Ebonics in Schools
Many black individuals have played their part in America’s history. Has
the Oakland School gone too far by wanting to teach a black slang language in
school. In this paper, you will see the peoples, teachers, and the student’s
opinion as well as the Senate.
A lot of people are speaking out on the subject, especially actors.
Arsenio Hall replied to reporters “When I heard somebody from Oakland say the
word genetic, on TV, I ran into the kitchen so I didn’t have to be mad at
anybody.” James McDaniel of ABC’s NYPD Blue and S. Epatha Merkerson of NBC’s
Law and Order described the Oakland School Board’s decision on Ebonics as a
distinct genetically based language (Shister, p.1). Civil Rights leader Jesse
Jackson defended Oakland’s school over a controversial plan to recognize black
English in the classroom (N.A., p.1).
On December 18, 1996 the Oakland School Board approved a policy affirming
Standard American English language development for all students. This policy
covers the effectiveness of the strategies that must be utilized to ensure that
every child will achieve English language Proficiency (Hawkins, p.1). This
policy is based on the work of a broad-based Task-Force, convened six months ago
to review the district-wide achievement data and to make recommendations
regarding the effective practices that will enhance the opportunity for all
students to successfully achieve the standards of all students. The data shows
the low levels of the student performance and lack of students in the Advanced
Placement Education Program. These recommendations focus on the unique language
stature of the African American Students (Shister, p.2).
One of the programs recommended is the Standard English Proficiency Program,
which is a state of California model program. Which promotes English-language
development for African-American students. The S.E.P. (Standard English
Proficiency) training enables teachers and administrators to respect and
acknowledge the history culture, and language that the African American student
brings to school (Cambell, p.2). Recently a “Superliteracy” component was added
to ensure the development of high levels of reading, writing, and speaking
skills. The policy further requires strengthening pre-school education and
parent and community parcipitation in the education process of the District
In the following, there are findings on African Americans in school: 53%
of the total Oakland School’s enrollment were black, 71% of the students
enrolled in the Special Education were black, 37% of the students enrolled in
Gate classes were black, and the average Grade Point Average of black’s in
school was 1.80, which is the lowest in the District (Hawkins, p.2). Also, 64%
of the students held back were African American, 71% of the African American
Males attended school on a regular basis, 19% of Senior African Americans did
not graduate, and 80% of all students suspended were black (Shister, p.2).
While Ebonics rages as a hot topic in the spotlight of American media, so
called Black English has played a quiet role in an Atlanta area school district
for more than a decade. About 600 students in the Dekalb School District just
east of Atlanta is taking a course known as “bi-dialectal communication.” In
Dekalb County Ebonics is not considered a language, but a dialect. Specifically,
it’s appropriate for the classroom. The course focuses on more than just the
non-standard English of Ebonics. The students learn they must project,
enunciate and gesture properly to communicate. This is the 11th year of the
federally funded bi-dialectal program. Administrators cite rising test scores
in language arts and reading as evidence that it works. Parents also seem to
approve. One parent said if they had something like that when she was growing
up, she would’ve made it farther (Cambell, p.2). On the Internet, Ebonics isn’t
necessarily a black vs. white thing. It’s more a matter of justice vs. joke.
Should Ebonics be considered a second language requiring special treatment by
school teachers, or is it merely a different form of English, to be corrected
but not accommodated. The debate has played out on the editorial pages, TV
shows and talk radio across America, but for several reasons, it’s a subject
perfectly suited for the Internet. For 1 thing, the Net’s anonymity can cloak
your racial background or identity, loosening tight stereotypes. For another,
you can find a virtual community that matches your take in the issue. On the
World Wide Web, you can read tightly reasoned analyses of black history and
listen to people making cruel fun of the whole issue through such rewritten
works. Some sites offer to translate e-mail messages into Ebonics. But the
liveliest Internet offerings have to do with the back-and-forth discussions,
whether via news groups or web chat pages. Sheila Green has cited studies
supporting the validity of the schoolboard’s approach in several newsgroup posts.
The Ebonics debate has served to highlight a growing number of online services
focusing on black cultural prospective (Boyle, p.1).
Oakland’s School Superintendent Carolyn Getridge, School Board President
Jean Quan, and board member Toni Cook are going to testify before the Senate.
They will speak about the district’s recent decision to recognize Ebonics in the
classroom. Other witnesses scheduled to testify at the hearing include Robert
Williams, originator of the term Ebonics and Amos Brown of the Civil Rights
Commission of the National Baptist Convention (N.A., p.1). The national debate
on Ebonics reached Capitol Hill January 23, 1996 as a Senate subcommittee took
up the provocative question of whether using African American dialect can help
black children learn Standard English, and whether it deserves Federal support.
The hearing began on a combative note. Senator Lauch Faircloth denounced
Ebonics as absurd and said that the Oakland school board’s decision to have
teachers recognize it in classes struck him. But Oakland school officials,
joined by Rep. Maxine Waters adamantly defended the Ebonics policy and insisted
that it had been misinterpreted as an attempt to lead students away from
Standard English. School officials said they simply want Oakland teachers to
devote more time to students who rely on black English and help them better
understand the difference between their language patterns and standard English.
Many other schools are trying to teach Ebonics such as San Diego and Los Angeles,
who are considering on creating plans to teach it (Shanchez, p.1).
The controversy is still going on in Capitol Hill and has not been resolved
yet. The solution may come soon. Or it may be a long time from now. Either
way some people will be upset with the final decision.