If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that anything can be called “racist.” Among the things fitting that description is the teaching of standard English. Supposedly, that is demeaning to black students and lowers their self esteem. The Conference on College Composition and Communication (an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English) has released a demand that teachers and professors stop doing that.
One academician who thinks that this is a bad development is Boston University’s Matthew Stewart. In today’s Martin Center article, he explains his position.
Regarding the demand, Stewart writes, “In language that invokes old Dixie rather than the 2020 schoolroom, the CCCC statement portrays American schools as places where black children meet nothing but disrespect in their English classes. Language instruction as it is now practiced is said to ‘seek to annihilate Black Language + Black Life.’ Thus, educators are called to engage in a ‘political process that must inherently challenge institutions like schools whose very foundations are built on anti-Black racism.’”
Lots of English teachers will no doubt be devastated to hear that they have been complicit in the “annihilation” of black life and language when they correct papers for grammatical errors.
This wild exercise in virtue signaling will make many “progressives” feel good, but will it do anything for students? Stewart thinks not: “Proponents of Black English have made similar proposals in the recent past. The controversial 1990s Ebonics movement (a purpose-built blend of ebony and phonics) arose from the same basic assumptions as the CCCC statement, which is bound to produce the same set of counterarguments heard by Ebonics proponents. The chief criticism leaps to mind: Students who do not learn Standard English will be at a disadvantage once they leave their classrooms.”
I’m sure the “progressives” will then solve that problem by demanding that employers stop caring about how well prospective employees can use English.