Ebonics: an addendum

This is a work in progress, into which I dump whatever comes up on this subject. A subject, incidentally, that I am pretty well sick of; but having started it, one can't leave it uncorrected when more information falls into one's lap.

The Board's Position Paper

Through an Alta Vista search I've located (http://www.emich.edu/~linguist/issues/html/8-53.html) the text of the board's Policy Statement, which the Chronicle did not reprint along with the resolution. Regrettably, this link is now dead, and I didn't snarf a copy of the text in time.

My cynical right-wing friends were right: I was much too easy on the board and on Toni Cook in particular. Just for atmosphere, here is the first sentence of the thing:

There is persuasive empirical evidence that, predicated on analysis of the phonology, morphology and syntax that currently exists as systematic, rule governed and predictable patterns exist in the grammar of African-American speech.
Anybody want to parse that? Sure: There is evidence that rule governed and predictable patterns exist, predicated on analyis of phonology, morphology and syntax that exists[sic] as systematic. I don't know what it means for something to exist as systematic, but this is definitely the only way the sentence can be analyzed as English syntax.

Enough frivolity. Most of the policy is the same nonsense as the resolution and needs no comment. Now, remember Ms Cook and her pious dismissal of the idea of using biligual ed funds, when there's not enough money for the real speakers of real foreign languages? Here's the second paragraph of the policy statement:

Moreover, there is persuasive empirical evidence that ... African-American people and their children, are from home environments in which a language other than English language is dominant within the meaning of "environment where a Language other than English is dominant" as defined in Public Law 1-13-382 (20 U.S.C. 7402, et seq.).
I am shocked -- shocked! -- to find that anyone could accuse them of looking for Federal bilingual ed funds.

But there's more. In case that's not clear enough, and maybe they're just talking about a non-discrimination policy, as they do in the next paragraph, they make it explicit later:

Asian-American, Latino-American, Native American and all other language different children are provided general funds for bilingual education, English as Second Language (ESL) and State and Federal (Title VIII) Bilingual education programs to address their limited and non-English proficient (LEP/NEP) needs. African-American pupils are equally entitled to be tested and, where appropriate, shall be provided general funds and State and Federal (Title VIII) bilingual education and ESL programs to specifically address their LEP/NEP needs.
Any questions?

The school board is also shocked that its intentions could be so seriously misunderstood. Check out the (http://ousd.k12.ca.us/oakland.standard.html) pious disclaimers in their undated document that claims to be a synopsis of the policy. (Sorry, you can't do that any more; they've zapped the page.) Let's assume the author of that document never read the original resolution or the policy; after all, they have not been very easy to obtain; even Ms Cook noticed that the failure ever to put the original resolution on the board's Web site looked bad.

That's all for today. Coming up next: analyses by actual radicals and actual linguists.

Date last modified: October 31, 2001
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