In my post Yes Reading Matters I wrote that it was important for newborns to be read to as it helps their vocabulary and brain function. I recently found a NYT article on the importance of reading to newborns for the same reason. So if you haven’t read Proust and the Squid, this NYT article has almost a Reader’s Digest version of some of the research.
As a Language and Literacy student at Harvard, I learned that there was a such thing as African American Vernacular English (AAVE). In a nutshell, the research stated that African Americans especially those who are from the south combine the Southern dialect and African dialect carried from slavery time that translates into everyday speech. Growing up, my mother would call it speaking improper English (or ebonics) and academia would classify it as a colloquial language. It is not language that you would use to write a formal letter or paper, in short this dialect should only be a dialect among peers and familiar friends.
My concern is that this research has given a pass to some educators to not correct this dialect because they dear that they are being insensitive to the African American culture. By not requiring students to enunciate and use the correct verb tenses, they are being more sensitive to how students speak at home and respecting the student and their family. Personally I think by not requiring students to speak with proper verb tenses and enunciation, we are actually doing them a disservice. If at a young age they do not hear the correct verb tenses and correct pronunciation of words, they run the risk of sounding uneducated as they get older because it is no longer cute to not know.
As a reading specialist it is a problem because this improper grammar ultimately affects a child’s ability to read and comprehend. The better the grammar or the knowledge of the correct way to speak, the better students are able to understand lectures and books way above their levels.
I do agree that students should be able to express themselves in anyway they choose when they are not in an academic setting, however we must draw the line during presentation and speaking to adults in school. This is the same idea as using emoticons and texting abbreviations while writing a formal paper.
How do we draw the line between sensitivity and academia? Should grammar just be a lesson in code switching as Delpit asserts?
Leave your thoughts.