General Question

El_Cadejo's avatar

What are your thoughts on Black English being taught in schools?

Asked by El_Cadejo (34484points) March 19th, 2008

Black English I’ll tell you my views on it after a couple answers. I dont want to sway the discussion in any way before it starts.

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47 Answers

Perchik's avatar

AH! I strongly object to it. It’s often not understandable and regardless of the point that is being made, the person sounds stupid. I think it also promotes racism. Racism does not necessarily meaning hating a person because of their race, but acting differently towards them. It’s shit like this that keeps us in the past.

squirbel's avatar

I disagree with it being taught in schools. It serves no purpose in the business world, and does not have a larger social context for the dark-skinned community. Not every dark-skin speaks “black English”, nor are those who do a majority.

As such, it is merely a dialect – and every society around the world that has multiple languages enforces a “working” language and the dialect is saved for home or in culturally familiar environments.

kevbo's avatar

I don’t think it needs to be taught in terms of spelling and grammar, but it should be taught in the context of literature as a legitimate dialect. Too much southern literature, in particular, utilizes this form of English, and I think it’s important to educate students about it’s cultural legitmacy.

Squirbel, I’d disagree with you (with admittedly no facts at hand) that it’s not spoken by the majority of black Americans. I think it is spoken quite widely.

Perchik's avatar

From my understanding of the wiki link, the idea is that some students are raised speaking it and therefore have trouble in school because they do not understand real english.

trainerboy's avatar

It is pandering to mediocrity.

gorillapaws's avatar

@perchik that’s basically the issue. I don’t believe that anyone has the intent to teach “ebonics” or “black english” or whatever you want to call it to students. The intent is to recognize that it is a “legitimate” form of speech but then to take the information that comes along with that and use it to help students learn how to read and write standard English. One of the fundamental tools for teaching children to read is for them to make the connection between the phonics of the print and then the sounds they’re used to hearing in everyday speech. If there is no recognition there because you’ve grown up hearing what amounts to a very different language structure and vocabulary then you’re not going to get that recognition that most of us got when we were learning how to read. I think the whole subject got twisted around somehow into saying that people want to teach ebonics in school.

Perchik's avatar

Gorilla, I think you’re right, but if you look at the way the question was phrased, it set us up to debate the teaching of ebonics.

pattyb's avatar

How does this benefit anyone? Student, school, curriculum , race? What will be the the basic thought? It’s a bad thing, its a good thing, its acceptable , it’s not. Being raised in mixed inner city public school, I was to belive it was better to sound as un-ethnic as possible. That was a long time ago. This is a new USA , I am not sure what people want you to sound like. Or if they care.

Perchik's avatar

From my personal viewpoint, I live with a guy who speaks in this “Black English.” He speaks it and writes it. I cannot stand to listen to him. He is failing out of college because he can’t write at all. He is intelligent, but when he talks it’s all lost in the language.

If the idea that this language will be taught alongside English at an early age, I’m extremely against it. If teachers understand that it’s there and try to teach “real” English using this so-called “Black English” then I support that.

gorillapaws's avatar

@penchik I think it’s the latter, but I think the idea is also to accept “black english” as a legitimate language so that you don’t tell these kids that they are wrong for speaking the way they do. It kind of goes back to the white-is-right issues in that you’re saying that their speech is wrong and therefore by extension a major portion of their culture is wrong. As I understand the problem, people are advocating for teaching children that the language they’ve grown up hearing and speaking isn’t wrong, it’s right, but it’s a different language than the one they need to learn in school for reading and writing and speaking in presentations etc., basically, looking at the situation from an English as a Second Language perspective.

If that is indeed the position that is being advocated for, I think it makes good sense.

Response moderated
nayeight's avatar

I can’t believe people call it “black english”......wtf?

I’m really just speechless…

El_Cadejo's avatar

Yea im basically very much against it. I dont think this should be accepted at all. Your only cheating them of a education by accepting this as a form of language. The other thing that bothered me in one article i read about it was they said “its a genetic thing” which just seems down right wrong and racist.

also sorry i worded it wrongly when i said taught, i was in a rush posting the question before i went out.

Perchik's avatar

To be fair nayeight, I’d have to say that almost everyone who speaks it is black… The few white people I’ve known to speak that way are trying to pretend like they’re from that culture.

@uber, it may not be genetic, but if you’re raised by people who speak that way, you will too. Language isn’t genetic, it’s learned.

@gorilla, I agree with you on that. I just feel like its a tricky line,...“we can’t tell people the language they speak is wrong’’, but at the same time they can’t use it for business, reading or writing purposes. Therefore…it’s wrong?

I think the problem is really whether it’s a distinct language, or just a dialect of English. If it’s a dialect, then it’s something a person should recognize and understand how to “escape” that dialect when doing certain things. However, if it’s a distinct language, then we will need to focus on teaching with ESOL options.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@Perchik That was exactly my problem with it. I know language is something learned from exposer. So for them to just write it off as “well they’re black so they speak this way” I found to just be racist.

oneye1's avatar

I’m against it to but I dont have a lot of room to speak being from the south you know we are known for having such perfect language skills

Perchik's avatar

Actually after thinking about it a lot, I really don’t know what to say about it. I’m going to have to do some heavy thinking. I realise that this situation is a problem. Everyone can’t magically speak english, if they’re raised speaking this “AAVE” African American Vernacular English, as wikipedia calls it, more politically correct than “Black English”. But at the same time, I have trouble understanding the language. However, is it right for us to say that English must be the language of the US? I need to think about this and do some research.

Ultimately, I think we need to have serious discussions about race in the US, as Obama initiated last night and this is yet another issue that needs to be discussed. I feel like although we’re racially integrated, it’s a false integration, like oil and water. You can mix them quite well, but if you look closely there will still be little bubbles of oil among the water. I think we need to do something to promote equality on both sides. It’s not racism against black people only. It’s racism against white people, black people, hispanics, asians, and all other immigrants. Our country might be a mixing pot, but it’s definitely not a melting pot. And I don’t know how to fix it.
All I know is that it is time for chage.

nayeight's avatar

I’ve been wondering…...y is there not a “white English” geez Im sorry I don’t even know what to call it. Phrases like “dude” “oh my gosh” “like totally” and my personal favorite, ” that is so feirce” arent used in the business world are they? Maybe this is just a generation thing that I’m confusing with “black English”....

Perchik's avatar

@nayeight I think that there are multiple version of English. In my last post I mentioned that wikipedia calls “Black English” “African American Vernacular English.” What you’re referring to should be dubbed “White American Vernacular English.” Every group of American’s have their own version of English. It could probably even be broken down by groups of people, so you’d have things like “Gangsta Vernacular English” “Surfer Vernacular English” “Stupid White Girl Vernacular English” etc. I think the big debate about the AAVE, is whether it is still a variant of English or if it is it’s own new language. In the Wikipedia article, sorry to keep referencing it , there were all these differences between AAVE and “English” but I’m not a linguist so I didn’t really follow it all.

On an interesting sidenote, I looked up vernacular . It’s interesting to note that the definition specifically mentions that it is different than the literary language.

nayeight's avatar

hmm thanks for clearing that up. That does make alot of sense. Weird….

nayeight's avatar

I speak “stupid white girl vernacular english”

:-(

Perchik's avatar

Heh I was just throwing out examples, that a lot of people would probably be able to relate to. Not really meant to be directed at any one person :-/

oneye1's avatar

ha you left out the southern speech I’m offended now I’m taking my toys and going home just playing

Perchik's avatar

Southern, Northern, Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, Authoritarian, Male, Female, Transgender, Homosexual, Heterosexual, Bisexual, Asexual, Old people, Young people, You, Me, etc….

We all have our own vernaculars. Sometimes we even talk differently with different people. That’s the definition of vernacular. The “everyday” spoken language among people of a similar group, whether it’s professional or cultural.

ps oneye, I’m from the South too

oneye1's avatar

I’m just trying to have fun what I beleive is we should have one langage here and my tax dollars should no pay for someone to take their drivers test in anything but english

squirbel's avatar

In defense of Spanish, I believe America, of all countries on this earth, ought to become bilingual, or even trilingual (French/German). We need to grow out of English-centrism.

Every other nation is bilingual in some form or fashion.

oneye1's avatar

I’m sorry thats way off topic I should not have said anything

squirbel's avatar

Your thoughts are still valid :)

Perchik's avatar

@squirbel I would tend to agree.

oneye1's avatar

I think one langage help to unite us as a people not separate us

oneye1's avatar

but I will look into my magic ball for the answer

cwilbur's avatar

The initial flurry over “Ebonics” took the whole thing completely out of context.

Some teachers in California looked at the process for getting grants for language education, and realized that they’d never get money for teaching standard English to children who spoke nonstandard English, but that they’d get all kinds of grants if they defined the children’s dialect as a minority language and tried to get money for English as a second language.

So they called the children’s dialect Ebonics, and applied for grants to teach English as a second language.

The press, which loves a good scandal, misinterpreted this as California teachers trying to legitimize ‘Ebonics’ as a language to be taught alongside English, without including any of the rationale behind it.

Response moderated
hossman's avatar

I believe it would be very interesting to offer “Modern Urban American” (to avoid racism, and because African Americans do NOT have a monopoly on this dialect) as a linguistics elective in postsecondary school.

It would be a mistake to teach it as a “second language” in grade school or high school for a number of reasons. First, rightly or wrongly, it is still perceived as a mark of illiteracy by many, just as “Rural White Trailer Park” is. Further, although American English is constantly changing, there are accepted common usages. There is no cohesive “Black English” dialect, as usages vary wildly not only by region but by generation.

I used to work at a maximum security penitentiary. Some of the inmates had been doing time since the ‘60s and spoke what used to be called “jive.” This dialect is just as confusing to a hip young 14 year old today as it would be to my parents. I am fond of the Hispanic Christian rapper T-Bone. I would imagine much of his music is as hard to follow for an urban Boston Irish teenager and a middle-aged black Georgian minister as it is for me.

If “Ebonics” was taught as an alternative language to children, then what would we decide to teach to, say, a new immigrant from Central America? Standard American English? AAVE? Spanglish? Our education resources are not infinite. There needs to be a common dialect we use as our primary communications tool, and other unique “dialects” that are optional.

Curious404's avatar

Would any of you hire someone that spoke non-standard English for a corporate job? Would you recruit someone that spoke non- standard English to an ivy league school? Is it acceptable for me to submit a report to a client written in non- standard English because it was allowed in school? Will there be an updated version of Windows WORD to update the spell check feature? The answer is “no”. Non- standard English is broken English and is wrong. It should not be taught or supported in schools as acceptable.

Curious404's avatar

There is a time and a place for casual language. When you have a good understanding of the standard language and know when its appropriate to be casual vs not, then its acceptable to switch back and forth. I do everyday and I’m comfortable with that.

Don’t flutter users discourage the use of “text/SMS” type posts? Isn’t tat b/c this is a forum 4 intellectuls???

nomtastic's avatar

ok, i’m obviously coming into this discussion a bit late. however, some responses to posts both early and late.

@perchick “It’s often not understandable and regardless of the point that is being made, the person sounds stupid.” Just because you don’t understand it does not make it unintelligable; it makes you an outsider to a subculture. And I think that saying that such groups “sound stupid” is, in fact, what keeps us in the past.

@curious – Some casual language belonging to some groups is considered acceptable in the workplace, and some accents are seen as charming or interesting. Again, one needs to note one’s own perspective.

Perchik's avatar

@Nom Fine we’ll go with that, I’m stuck in the past because I can’t understand people who talk like that. Notice I said they sound stupid. I did not say they are stupid. I’m very well aware that I’m white and was not raised in that culture. However it sounds stupid. I’m not going to defend that. You cannot tell me that this phrase, quoted from the wikipedia, sounds remotely intelligent. “He been had dat job.”

nomtastic's avatar

I think that a more constructive way to go after this conversation is to take ‘intelligence’ out of it. Intelligence depends upon people and contexts, not whether or not a phrase is culturally palatable to you.

I’m not disagreeing that there exists a more formally/institutional version of english that we use in certain contexts, or even that that version is important for people to learn in school, but this version is also not static. A term like “cool,” for instance, was once part of a black vernacular that some white people certainly found stupid, but it was eventually adopted.

squirbel's avatar

There’s no way to agree to disagree regarding perchik’s use of “intelligence”. It is a perception, rather than a belief; it refers to how the words sound to him, and not what he thinks of the speaker.

If a person’s simple perceptions – especially coming from a culture different from the subject’s – are required to be sanitized before expression, they will be reluctant to speak and the issues will persist.

gorillapaws's avatar

@perchik I can understand where you’re coming from with the phrase “He been had dat job.” But it’s not like these things were made up yesterday by a bunch of people trying to sound gangster, or thug, or black or whatever. Much of the AAVE as we’ve been calling it, has evolved from native African language structure being applied to english vocabulary. AAVE is essentially the synthesis of many different language structures (I believe predominantly African, but I also think there is French, Cajun and Creole in there too) into a form of language (either a dialect or a unique language—I’m not sure where that boundary lies). It is my understanding that these syntactic variations are thought to be a reflection of tribal cultures and values reflected in the language. So it is coming from somewhere and isn’t just some fictional language.

I’m not a linguist either and I don’t really know how to define AAVE. I do believe however that it seems wrong to place value judgments on the language/dialect simply because it’s not what you’re used to. I mean if we want to split hairs, American English could be considered broken since (to give one of a great many examples) we spell color differently than Oxford English which is technically “Pure English.”

nayeight's avatar

I would say that most AAVE came about because African Americans were denied and some are still denied a decent education. We didn’t just make it up because we were bored. We were left ignorant for a long time. Not being able to read and write probably affects how you think and speak.

pattyb's avatar

where are you? Or
where you be at?

nayeight's avatar

are u asking me where Im at or just randomly speaking “black english”?

nomtastic's avatar

you left out ‘where you at?’ which i find both useful and delightful. :)

hossman's avatar

I like “where you at” myself, but not as a request for locational information, but rather an inquiry into another’s state of mind, as in: “I am done with this crap, where you at?”

I agree with nayeight that various dialects have come about because minority groups (not just African-Americans, try to communicate with some white people from Boston or Macon) were “left ignorant.” This has resulted in almost separate languages.

There are two difficulties. First, so long as one of these dialects is common usage and the language of the upper class, other dialects will remain associated with lower classes. Second, in the past minority groups have sought to learn the dominant dialect as a tool of success. There are some in various minority communities who now harass those who seek to learn the dominant dialect, resulting in a disincentive to success.

ravenkwill's avatar

I’m reminded of the scene in Meet Joe Black where the ?Brad Pitt? character drops into a Creole dialect. The point of education seems to me to be teaching choices and options. If Ebonics is used to help people distinguish the difference between that and more formal English, then great! If students can move back and forth between the dialects, and use the appropriate forms in the appropriate settings (eg formal English in job interviews), then it could be a powerful tool. If students come out of classes not able to distinguish and use non-standard English to their prospective employers, then it should be pulled. I don’t care much what tools are used. I’m more concerned in how the students come out.

And I like the sound of “He been had dat job.” My only problem is if the speaker can’t say that any other way!

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