognize what is batting. Well you know right. I think many people are sincere in wanting to not see this issue become public and go further because they believe that it's. Part of a strategy to try to promote something that is dysfunctional for people who need a whole nother way of orienting themselves. So we're keeping something that's not productive. Present to them what needs to be understood I think quite fairly is that you have to deal with your circumstances as you have constructed them. As you have lived. You have no choice but to bring forward what you offer. You cannot be other than what you
are you have to bring for it with which you have the challenge of the screw is to understand that language is language. Do not put the weight and burden of condemning the child onto his language to make him feel the weight of being unacceptable because of what he brings. This is a pain no one should bear. To what extent does language or dialect change. And that is a lot of people feel that some of the phrases being used by young people today are not that familiar and I don't mean necessarily slang which we will get into but some of the some of these may be structures or some of the ways in which young people use language today young black people are not familiar to those of us who might be their parents or grandparents to what extent does language change over time. When I add languages are changing the question here is whether they are changing to the isk extent that. That we can we can. It would make them different from make the features different from the say that
the grandparents or the great grandparents and I think the fact that we're saying that we can't understand some of the young people today I thought the only conclusion I can draw is that the reference must be to slavery because if we're talking about those stable features of the grama like the for a logical rules in the syntactic rules and the pragmatic rules or morphological rules and and I could give you an example of SEO for a logical rule which we have the odd vocalization where. Some African American English speakers say Merle and and store their own shame on us there's no they're not changing they've been in the language for a bear a long time but we have like the dictionary there there are so many real and phrases from the hood to the Amen Corner by Geneva Summit right she included that in her book A lot of words and phrases that have that may not be may not be used
five years from now or 10 years from roots for example like who would rise in the hood that they might not be Mexican five years from now or something. Discussion sites which we talked about the fact that people don't say words like Stalin and he never said earlier that there were those of slang that have passed from the lexicon. I'm going to add I think there's an important point from a social perspective in that language will always fluctuate with the shifting moods and characters of The Young and the young really set the tone for language change because they're creative they're alive the liberated they have the sense of freedom. So they explore more and they're there with them reading to play with the language adults monitor a little bit more and you want to find that a lot of this creativity which has seeped into the white world by the way. And energize their own language. Found its origin in black speech. So I mean there's a right to talk about it which is one of the things that annoys some people because the lexicon today that is being developed by young people. As characterized
in the hip hop or rap movement includes a lot of words that people associate with anti-social behavior. Yes. So on the one hand they hear phrases like no diggity or my bad which are today's slang. Yeah I feel that that was what people mean by Ebonics a language that if you want them for a certain age you simply cannot understand. Many products are so much more than that. If we use it to refer to the patterns the stable patterns that we're talking about for example then the habitual be example of that of the comedian in The Nutty Professor. Women be shopping women be shopping. And he said that particular structure has been around for hundreds of years and the evidence in the literature now is showing that it looks like it's even increasing in terms of its use particularly among African-American males and young people. When we say as black people that our children are speaking our language that we
can't understand we're not really telling the truth. We're merely saying that there are some slang words with their language that we don't understand. Right right every end times may be significant they may occur with a high degree of frequency particularly in certain age groups. But as Richard pointed out. The older speakers tend to be more conservative so they're not going to be exhibiting those features that are though those words and phrases that are so characteristic of the hip hop culture and we refer to that as a degrading you'll see all of these structures or these firearms at a particular age but you know like our grandmothers are not going to be using some of the phrases like oh good dude in chick and all of these different words but they are significant because as Richard pointed out they capture a certain dynamism. They capture a certain creativity and they are they they serve a solidarity function I mean if we look at the that the
program in the black church for. Or for the commerce secretary Ron Brown Brown That's right when when he died Jesse Jackson got up and said Give it up for Ron Brown. That made that a very you know kind of experience sample to black people there. Everybody knew that that meant a playoff game. The further we go to our next segment we do have to talk about what it is that the Oakland Board of Education was trying to do. And for those of you who may not know what the original resolution and he subsequently passed resolution by the Oakland board are different in the original resonant resolution it argued. That. This was not really a dialect of English and Arabic a separate language with African roots and that black students who spoke it should get the same educational benefits as children who speak Spanish or Chinese. The school board has now backed off a little bit. From that resolution and is not arguing however that Ebonics can play a useful role in the teaching of standard English and indeed there has been a completely
uncontroversial program which has been running in from California for some time. That helps students to learn Standard English. Run through if any. Does Ebonics or black English play in teaching standard English or can it. Well I think you are asking probably one of the most complex questions related to this whole question and that is what is the role of a nonstandard in the teaching of standard not only for before a black child but for any child or do you need to bring the non standard into active play in an instructional setting in order for a child to move. From that to to a standard. I don't think we have enough data on that to really answer that question. I doubt quite frankly although I know many of my linguistically and probably differ with me on this but I doubt CT quite seriously whether on a long term basis. Active use of the nonstandard and bringing that forward and keeping bringing that. Conscious to a child's attention as a basis for moving him to something else is going to work. I never plans on
myself or what I think or need to be needs to be doing and what I think schools in general need to be doing which has nothing to do with focusing on a non standard. Maybe at some point we can get to that. Let me when he uses the term nonstandard English it contrasts with the fact. That other people say that because the roots of the structures of Black English are to be from African languages that it is not a dialect of English at all is English. Oh absolutely it's a dialect of dinners and I think anyone who claims that it's not is making a linguistic error and your take on whether or not the bonnets can and should play a role in the teaching of standard English. I think the the goal now is as they are proposing in their revised resolution is certainly to teach standard English. Without the value we the black English that the child speaks when it however was designed so you are speaking bad English.
Understand what it is the child is speaking and teach the child how to convert that into standard precisely understand the rules that differ from standard English and that would require making teachers aware of the subset of rules that. Set Black English and standard English apart. But my position is set. Standard English should be the language of instruction. I think that it is conceivable that Ebonics can play a role. Well. I think this rarely is said it would be would not be devalued and if a child for example sans uses a black English. But it is not necessarily the bridge that one has to take to get from speaking Black English because the bridge and I mean the study of a child is speaking Ebonics or black in ways that's the only language they know don't they that they will have to use until they learn Standard English. So it wouldn't be it would be unreasonable to say you can't
use black English at all here if that's the only variety that the child knows. So I believe be due to the sensible thing to do is to tell the child where the two differ so that the child can then learn how to produce the standard English equivalents. This the latter don't know example for example point out that that our use for now since Standard English or its floor door and more where that would be done in a systematic way in a class for our second dialect instruction. When we come back we will talk with the people who have to do that in class and find out what they think. Stay with us we'll be right back. To. The
to. The to. The. To the to the.
Welcome back to this hour I guess more correctly our definition on the run it's the Richard Wright and Dr. von Koch are staying with us in this segment in this segment we're joined by a fifth grade teacher at young element. Good to have you. With. So when you heard presumably the first segment of our our discussion so presumably we are all on the same page about exactly what the balance is. My question is as a teacher would rule do you think it should or should not place in the teaching of standard English. Right Michel Dr. Wright. And which was confirmed later on in the discussion that. Rang of the child should be. Valued as rare as the language of commerce needs to be valued in that kind of the way that I see it as well. When I teach English to my children or
language arts reading and so forth I'm teaching it as the documents you know give it to us to do that curriculum tells us to do that right. When I conversed with them I'm talking to them as a person who's familiar with the language that they speak on a regular basis. This is really new in the sense that I've always been talking this way and now I have a name for it. So I see that as being valuable to that. It's not something I had to learn it is a part of who I am. And so when I talk to them perhaps I'm doing with things that were being discussed here quite naturally. Breaking it down and making the bridges helping to see the transitions to using that language which is going to help them survive. I heard you on earlier radio discussion on the radio and got the impression that you not only favored the teaching the teaching method of using the bonnets of the Brits the standard English but that you are of the opinion that Ebonics is an
African based language in and of itself. In the sense that it has its roots in African languages and language patterns yes. I think that we really have to look at the influence of the African upon the American society and so many times we look at what the European has done towards the African and we really devalue ourselves. And for us not to recognize that there are differences. I think that's an oversight. I think that in America when we look at differences we equate things with what European is superior and anything other is inferior I think with languages they're different. And I realized that my children are different. And if my children cannot speak to their community that would not be good for them when they have to live in that community. So reading extent in your practical experience do you face children who come to school speaking Black English. And if you were not somebody who understood Black English it would be very difficult for you to instruct in the use of standard English. I think a lot of what they would communicate to me would go unnoticed or unheard. The
deeper meanings than they tell me that they'd been finished that I understand if they did that a while ago that it was completed a long time ago. There's a lot I think in valuing the chyle that i could i can meet because I understand their language that someone else may definitely Miss America right. The difference between being able to understand the language and they're poor to instruct the child without causing the child to feel bad about himself or herself what's the difference between that and actually using Ebonics as a bridge to standard English which you don't think in the long run is necessarily good. No I I don't think it is necessarily. OK to use nonstandard as a bridge to a standard in order for standard to be learned in a classroom. OK. I went to school speaking a nonstandard I left speak in a standard they didn't bridge me through a nonstandard to a standard meant we could talk about what the differences were and why it's not happening now. Talk about that for a second because I've had that. And believe me every black person in
America has had this discussion over the course of the past year. But discussing it with friends of mine recently you just explained that me made that transition without the use of a nonstandard may have been good for us but then we began to remember some classmates who had a lot more difficulty. And right under. Their situation. It may not have been helpful. Well I think the real issue was not language. I think the real issue was our identification with the classroom as an environment that extended to us. I think we're finding today is that American culture produces young people who are alienated from learning. The fact that children don't learn the standard I think is evidence that then that learning the language of learning then that connected to the culture of learning it was not just black children they're not the only ones not learning the standard the standard is not being learned generally across this country by young people coming out of school in affective in this language and I think it's evidence that something that's happened nationally in a culture
sense to young people that disconnects them from the language of running. Again one of the problems we have with maybe Charlene and kind of going to help us with is that as we see these things in generational terms remember not being able to use Ebonics in our transition it's somehow the point that Dr. Wright is making is that we're not only dealing with a different time redundant with in many ways a different society in which these children are a lot more alienated than ruin and are therefore having a lot more trouble. I think that. It does take a lot more effort you know learning the foundations of teaching children have not changed for over a hundred years and I would say within the last 10 15 years either new ways of dealing with kids so that they were alive and using various educating children and relating things to them and their experiences so that they were brought to learn and they will be excited about learning and therefore make those bridges because Dr. Ronn called
to tell the truth I never much liked school because I had to do it and I knew that at the end of this road it would afford me to own a livelihood and make a living. And what she's saying is that children today are not enthusiastic about school. Maybe they were somewhat more enthusiastic and after a long time ago. But. It is that. That makes it important in this generation to get children excited about school and to the black English in order to help them to address standard English has become a teaching tool that apparently wasn't available a long time ago. Well. I think it's. We cannot underestimate the importance of having communication skills and tools that will make every child competitive in the global village. I mean the world is getting so small now that. We need language that we
can compete with whether we are here or are in this country or in. Africa or in Europe or China or Japan. So I think it's imperative is we are I think it's coming through here and while that there was a bet going on and talk to people. That we make sure that our our students today learn Standard English. I think we certainly should draw on that wealth of knowledge from language teaching to. Help this process become a successful one that is a teaching of standard English as quickly as possible. I think those of us who refer to the fact that we learn Standard English without any special methods. We may have been we may be exceptions. What about the students who are unsuccessful in this process I mean if I look back at just my high school there were 54 of us who graduated only 5 went to college and most of us learned standard English
in college. What happened to those other students. They may have never learned sans ya know some of them did not. So the point is is that we should abandon things. Unsystematic haphazard primitive methods on the teacher stopping a student every time a student says something that is not standard English and employ the systematic procedures that will enhance our success in teaching standing with the kind of heart about the sense of alienation that Richard referred to earlier that. The students today are coming to school with a much greater sense of alienation than maybe previous generations with discrimination and segregation where the and when people were determined to get an education regardless of the nature of the instruction that was good. The intention was to try to learn the standard English and so innovative methods work. Look nobody cared we just dedicated ourselves and our parents. To doing that. The argument
seems to be our children have a greater sense of alienation and are much less interested in simply learning it by rote the way we were forced. Times have definitely changed with the Sixties I think we experience a lot of change in this country as a people. I think when we had communities that were very in that embraced children that we reared children as a village. I know growing up in North Carolina the neighbors disciplined me they counseled me they gave me advice and that doesn't happen anymore so kids don't have anything to resent in that community. So if the child comes in my classroom speaking Ebonics which is what they speak and I constantly condemn that child that child even further when that child hears me speaking a standard english standard here because it's not standard anyplace else it's only standard here because when I was in Russia last year it was not the standard right. Well they have a standard. They really did for me. And they have to see the connection of why it's important for them to speak this language and I have to communicate to them that it is the language of commerce and it is the language of America which is very Eurocentric so they need to speak it for business. They would need to understand that and so
many times that is removed from them. When our kids live in neighborhoods were look at stores outnumber banks to get me to run. They don't understand the need to speak standard English and it's not that they cannot speak and I think what's coming across in the US is so many people see that I said something inferior or is not inferior. Our kids can learn everything when they're getting a chance to learn it is that they don't see the need to learn Standard English. Maybe you look abroad we can understand the whole notion of alienation. Even better because for those people who saw the movie or the play in My Fair Lady you will remember that what you had was a linguistics professor at the England attempting to teach a woman in Brown and Root in England how to speak English. The famous line from the movie why can't the English learn to speak. Maybe 85 percent of the population of England speaks Cockney and spoken not along regional lines but along class lines if you happen to be born into the aristocracy and get the proper kind of education you speak standard
English English. If. And you happen to be working class poor or unemployed you speak Cockney and that's how they make the distinction. Tell us how you would address the problem of Indian Nation among our children. Well I think that we need to start with the recognition that. American culture has in general devalued intellect. And it plays to the lowest common denominator in terms of for the most part entertainment amusement. The media choices for comedy the choice of language is not the standard across most entertainment media. It is the vernacular. Children are bathed in the vernacular they are nourished in it. It is the primary language of aspect. It is the language they feel comfortable with. They hear it all around them. Everybody is using it. They hear it affirmed in their music they hear it affirmed in in the movies they hear it affirmed everywhere they go it is the standard language.
You know action. So we have to really come to the classroom it's not just the language of the classroom it is the last. Room as a cultural environment in which to engage oneself that is a source of disaffection and the non-reading of a standard in my current opinion. Is the product of a culture that has alienated sure been from the culture of learning as a valued activity in life. We shouldn't see back so much that I have to make this point we should not see blacks. As the essence of this issue this is a national problem facing American culture. Blacks are being hit with the brunt of it but it is not a black problem. And that's why I sort of resist sizing this thing underlining that is the fact that the binocular in general and black English and hip hop. Lingo in particular is the root of the multibillion dollar commercial advertising used in videos and record sales and.
That must have some influence on the young people when they come to class and being turned to speak standard English. See the people taking nonstandard English are making millions of dollars. I'm not using standards and I think that's why it's imperative. Sound methods in place sound philosophical approaches that do not devalue. What the child brings to school because the values there will be growing up recycling is something we tell them this is bad. They are going to reject. Our efforts to teach the standard English we have got to because for them many of them this is good. As you said it isn't a good forum for the rappers isn't it good for even some of some of our songwriters that I was missing sleep that's right so we. We cannot convince them that it's bad in the face of that overwhelming evidence that there are some good things about this and we shouldn't even attempt to do that I think that
that's going to provide the further alienation that we have been talking about. And we don't have to do that. In order to teach standard English that human beings are quite capable of learning many languages many dialects. So if we present this as a way of adding. Something the language of commerce because a rapper may want to go to Japan or or or to move to Europe or to Africa or to the gunman's name in English. So. I think that these methods are even imperative than they were. Say when we were in school. Because this alienation that we talked about and the kind of thing you have travelled widely and have made the observation that you do speak standard English when you have. Your grandson made the observation that these young people have to live in their own communities where as Richard Wright points out it is not merely a method of communication it is a map method of expression of a whole culture. But I doubt I think that you have to.
Relate to the people around you and I have a thing with my family where at one point because I was learning standard English I wanted to correct everyone in my family at a certain point they stopped listening to you and I guess kids have to speak to their peers their families their their their entire generation around them and for them to speak other than what is being spoken they are ostracized. I remember growing up in North Carolina and they told me I was speaking right. Yeah and if you're telling a child that learning the standard is speaking right now children don't want to be white they want to be who they are they love themselves and I think that's a climate that is changing. RAZ during the 60s from what I know people are trying to be mainstream America. I'm not so sure that our students today. Rant to be mainstream America. They like who they are. They really feel good about themselves and I see that as a plus. I see better is good for my child to come in the classroom and for good about who he was as a person. And for me not to so. You're speaking wrong. That's wrong because if I continuously tell him he's wrong he's going to shut down. Now he's learning how to write. I
never correct him and say you don't write this wrote this well you don't write that word that way. But that would if that were the case. I would use half of the rules that I use because I cannot spare them. I have spell check. To help me out. So there are mechanisms that can help these children without devaluing who they are and that's rather mind Sharleen if you understand what these young people are speaking and you are able to teach them English. Have you personally been seeing success in the use of standard English among the young people that you are teaching. Yes I see a lot of success because I do some of the similar things that candidates say. Because I'm looking at the concepts because that's the bottom line to me that if you have comprehension if you want to stand and you have an idea to express. That's what I want to see. We're going to mechanics later. OK. You're going to get that reinforcement as you continue to go forward. So I around much of that I have a lot of expression in what they do they do a lot of writing because I think that's a good means for getting that out. And with so much passive
entertainment they don't get the chance to express their I was receiving and that I think is also part of the issue but we have to talk about rather talk the way we think because we're not reading books and they're not reading the Bible and they're not discussing things with people which also builds your ability to utilize whatever language is the language of commerce as well as you have a right. To take a short break when we come back we'll find out how the cardinal parents feel about this entire issue Stay with us we'll be right back in.
Welcome back to our discussion on Ebonics. It's a defining hour Dr. Richard Wright inductively Braun Koch are still with us and we're joined in this segment by Richardson who has children all of them in the Montgomery County school system. Good to have you here. And. Also joining us a parent like the rest of us what kind of an official parent. The executive director of Parents United Yes. When you think about all this I have for a long time thought that there must be something. That. I don't understand that keeps our black kids from learning the standard English dialect. And. What came a car think take me first. Listening to some people speaking not quite German on the subway I found out that's not quite right. That sounded wrong but it was in German I ask them and they said they were Swiss German.
And this struck me because I'd heard this from a friend of my brother in laws that. Swiss Germans French Germans and Italians Germans I speak a dialect that is not German German French French or Italian Italian. And as soon as they go to school they are taught that. Basic. Rank which And that is because that's the language of writing etc. and I said to myself wait a minute. That's the same situation that we in the United States who are black and speak our dialect are in that. Room to both keep because they were speaking Swiss German. We need to be able to keep her dialect and enjoy it and be able to. Understand the Basic dialect. And so I thought why don't we approach the standard English dialect in that way that we will keep our bonnets as you're calling it. As our own language
just like Hispanics do. You know nobody tells in a Spanish child forget Spanish is mad if I tell them write in French tell your trilingual. As well as knowing English. Why don't you say we're going to teach you the standard English dialect. And you can keep. Our dialect. And it will be valued it would be just like Spanish. Which is what to move a box was. We're going to. Keep our own language and learn the standard dialect. OK Trevino you're with four children seven 10 13 and 16 years old and they're running around the house and you're hearing them use words with which you might be unfamiliar and sentence structures that you know are not standard English. How do you do that. Well. They speak. Things that are not standard English in joking when talking with friends. I stop and I ask them you know to translate from. But as far as remember the school when they have to go to the moving or they have to interact. Outside of their
peers they speak standard English. Do they learn standard in school from me. It's expected of them. It's expected of them. I grew up in an environment in which our parents and I am from the Caribbean in which our parents but the English that we would invariably tried not to speak of around us when we were around they tend to speak standard. Records in English because they wanted us to get out of the violin when we heard it spoken. Is that what you practice at home with your child and I can identify with that because my grandfather was Jamaican. And he had a very heavy accent but my father. He runs my father to a very proper recording standard English and when I came along the next generation that was expected of me and that's what I passed down to my children to think of when you first heard this issue.
The bonnets and the bills passed through your motions went through my mind at first I was outraged. From. The run upon first hearing. I thought. That the language was inferior but they were saying as we were as far as not being able to learn the standard form of allow me to interrupt you at that point because that was the source of my break for a great number of people they said. Once again dumbing down the society we're saying that these children are capable of learning standard English so whatever the official language instruct them in that language and in the resolution of the Oakland School and for the students to be instructed and for teachers to instruct and to be compensated in the same manner as teachers.
Are instructing. I want to throw this out however. When I learned German and Latin I learned it through English. If it were the conditional tense that I was dealing with for example in Latin or German I could not have identified it. If I did not know it myself because I had to read it in English and then translate to what it should be in German because my fear is that because our children and their parents often speak our dialect at home they come not having heard the structures that they are supposed to be learning and so they don't connect it. And so if you don't connect it it's hard to learn it if you didn't think it that way it's hard to learn it. So I keep thinking once again if they take what we say be sick if that's all you know then it doesn't help to see in the book I might be sick of it. If nobody ever says that to you sir to me it was a perfectly reasonable way to look at the ways of speaking and use it
to teach standard dialect. I think what we're believing in is talking about here is this is bringing you making making ones making children aware of the rules of language. Bring it to a conscious awareness that. Clearly is. A strategy that is going to be far more successful than just not mentioning or saying that this is wrong without using that it's an opportunity to heighten one's awareness of the rules of language. I think what back to the issue with the issue of perception that this might have that what we were doing was going to Oakland was that there was a of a major era tactical error in terms of how they tried to go about. Instituting their program and that was to characterize Black English as if it were a foreign language. They they
made that era and they have they have corrected it with with their second resolution and I think that what we should do now is to move on. To support Oakland and help them to refine their their strategy and their methodology so that we can take advantage of decades outstandingly good stick research and credit with this very important goal of teaching standard English accent as I would I would reach Trudy and so many other parents the notion that we would be doing was saying OK now that we have decided that you don't speak standard English your language is a respectable one so that's what we're going to teach you obviously that's not what they are going to teach the children. But a lot of people feel that recognizing Ebonics as a language pattern as a dialogue as a dialect with structure and firm is somehow. Putting it on a
pedestal which shouldn't be. Well my my sense of this is that if you recognize the black English then you should recognize white English spoken in rural Mississippi you should recognize Appalachian English Ozark English are we going to recognize every English give it a name and validated in the classroom. We are where we are always bringing forward black people and identifying something that they have that somehow becomes a challenge for them in the education of women. And we give it names and we develop programs around it and we give it attention and so forth. The problem I have been in all of this is the child's not learning standard English has nothing to do with the language he takes to school children who come from this from other countries speaking no English. In a period of two years have ruined the language of the classroom and we don't say that their language prevented them from learning standard English. They make this transition into the
language of the classroom. You are saying it is the alienation. I'm saying I'm saying that we need to deal with the whole question of the non-language factors motivational attitudinal psychological cultural factors that have a lot to do with preparing children to be them through grated into any receptivity language meaning we directly back to deal with that but we also need to deal with the language. I mean that is an issue that is. That is that that we could identify that even even if we motivated kids and if we if we help them to overcome the alienation we would still have the issue of that child needing to learn Standard English. I don't get it and you talked about the kid coming here and being here for a couple years maybe from another country from from some part of Asia. The students are instructed in English they they sit down in a classroom in English as a second language. So that is one of the reasons why they are successful they have just not dropped in the school
and hope to kind of grow for yourself and learn English. Well I don't have another advantage easy. If you come here with a totally different language you know that you have to learn this totally different language. And there's an advantage nobody can understand how long nobody can understand I'm here at the grocery store right. So he's got to learn something to communicate with what you were saying about the Ozarks. If you go to a TV station in the Ozarks the higher up you go the more of the standard non Ozark dialect they speak. So yes they do need to learn the standard English dialect if you go to the back hills. They don't continue that dialect when they go into the professional world. And it is not easy for them to do in the same way that it's not easy for us to do partial communication can be a bigger impediment than no communication through the what are you getting from all of this. Just point that she and. My son have a friend who is Asian. And he came here. With.
English. To me at all rights he was taught and he says he was taught some speaking but as far as room and comprehending and understanding. He didn't have that hard work aside. He couldn't interpret the homework assignments to do the homework so he connected with my son my son help them two years later and he was doing very well in school. I'm in growth I believe the stronger the right that when the brain is the education. I hear are saying we have a population I group of kids but we are not reaching these kids from birth is only a part of it. Goes back to the community. It goes back to the parents of battles back to the neighborhood the values the place no value whatsoever on school. When Roe Conn there you know weren't too.
Basically they just sit and they take up space. I'm in a county that is supposed to be you know. One of the richest in the country one of the richest problems. I'm starting to sue as a volunteer and advocate within the school system I see a lot of adults I run into zone I volunteer and I came very depressed because in my daughter's class there were at least six to seven looms. Some African-Americans on the spend could not rude at the SEC. At the second grade level. Well one thing I can say about this discussion is that we have finally reached the point where the academics were before this discussion even began and that is we seem to agree that speaking of Standard English is a desirable goal. What the academics really are and still doing about the body is useful as a bridge to get to that on the one hand or on the other hand whether we have to look at the conditions of society to them in
such a room that kids are motivated to come to school at least. But there's a bit in that discussion and it is an ongoing discussion and there will be at least two. And one at Harvard University Dr. Wright tell us a little bit more about that. It's on the Thursday of the January 23rd. There's I'm very proud to say that the school of communications here at how will be sponsoring a forum on January the 23rd will be next Thursday from 1:00 to 3:00 and found its library here at here at Howard. They'll be five presenters and our theme is the bond issue perspectives and challenges and we want to provide some lighting leadership in some direction on what these issues are all about. Not the wrong color. And we all have a forum as well at the University of the District of Columbia that will be on Tuesday January 21st at 5:30 p.m. and building 48 on the campus 40 to 50 Connecticut Avenue. In room forty eight hundred the faculty lounge. We're doing the same thing extending the debate on Ebonics
Evening Exchange
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WHUT (Washington, District of Columbia)
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Episode Description
The history of Ebonics and the debate of whether it is a dialect, slang, or language. One of the main reasons for coining the term Ebonics by academics was to stop the use of the phrase non-standard English in categorizing certain speakers linguistically. The discussion broadens to consider the philosophy of language and racializing language. Elementary school teachers then discuss whether or not Ebonics plays any role in teaching English to their students. An interesting analogy that Dr. Delabian Thurston makes is that Swiss German speakers in Switzerland are taught to learn standard German in school, and she argues that African-Americans learning standard English should be treated similarly.
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Guest: Wright, Richard
Guest: Cooke, Fay Vaughn
Guest: Ward, Kenneth
Guest: Howard, Charlene
Guest: Richardson, Trudy
Guest: Thurston, Delabian Rice
Host: Nnamdi, Kojo
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WHUT-TV (Howard University Television)
Identifier: (unknown)
Format: VHS
Duration: 01:00:00
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Chicago: “Evening Exchange; Ebonics,” WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 25, 2022,
MLA: “Evening Exchange; Ebonics.” WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 25, 2022. <>.
APA: Evening Exchange; Ebonics. Boston, MA: WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from