Date: Fri, 27 Dec 1996 22:53:45 -0800 (PST) From: Aaron Fox Subject: 7.1825, Disc: Ebonics (fwd) Sender: To: linganthro list MIME-version: 1.0 Precedence: bulk Proving that we're on the cutting edge of societal evolution (to paraphrase Rush Limbaugh) here is the first slight bit about "Ebonics" to appear on Linguist-L:

________________________________________________________________________ ---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Wed, 25 Dec 1996 20:23:21 -0500 From: To: Multiple recipients of list LINGUIST Subject: 7.1825, Disc: Ebonics

LINGUIST List: Vol-7-1825. Wed Dec 25 1996. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 7.1825, Disc: Ebonics
Moderators: Anthony Rodrigues Aristar: Texas A&M U. Helen Dry: Eastern Michigan U. T. Daniel Seely: Eastern Michigan U.

Review Editor: Andrew Carnie
Associate Editors: Ljuba Veselinova Ann Dizdar
Assistant Editor: Sue Robinson Technical Editor: Ron Reck
Software development: John H. Remmers
Editor for this issue: Anthony Rodrigues Aristar
=================================Directory====================== 1) Date: Sat, 21 Dec 1996 20:02:18 -0700 From: (Peter Farruggio) Subject: ebonics

-------------------------------- Message 1 ------------------------------- Date: Sat, 21 Dec 1996 20:02:18 -0700 From: (Peter Farruggio) Subject: ebonics

Has anyone on this list been following the controversy in the media about the Oakland, California school board's decision to classify African American children as "limited English proficient"? They unanimously passed a resolution last week that called Ebonics (Black English) a separate language, and blamed the children's high levels of school failure (low GPA, high drop-out rates, statistical overrepresentation in special education, etc) on language mismatch.

Here is a statement I sent to a local newspaper. I understand that the OBEMLA office in Wash, DC has been deluged with calls from other school districts nationwide who want to know if African American children can qualify for LEP funds, so this issue has national implications.

Any comments?

I am a bilingual educator of 15 years and an educational researcher. I look at the "ebonics" debate with very mixed feelings.

What is commonly known as Black English is a dialect of English, just as "Standard English" is a dialect spoken by the people who rule American and British society. Black English is not a slang and it has consistent and logical grammatical and pronunciation rules, just as does Standard English. It is a unique historical creation of African Americans.

If the practical result of the Oakland school board's decision is to inform teachers about Black English and to show them that a child is not inferior because he speaks a dialect, then it will be a good thing for the people of Oakland. But I am afraid that the theory of ebonics will serve to highlight language as the main cause of unacceptably high rates of school failure by African American children. I am afraid that it will be just another gimmick to divert attention from the real cause.

Language is only a part of the larger problem, which is institutional racism. The deliberate underfunding of public education and other social services in the past twenty years has had a devastating impact on inner city neighborhoods. Jonathan Kozol's book "Savage Inequalities" gives an excellent look inside the horrible schools that working class minority children must attend across the US. Dilapidated buildings, chronic overcrowding, high staff turnover and underprepared teachers are only some of the problems these children face daily. A peek inside the year round schools in the flatlands of Oakland will reveal what children and educators have been contending with for many years without relief.

It is not by accident that Blacks have been kept at the bottom of the US economy for several hundred years. The fight for educational reforms must be linked with the struggle against race and class discrimination in the broader political arena, or it will be doomed to proposing trivialities like ebonics.
Pete Farruggio Oakland, CA ---------------------------------------------------------------------- LINGUIST List: Vol-7-1825