Ebonics Ebonics The United States is filled with many different ethnicities, cultures, customs, languages, etc. Supposedly, our public schools are equipped with classes, teachers, curriculums and materials in order to educate that part of the student population whose first language is something other than the English language.
Bilingual classes, transitional classes, ESL classes are just a few of the programs that have been developed to instruct non-English speaking students in order for them to acquire the English language. However, there has been a language use among African American students; language that has not been examined closely nor acknowledged until recently. Ebonics is classified as Black English or Black sounds, or Pan African Communication Behavior or African Language systems which originates from the West African languages such as Ibo, Yoruba, and Hausa (Amended Resolution of the Board of Education, 1997. P.
1). During the times of slavery, ebonics was also spoken as Gullah, which is a combination of West African languages, and English. Ebonics is a term coined by psychologist Robert Williams, resulting from the combination of two words, ebony and phonics in order to describe its dialect (The Daily O’Collegian Editorial Board. 1997. P. 1).
The controversy behind ebonics is whether or not it is actually a language or and should it be instructed as a foreign language. Language is defined as a system of words formed from such combinations and patterns, used by the people of a particular country or by a group of people with a shared history or set of traditions (Microsoft Bookshelf. 1996-1997 edition). Ebonics is a form of communication of feelings, thoughts, opinions and ideas at is being used by our students in the classroom who feel very comfortable using ebonics because they are accustomed to express themselves in that way. As a result of many students using ebonics in a school setting, it has been recognized in our educational system and it is believed that the understanding, the application, the principles, the laws and the structure of ebonics would help African American students (Amended Resolution of the Board of Education, 1997. P.
1). Ebonics would be used to help learn Standard English. Therefore, ebonics has been studied for the last 15 years due to the State of California recognizing the unique language stature of descendants of Africans (Amended Resolution of the Board of Education, 1997. P. 1).
As a result, the State of California is trying to mandate an education program that is in the interest of vindicating their equal protection of the law rights under the 14 Amendment (Amended Resolution of the Board of Education, 1997. P. 2).” The 14 Amendment states: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws (Microsoft Bookshelf. 1996-1997). The Oakland school district is trying to pass a program based on ebonics because it is considered that it will benefit African American students in their first language.
In addition, the Oakland school district believes that if ebonics is these students first language that would make them bilingual and must receive some form of bilingual education. Under the Bilingual Education Act (1968), confirmed by a Supreme Court decision (1974) and mandating help for students with limited English proficiency, requires instruction in the native languages of students. (Microsoft Bookshelf. 1996-1997). Oakland’s concern is based on the outcome of the standardized test of reading and language skills among many African American students, according to the Amended Resolution of the Board of Education (1997), the scores on the standardized test were below state and national levels.
In addition to the low standardized test scores, Wasserman (1997) argues that the grade point average among African American students is D+. The program they envisioned featured African American system principles to move students from the language patterns they bring to school to English proficiency (Amended Resolution of the Board of Education, 1997. P.2). According to The Daily O’Collegian Editorial Board (1997), the Oakland school district believes that in order to teach their African American students to be proficient in English language, the teachers must first understand how ebonics is spoken through learning the way it is spoken, used, written and the actual meaning of the material. In addition, teachers will become more effective instructors if they understand the cognitive constructions associated with Black Vernacular English (Oubr?. 1997, P.
5). According to Oubr?, the teachers who have the experience to relate to this dialect is better equipped to communicate, and teach this population. Furthermore, by learning the dialect, teachers are bridging the gap between themselves and African American ebonics speaking students. They are also helping overcome the constraints of ethnic prejudice, value judgement and social condemnation in the classroom (Oubr?. 1997.
P. 5). According to Faull (1997), who is a child development and behavior specialist, she places ebonics into the bilingual category. Faull’s (1997) views are that students who speak ebonics are similar to bilingual students who switch from his or her native language to American English and back again, and a student who speaks ebonics should be able to follow the same pattern as the bilinguals . Therefore, Faull (1997) states that a teacher must have a understanding of ebonics and understand that children are learning languages; the language used in the classroom and the language used in the home (Faull. 1997.
P. 2). In the Oakland area, Black students make up 71% percent of those in special education. According to Miloy, misplacing African American students in classes because of language differences is occurring all over the United States. According to Love (1997), Robert William who coined the term ebonics, implies that 70 to 90 percent of the African American children speak ebonics and it should be taught as a linguistic heritage as opposed to placing these students in remedial classes.
Studies done by researchers at Stanford University show that black children who have been taught using the ebonics program which recognized so-called black English as distinct from standard English – have improved their ability to read and write standard English (Miloy. 1997. P.1). This shows that there isn’t a need to place African American students in remedial classes just because they speak ebonics. It is not a question of intelligence.
Most of those African American students who speaks ebonics have a high IQ and remedial classes for them is not the answer. Miloy (1997) points out that these studies have shown that by using the ebonics method improves reading, writing, and speaking among the African American students. As a result of instituting this program, students taught with ebonics have moved up two grade levels in one year (Miloy. 1997. P 2). But, many people feel that just because ebonics is used frequently, it is not a language, although many feel that it falls in the definition of language.
According to Wasserman (1997), ebonics is not considered a language nor is it seen as a nonstandard of English. Wasserman (1997) stated that ebonics is a language pattern rather than a language based on grammar, punctuation and word, therefore, it should not be seen as an actual language. However, The American Speech, Language and Hearing Association classifies ebonics as a dialect of English and this includes all the grammatical variations that go with it. For example, he ain’t here or he on up in that car is now part of the English language (Zeis. 1997.
P1). Now, ebonics or the African-American Language System is sees as the primary language of blacks of many inner city, urban, rural and suburbs. (Cuckler. 1997. P.
1). However, there are those who laugh at the idea of ebonics even being a dialect much less a language. According to Zeis (1997), American English and British English are two different dialects but they both have grammar structures that is correct. Since, ebonics lack this structure, i …