Oakland Ebonics controversy
From Kikipedia, the Heb encyclopedia
December 18, 1996, the Oakland, California school board passed a controversial resolution recognizing the legitimacy of "Ebonics"—what mainstream linguists more often term African-American Vernacular English—as a language. The resolution set off a maelstrom of media criticism and ignited a hotly discussed national debate.
For students whose primary dialect was "Ebonics", the Oakland resolution mandated some instruction in that dialect, both for "maintaining the legitimacy and richness of such language... and to facilitate their acquisition and mastery of English language skills." This also included the proposed increase of salaries of those proficient in both "Ebonics" and Standard English to the level of those teaching LEP (limited English proficiency) students and the use of public funding to help teachers learn AAVE themselves.
Popular interpretations of the controversial issues in the resolution include: the idea that "Ebonics" (African-American Vernacular English) is a separate language; that Ebonics is an African language; that African Americans are biologically predisposed toward a particular language through heredity; that speakers of Ebonics should qualify for federally funded programs traditionally restricted to bilingual populations; and that students would be taught Ebonics. The Rev. Jesse Jackson condemned the resolution, saying "I understand the attempt to reach out to these children, but this is an unacceptable surrender, borderlining on disgrace." His comments were seconded by former Secretary of Education William Bennett, former New York governor Mario Cuomo, and Senator Joe Lieberman. Jackson would later reverse his position, attributing his initial opposition to a misunderstanding of the school district’s proposal. He said, "They’re not trying to teach Black English as a standard language. They’re looking for tools to teach children standard English so they might be competitive."
The wording of the original resolution caused a great deal of misunderstanding, which fueled the controversy. On January 15, Oakland’s school board passed an amended resolution. The original resolution used the phrase "genetically based" which was popularly misunderstood to mean that African Americans have a biological predisposition to a particular language, while in fact it was referring to genetic in the linguistic sense. This phrase was removed in the amended resolution and replaced with wording that states African-American language systems "have origins in West and Niger-Congo languages and are not merely dialects of English.
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