Re: Ebonics and the Classics, anyone?

From: Jeffrey S. Carnes (
Date: Tue Jan 21 1997 - 23:48:39 EST

     Given any topic, there will be plenty of people with stupid things to
say about it. Given the existence of such people, the media will find
them. Anyone who thinks Black English is genetically determined is an
idiot; but such people hardly represent the mainstream of the debate, and
shouldn't form the basis for fear-mongering slippery slope arguments.
Nor, as I understand it, does the Oakland school board, or any other
school board, suggest replacing American Standard English with "Ebonics."
Instead, they're attempting to deal with the fact that their students
speak a dialect of English different from
ASE, and make that a first step toward making the students more proficient
in ASE. Sort of like taking students who speak Sicilian or Venetian, and
teaching them Standard Italian, while realizing that the dialect they
learned at home will still be appropriate in certain situations. (To
a certain extent the "Ebonics" controversy is a particularly fraught
of the issues of dialect and class faced in classrooms throughout the
English-speaking world--lots of people have to learn to put aside
"low-class" forms of speech to succeed socially or economically).
     Reading more Euripides is always good, but they might also get a lot
out of watching _Padre Padrone_.

Jeffrey S. Carnes


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