Santa Cruz Indymedia :
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Commentary :: Education & Youth

No Ebonics in Africa

o African children need to be taught the street language of young African Americans?
African children need to be taught the street language of young African Americans?
The San Bernadino, California, high school district is now discussing the implementation of Ebonics – the street language of young African Americans – to be taught as if it were a foreign language...that is, a real language.

This is sheer idiocy, and anybody who would even consider such an outrageous idea has never been to Africa. This Ebonics nonsense will do nothing but hold back black youngsters, keeping them behind such immigrants as the Vietnamese, who are struggling to make their way in a nation whose language they know they must learn to get ahead.

When I read this Ebonics story I recalled driving around in Nairobi, Kenya, just a week or so ago. I saw a billboard advertisement for Sony that read "Da Man and da Music." I asked a young Kenyan what he thought of that condescending ad and he said, "Oh, we speak the King's English here. We never speak that way."

As I traveled around Kenya I learned that in Kenya English is the official language, and certainly not Ebonics – a language Kenyans never heard of.

Education is mandatory for all children and is paid for by the government. If the children don't go to the government schools, they are obliged to go to private schools, and their tuition must be paid by their parents. As a result of this, Kenyans have raised their literacy rate to almost 79 percent because they understand that education is the most important means to lift them and their land out of poverty and into a prosperous future.

The two things that most amazed me during my African safari were, first, seeing the many children walking to school in the uniforms all students must wear, and that all the way up through high school they would have to walk two or three miles to get to their classrooms carrying back packs and books, all with big smiles on their faces.

Second, if you stop to give them a little gift such as a pen, they come up to you and smile and say "thank you."

Their children are also more polite. They understand the importance of education and the importance of learning the English language for business purposes in the future.

Moreover, every child is multilingual. Each one speaks Swahili, the native language, his tribal language, and English – and sometimes a foreign tongue as well.

When I visited a Masai village in a remote area I learned that these pastoral people who raise cows have a keen understanding of the importance of education, so much so that in their tiny villages where the buildings are all made from cow dung - they are happy about it because Jesse Jackson isn't there to tell them they shouldn't live in houses made of cow dung – they all have one-room schoolhouses.

They have built them just outside their villages and the kids go to school every day. I visited one of these schools where the students were aged 4-8, and I was amazed to see that just as in my school days they had the ABCs posted on the wall along with a chart listing all the numbers from 1-to-100. Every one of those children could count to 100, knew the English alphabet, and were learning English and arithmetic. I could not help but think how many American public schools could not boast of such a record of accomplishment at this age.

Why would San Bernardino consider doing such a great disservice to its black community? It is sure to hurt their black students by not teaching them how to speak the proper English they need to get by.

It's interesting that if real Africans get it, why can't African-Americans get it? I think the answer is that the American educrat establishment doesn't want them to.

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Ebonics is a legitimate form of language

In this essay the author demonstrates his ignorance of linguistics and displays a racist attitude.

First of all, Ebonics is considered a legitimate form of language by linguists (people who study languages.) Ebonics qualifies as a language because it has specific rules regarding structure, usage and tense. By studying and breaking down the elements of Ebonics (or any other language), students learn to critically examine the structure of a language, thereby strengthening their understanding of the mechanics of Standard Written English as well.

By claiming that Ebonics isn't a language, the author demonstrates his ignorance of the fluid nature of languages. They are in a constant state of flux and that is exactly how, over time, the great variety of commonly acceptly modern languages developed. What is American English? It is a corrupted form of British English. What is British English? It is a mutated form of Old German. If we had records for them, we might be able to trace all languages back to one single mother tongue. And, by the way, it would have come from Africa!

"It's interesting that if real Africans get it, why can't African-Americans get it? I think the answer is that the American educrat establishment doesn't want them to."

No, I think that one of the problems is that the authour is even making such a comparison between Africans and African-Americans. What do they have to do with each other? What the author doesn't state, but implies is, "Why don't you do what the other BLACK people do?" Obviously, he's lumped them all together.

Rather than seeing an education that includes Ebonics as some kind of conspiracy of the "American educrat establishment," I look at it as a culturally relevant tool for linguistic development.

I choose to believe that the development and preservation of Ebonics was and is an Afrocentric assertion of identity and culture. Rather than being some sort of "ignorant language" as some people choose to dismiss it as, Ebonics has consistent usage rules that resemble several West African languages. This proves that African-Americans, despite a four-hundred-year genocide that was waged against them, managed to preserve a form of their ancestral languages. Other examples of the triumph of the human spirit through African-American created culture is evident throughout the performing and folk arts.

Diversity doesn't equal ignorance. Long live the creative spirit of resistance in the many forms it takes!


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