There have been many debates about various aspects of the classroom; however, none has raised as much controversy as using Ebonics. In 1997, the California board raised the biggest of debates by recognizing Ebonics as a language that is both used and quite dominant in schools. The result was that many researchers, scholars, and even politicians came up. Some, of course, supported using Ebonics, finding it an equalizing factor in the classroom. On the other hand, some felt Ebonics was far from a language.
Benefits of Using Ebonics in the Classroom
A common problem in the English classroom is that most students often feel frustrated and angered by the teacher’s continued correcting their English. Harris states that after decades of correction, management studies. I am sad when reporting that the students’ experiences are still using far from perfect English (42). In his analysis, he shows that American students use English from birth as a first language and have bad pronunciation, grammar, and sentence construction, especially in written English. In accepting Ebonics as a language, the California board applied a very important aspect of psychology. They provided a positive environment where they shared their history, views, and values and whose sign language is their first language. In Saudi Arabia, the classification of students can be corrected on their grammar and language. With Ebonics being used in the class, the teacher finds it much easier to correct, improve, and explain errors to students. On that note, students are more receptive to such corrections. As such, an instructor can recognize fast improvement within a short period, a positive learning environment where students are more willing to participate. Traditionally, such students would be unwilling to participate and aggressive regarding the correction.
Secondly, it is important to note the reasons behind the decision by the California board. One of the issues facing the board was the fact that language was often used as a factor to segregate students. In the early ’90s, racial segregation was rampant in the district. The board recognized Ebonics as part of the English language to make the classroom more inclusive. The idea was not to teach Ebonics as a language but to use the same language as a foundation upon which the student can be taught English as a language. According to Kretzschmar, the poor performance of black American students in English classes came from being constantly ridiculed because of the Ebonics English they used (112). Because teachers had not understood the foundation of the language, they found it difficult to interact with and change the student’s perceptions. The result was a divided class, with such a large gap that teachers often find it difficult to bring the class back together.
When a teacher uses Ebonics to teach in class, they find that students become more creative in their sentence formations. Ebonics allows students to master new vocabulary, formulate new words and expand their English language mastery. During his research, Baugh found that students who are exposed to Ebonics develop a better mastery of the English language (66). This is more for students from black American and Latin American homes. These children often have little mastery of native English; teachers find their vocabulary too simplistic, even in higher grades. Attempts to introduce new vocabulary are met with major difficulties. However, Ebonics allows the students to transform the words and vocabulary they already have into native English. This improves their writing skills. Ramirez states that teachers often have misconceived ideas about Ebonics, having been associated with low-class and poor African Americans. Many ignore the vocabulary and semantics associated with this form of language (31).
Perry and Delpit found a very disturbing trend in a study; about 30% of the students had managed to overcome the challenges associated with schools that are elementary and high school (129). Unfortunately, they had done so without mastering Standard English. The problem is that the job market held very few opportunities for them. Further, college courses and other skills appreciation and talent enhancement opportunities were often lost on them because they could not express themselves. All these problems could quickly be resolved by introducing Ebonics in class. Such an introduction highlights the weaknesses and uses the strengths associated with Ebonics to improve mastery of Standard English. Students are therefore associated with greater opportunities and various job opportunities (Perry and Delpit 141).
Baugh, John. Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic Pride and Racial Prejudice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Harris, Katherine. Pan African Language Systems: Ebonics & African Oral Heritage. London: Karnak House, 2003.
Kretzschmar, William A. Ebonics. Athens, Ga: Journal of English Linguistics, 1998.
Perry, Theresa, and Lisa D. Delpit. The Real Ebonics Debate: Power, Language, and the Education of African-American Children. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998
Ramirez, J D. Ebonics: The Urban Education Debate. Clevedon, Hants, England: Multilingual Matters, 2005.