Oakland School Board Ebonics Resolution and the Controversy Term Paper

Pages: 9 (3330 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 20  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Communication - Language

Ebonics Resolution Ebonics Controversy

"RESOLUTION" OF EBONICS CONTROVERSY

"For optimal development and learning of all children, educators must accept the legitimacy of children's home language, respect (hold in high regard) and value (esteem, appreciate) the home cul-ture, and promote and encourage the active involvement and sup-port of all families, including extended and nontraditional family units"

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

(quoted in Means & Daniel 2000: 82).

Ebonics merely constitute careless and ignorant communication. In the article, "A linguist looks at the Ebonics debate," Charles J. Fillmore (2010), professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that this unconstructive perception appeared to prominently portray the mindset of school personnel who typically responded negatively to African-American children who attended Oakland's schools. Instead of treating the students who spoke Ebonics as evidencing knowledge and skills they could positively build upon, instructors routinely challenged the children's classic communication as "simply sloppy and wrong." Instructors could more effectively help children learn Standard English if they would encourage the students "to compare the way they speak with what they need to learn in school, & #8230; treat what they already have, linguistically, as a worthy possession rather than as evidence of carelessness and ignorance" (Fillmore: ¶2). During this paper, the writer investigates why individuals inside as well as outside of one school district blew the resolution so far out of proportion.

One concrete "truism": If people do not speak the same language, they cannot learn, motivated the Oakland, California Board of Educa-tion (OCBE), Oakland Unified School District's December 18, 1996 "Ebonics" resolution. A bevy of misunderstandings, perhaps fueled by the initial draft of the resolution which may have mislead some, however stimulated conflicting scenarios following the Board's recommendation. As the way some African-American students spoke when attending Oakland's schools in 1996 so dramatically differed from Standard English, teachers reported that frequently, neither they nor the students could understand what the person meant or said. In turn, these children failed to properly complete assignments and generally did not acquire the ways to speak to help them succeed later in life to succeed when they venture into the world outside their community.

In the journal article, Mediating Ebonics, Robin R. Means Coleman and Jack L. Daniel (2000) discuss how the OCBE related myopia regarding African Ameri-cans' language directly correlates with the "color line" in America. Coleman and Daniel (2000) note that during January and February of 1997, following the OCBE's unanimous adoption of the controversially worded Ebonics resolution, Ebonics became one of the most mass-mediated phenomena in America. During this time, Americans became fixated on Ebonics to an extent which resembled the historical focus on 0. J. Simpson. This extreme focus on Ebonics reportedly evolved from the way the mass media mediated and/or depicted some African-Americans as well as the media's rendition of African-American's linguistic patterns. According to Coleman and Daniel (2000):

Reducing African-Americans, their life, culture, and language, to the depths of the ridiculous has a long history in mass media. For example, early radio (1926) offered a peek into African-American life through the "Black voice" of "Sam 'n' Henry" (later "Amos 'n' Andy"). Mocking the great migration of African-Americans in search of employment who moved from the South (Birmingham, Alabama) to the North (Chicago, Illinois), "Sam 'n' Henry" relied upon a caricatured version of what Black language was purported to be (Coleman & Daniel 2000: 79):

Sam: Henry, did you evah see a mule as slow as dis one?

Henry: Oh, dis mule is fas' enough. We gonna git to de depot alright.

Sam: You know dat Chicago train don't wait fo' nobody - it jes' goes on - jes' stops and goes right on.

Henry: Well, we ain't got but two mo' blocks to go - don't be so 'pa-tient, don't be so 'patient.

Sam: I hope dey got fastah mules dan dis up in Chicago. (Wertheim, quoted in Coleman & Daniel 2000: 79)

Historically and reportedly even extending into contemporary times, mass media presentations of a number of commentaries, headlines, reports as well as some political cartoons reflect the handling of Black language to depict an extension of numerous racist stereotypes. "African-American language patterns are often the sites for ridicule. & #8230;[Irreverent] stereotyping remains so deeply entrenched in American media because such depictions are 'frozen, incapable of growth, change, innovation, or transformation'" (Coleman & Daniel 2000: 80). Mainstream media's lens does not feature Ebonies as a critical educational issue, but instead ridiculously caricatures and mediates to exhibit the worst in African-Americans. The media approach to Ebonics with an abundance of poor diction and malapropisms deserted two primary issues:

1. The significance of Ebonics' historical, linguistic slavery roots of;

2. The requisite that African-American chil-dren receive aggressive, improved education efforts.

If the media had utilized the educative and historical as initiative points for its coverage, the invested efforts could have yielded a better informed and more useful debate regarding Ebonics' (dis)advantages as a tool to productively encourage African-American children toward Standard English. In the compilation of writings, "Views of linguists and anthropologists on the Ebonics issue," Leanne Hinton (1997), Linguistics, UC Berkeley, asserts that whether or not Ebonies depicts a separate language or not did not depict educators' primary concern in Oakland. Instead, Hinton stresses, educators sought to promote the status of African-American English (AAE). The proponents of Ebonics, however, employed an unempirical set of intense prejudices against AAE. The Oakland Board tried "to promulgate a new set of political ideas about AAE as a legitimate form of speech, partly for the sake of African-American pride, but mainly for the sake of teaching Standard English in an emotionally positive way (Hinton: 4-5). Because some individuals strongly perceive that something inherently "bad" exists in atypical varieties of English, they may also suppose that African-American speak Black English to rebel and demonstrate contrariness. Some also assert that these students need to be punished to consequently correct them.

Educators, however, do not perceive that students communicating via Ebonics need to be punished. Nevertheless, they often experience a dilemma as they aim to show respect of an African-American child's way of speech and that respect leaves them without a way to teach that child Standard English. The method the Oakland School Board embraced filled that void. Evading the perception of nonstandard Black English to constitute a set of "errors," and taking care to treat Ebonics what actually comprises: A "different system, not a wrong ones Standard English can be taught by; helping children develop an awareness of the contrast between their two speech varieties, and learn to use one without losing their pride in the other" (Hinton 1997: 5). This effort eliminates Ebonics being mediated as comedic, ridiculous, communication; ultimately contributing to an effective way to educate rather than deride children.

In the article "Ebonics and all that jazz: Cutting through the politics of linguistics, education, and race," Michele Foster (n.d.), Professor in the Center for Educational Studies at the Claremont Graduate School, also the author of the book, Black Teachers on Teaching, reports that following the Oakland School Board's resolution acknowledging Ebonics as the primary lan-guage of the majority of its African-American students, a myriad of economists, ministers, politicians, writers and other individuals volunteered their opinions regarding the board's vow to take Ebonics into account in instruction. Foster concluded that "concluded that most pundits had already decided what they believed; they were saying, 'Don't confuse me with the facts, I've already made up my mind.' And they wouldn't change their minds even if they were presented with the linguistic facts…" (7). The controversy over Ebonics, Foster argues, involves much more than lan-guage; it particularly proffers and/or portrays politics.

Perceptions regarding the definition for Black English and whether it actually depicts a viable language, a vernacular, a dialect, or perhaps a rich example of "poor English," Margaret-Mary Sulentic (2001), a professional educator with 15 years of experience in the Waterloo, Iowa schools, asserts. It basically depends on who speaks Black English. Opinions may range from and include, but not be limited to Ebonics comprising a "home language" or primary discourse. In the article, "Black English in a place called Waterloo," Sulentic argues that "conflicts, issues, and tensions of cultural difference, including language diversity, are as acute in such communities as Waterloo, a small, urban community tucked into the northeast corner of Iowa, as they are in a large metroplex such as Oakland, California" (Conclusion Section: ¶ 3). She perceives Black English to aptly apply to the language the majority of African-Americans who in Waterloo, members of Waterloo's Black community, speak. Sulentic argues that Black English comprises a language in its own right.

As children grow up, they learn and speak the language verbalized in their homes and communities; circuitously and implicitly acquiring language from their culture. Language, according to includes more than simply a systematic means a person employs to communicate, containing regular as well-ordered rules. Language depicts "much more than just a method of communication. While language converts thoughts and ideas… [END OF PREVIEW]

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