Ebonics: Just Creating Another Problem It is clear there are many issues in our school system that must be addressed. However the use of Ebonics, African American Vernacular English, in the English curriculum is not one of the solutions. Using Ebonics as part of our kids’ curriculum is not only unfair to the forty percent of kids who are not African American, but it also does injustice to all the students by not focusing on teaching them Standard English, which is used in higher education and by most employers. In 1996 the Oakland Unified School district decided that Ebonics was a distinct language.Furthermore they established that the superintendents were required to devise a program to incorporate Ebonics to aid in teaching youth. This resolution sparked outrage throughout the United States. The debate stemmed from multiple aspects of the issue: from the repercussions of determining Ebonics to be a different language, to the value of incorporating AAVE into the curriculum. This debate over whether to use Ebonics as a learning tool sparked from clear trends that African Americans are behind in regard to their reading comprehension levels compared to their white counterparts.
African American youth only fall further behind as they progress throughout their education. Michael Casserly demonstrated this in his presentation to the senates Ebonics’ Panel, “On a 500-point scale, African American students at the age of 9 are an average of 29 points behind the scores of their White counterparts; by the age of 13 they are 31 points behind; and by the age of 17, they are 37 points behind” (Rickford). Clearly something needs to change, but there are so many other factors at play.In general these students are taught by teachers receiving lower salaries who themselves have lower expectations for their students, in low quality facilities, and in unstable learning environments. I believe these are the more pressing and clear-cut issues that we should be addressing rather than the issue of Ebonics. There are also negative impacts of incorporating AAVE teaching into the curriculum. AAVE possesses some distinct grammatical differences from Standard English. “AAVE clearly shares much in common with other varieties of English, including Standard English.
But it also has very systematic differences in its grammatical and phonological subsystems”(Rickford). Therefore if we encourage the use of Ebonics and our teachers use it in their lessons we will be reinforcing bad grammatical habits that will hamper our students progress at learning correct Standard English. Large portions of our students also do not use AAVE, including some of the African Americas and the forty percent of the student body who are not African American. For these students the addition of AAVE into the curriculum will most likely only confuse them and make their education that much more difficult.
As you can see from our kids test scores in the past five years our kids are so far behind. Therefore the additional time required teach an separate vernacular and catching many kids up in it will only further increase the gap in their education levels. The purpose of education is to prepare our kids to succeed. Today when admission rates to Universities are at all time lows and unemployment is so high, it is more important than ever to not put our kids at a disadvantage. Students’ ability to speak English is crucial to their success.Statistically as people’s English ability declines so do their education level, employment rate, and income (Richer). This goes to show how important it is for our kids to learn Standard English.
If our children can’t speak Standard English, which is used by most employers and all Universities, they will be at a disadvantage as they move forward that they simply can’t afford. Many parents will say that it is very difficult to learn a new dialect, Standard English, and that kids will simply slip back into their native vernacular.This is especially true with all the outside influences, especially with rising importance of the internet, that encourage kids to fall back on improper vernacular. Some parents also may say that forcing Standard English on their children will only frustrate the student and constant corrections will create a rift between the kids and teachers. However there are many other methods that help positively ingrain Standard English.
One of these methods is having kids perform plays or role-play in “proper English. Another effective method is contrastive analysis. Ebonics ands kids other differing vernaculars should not be completely ignored. Rather teachers should use contrastive analysis, by pointing out the differences and the incorrect habits that kids bring from their native vernacular and comparing them to Standard English. The principle behind this method is that by making students aware of the differences they will be more likely to think about the distinctions and also establish a difference between “out of school speech and “proper English.
This method is proven to work and the Taylor study found that students benefitting from contrastive analysis demonstrated nearly a 60 percent decrease in Ebonics features in their writing (Rickford). Also this method helps both those who use AAVE and those who don’t since it is reinforcing correct grammar, so it doesn’t exclude anyone. Our school clearly needs to make some changes.
However incorporating AAVE into the English curriculum is not the solution. In this age of Facebook, Twitter, and texting, AAVE is not the only vernacular that needs to be addressed.The AAVE issue does need to be taken care of, but using contrastive analysis addresses the issue in more effective and equitable way. Contrastive analysis will also allow teachers to address the differences between “cyber speech” and Standard English without taking away from other aspects of our children’s education. Works Cited: Delpit, Lisa. “The Real Ebonics Debate. ” Rethinking Schools, 1997. Web.
September 2012. Richer, Elise. Expanding Employment Prospects for Adults with Limited English Skills.
” Center for Law and Social Policy, 15 July 2003. Web. September 2012. Rickford, John. “Ebonics Notes and Discussion. ” Stanford University Department ofLinguistics, December 1996. Web. September 2012.
Rickford, John. “Using the Vernacular to Teach Standard. ” Stanford UniversityDepartment of Linguistics, 25 March 1998. Web.
September 2012. “The Ebonics Controversy of 1996-97. ” Illinois English Department, 2001.
Web. September 2012.