Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What? Ebonics Again?

I remember the first time Ebonics were introduced. The entire concept was roundly ridiculed, although it was more of an attempt to teach it to the teachers to better understand their Black students.

Now some genius had decided that Black students would be better served if they were taught in Ebonics. In other words, instead of demanding that these students and their families take the responsibility to work for an education, the San Bernardino City Unified School District will dumb down the curriculum to bring it down, um, exactly how far? I don't care what anyone says about Ebonics being another language or another dialect. That may be true. But, what's also true, is that Ebonics is not spoken in the halls of power, or in general American society. By using Ebonics as the latest crutch for poor black children, they are condemning another generation to poverty. A better policy would be one that actually taught these children the rudiments of Standard English using a good phonetic program (Riggs, surprisingly enough comes to mind). Education is hard work and we should realize by now, after all these years of falling test scores, and rising rates of illitercy, dumbing down the curriculum, while inventing new educational crutches doesn't work, never has worked, and never will work.

But what do I know? I'm not a sociologist. I'm only a teacher.

I've been teaching middle class, lower middle class, and poor black children for many years now. From personal experience I can say that you don't raise a child up by going down to their level, but by helping them to rise up to a higher level. In order to do this, I've always demanded Standard English in my students' writing and speaking. And yes, some students do get very frustrated when I make them repeat what they've just said incorrectly, correctly (and yes, Ebonics is incorrect English in my classroom). Some will clam up, refusing to talk, and withdraw their question, until I encourage them to try again.

At one point, I was waiting to be called a racist by resentful parents, but the opposite has happened. I've been thanked for insisting on high standards. One father told me derisively, he didn't want his children learning Ebonics. A student who preferred Ebonics accused me of wanting my students to sound educated. She was partially right. I want people to know that they are educated.

I'd like to know if the geniuses who are pressing to adopt Ebonics will cry "racism" when the products of this program can't get jobs because they speak like they're illiterate street people and don't have the skills they need to succeed because it didn't fit into the Ebonics program.

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