Quotes from the Readings – Ideas to Reflect On

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Quotes from the Readings – Ideas to Reflect On

Ebonics – What are its functions/uses?

1) It serves as a coded language.

“These language patterns did not happen by accident. They developed over a period of time beginning with the constant struggle of African peoples (during the Middle Passage) trying to make some sense of the languages of their captors. This evolution of the language system was aided and abetted by the need to communicate in code… African-Americans had to learn to communicate in allegory and rhythmic speaking codes.

What ways can we make school more beneficial for all students?

1) Recognizing what students bring to the table, from their out of school education.

Recognizing the vernacular spoken by its African-American students as a separate language along with the fact that those same students were in dire need of Standard English fluency, Oakland educators opined that black students were linguistically akin to others for whom English is not native.

Years ago, professor Basil Bernstein of the University of London's Institute of Education wrote that "if the culture of the teacher is to become part of the consciousness of the child, then the culture of the child must first be in the consciousness of the teacher."

2) Recognizing the different ways students communicated within their home environments.

Heath’s (1983) long-term study of three contiguous communities over a decade in the 1960s and 1970s illustrated how each community—a Black working-class community, a White working-class community, and a racially mixed middle-class community—socialized their children into very different language practices.

Heath documented each community’s “ways with words” and found, for instance, that members of the White working-class community rarely used writing and generally viewed literacy as a tool to help them remember events and to buy and sell items. Although parents in this community collected reading and writing materials so that children were surrounded by print, the parents rarely read, themselves, and used reading and writing for mostly functional purposes. In contrast, although residents of the Black working-class community did not accumulate reading materials, reading was more seamlessly integrated into their daily activities and

social interactions, and literacy was accomplished jointly in social settings. Heath concluded that “the place of language in the life of each social group [in these communities and throughout the world] is interdependent with the habits and values of behaving shared among members of that group” (p. 11). When children from these communities entered school, only the middle-class students whose language use was similar to that of the teachers were successful. Heath thus demonstrated how children from different communities were differentially prepared for schooling that promoted and privileged only middle-class ways of using language.

Language and Power

1) Language as a means to financial success

Within the bureaucratic world and workplaces of every society, institutions require expertise in some arbitrarily chosen genre which is governed by its own set of rules. The choice of sentence structures or the explanation of the meanings of words depends upon the immediate context of the genre users and their unique language structure. In actuality, words have no inherent meaning given them by some independent power. They have the consensus meaning that people in an ever-widening community give them (Franklin & Hixon, 1999

Remember, too, that African-American college graduates, among the best speakers of standard English we have, earn a fraction of what white college graduates earn. What you look like, what you speak about and whom you speak for can cancel out the so-called benefits of verbal conformity to the dominant mode of expression.

2) Language as a reflection of intelligence, as a means to judge others

In their research, Franklin and Hixon, purport that speaking a language, therefore, is a special kind of coded behavior, to the extent that when a person does not speak a preferred language as is desired or expected in a society, that person may be perceived as an ignorant individual who does not share the same social knowledge and concepts as others.

Language is often a barometer by which many people measure one’s intelligence.

Other instances of disparity can be related to the traditional or “standardized” psycho-educational assessment of speakers of non-standard English. These assessments do not consider, nor do they fully account for or adapt to, the non-standard, syncopated syntax and cultural experiences that certain test takers bring to the evaluation experience (Gopaul-McNicol, Reid, & Wisdom, 1998).

Research points to the association between language and intelligence. I submit that society obviously connects language patterns (i.e. Ebonics) with other societal factors such as drugs, crime, etc. This can perpetually drive a wedge through the gaping holes that already exists between cultures in America.

3) the power to create and hold on to your own sense of culture

The ability of a people to hold on to its indigenous roots is important to the psycho-social development of such a people.

4) Who’s in charge in the classroom? What is the standard?

Obviously, many young speakers of ebonics invest their language use with a great deal of meaning. In many instances they are exhibiting hostility and resistance toward institutions they don't perceive to be operating in their best interests. Teachers, too, invest African-American linguistic difference with meaning - difference often is a signal for them to fail students.

Most students bring substandard English into class. Competent teachers must correct them repeatedly so that, over time, they learn to correct themselves. Some proponents of ebonics regard this method of correction as disrespectful. In a way, however, it is. How long can a teacher be geared toward understanding and respecting ebonics without ineluctably using it as a language of instruction? The language teacher either must remain loyal to standard English or jettison it. Otherwise, there will be classroom chaos.


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