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Seattle Public Schools' Web Site Says Individualism is a Form of "Cultural Racism":

From "Definitions of Racism":

Cultural Racism:
Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as "other", different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.
Also included: "Defining one form of English as standard," and "identifying only Whites as great writers or composers." I should say that assuming that only Whites can be great writers or composers is of course indeed racism; but providing a list of the greatest composers and writers that consists only of whites may be perfectly legitimate, depending on your criteria (which could be entirely fair, though not indisputable, criteria) of greatness.Thanks to Hans Bader for the pointer.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Seattle School District Takes Down Odd Definition of "Cultural Racism"
  2. Seattle Public Schools' Web Site Says Individualism is a Form of "Cultural Racism":
Just John:
"Having a future time orientation"? Are they trying to say there isn't enough diversity in time-traveling?
5.17.2006 8:08pm
Boalt 2L:
What does "having a future time orientation" mean? Planning for the future?
5.17.2006 8:10pm
SLS 1L:
Professor: what is your objection to the inclusion of "defining one form of English as standard" on this list? The form is never the form spoken by poor black people, which is regularly subjected to racist mockery.
5.17.2006 8:11pm
Steve:
Is the objection to "defining one form of English as standard" merely a linguistic objection, or is it a substantive objection to teaching only the preferred dialect?

If the former is the case, if people find it stigmatizing to be told that they speak "incorrect" or "nonstandard" English, I guess I don't see it as a huge deal for professional educators to use a different term, as long as they're still allowed to hold students to the same standard. If it's supposed to be a multicultural ideal where everyone's dialect is equally valid, then ugh, that's a tough way to run a school system.

How do countries with more formal dialect systems handle this? If I'm a Basque student at the University of Madrid, am I expected to write my papers in standard Spanish, or can I write them in Basque? What about a country like China or India with countless dialects?
5.17.2006 8:19pm
Fern R (www):

as opposed to a more collective ideology

Hmmm...seems that whoever wrote these definitions watched one too many Star Trek episodes:

We are the Borg. Lower your shields and power down your weapons. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
5.17.2006 8:20pm
FXKLM:
SLS 1L: The form of English defined as standard is not the form spoken by poor white people either.
5.17.2006 8:20pm
bob montgomery:
If you are interested in the Seattle Public School District's other opinions on race and racism in the classroom, you might check this out: http://www.kuow.org/defaultProgram.asp?ID=9391
5.17.2006 8:27pm
steve k:
Mightn't any government program that treats people of color differently from others be considered racism under this standard?
5.17.2006 8:29pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
I see it also endorses the idea that only whites can be racist, as the "agent racial group," a term for which a definition would have been useful. The general definition for racism:


The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites).


This is supposed to be helpful?

Well, I guess to be particular, even a white person could only be racist in relation to a person who has relatively less social power than s/he does. So I guess racial animus isn't a problem as long as you're poor? What a weird and radicalized perspective to endorse.
5.17.2006 8:30pm
BarryG:
What is Future Time Orientation?

Here is an article found on google by a Professor Josef A. Mestenhauser in Minneapolis called "Traveling the Unpaved Road to Democracy from Communism". (http://education.umn.edu/EdPA/CIDE/TRAV.html). He describes it as a criticism of educational philosophy in the 1950s, that "man is improvable".

Generally, if you look it up on google it is an expression used by Communists who discuss education. Apparently, the expression "future time orientation" is used disparagingly to criticize the capitalist/Judeo-Christian idea of achievement and personal growth. In other words, by teaching children to think about the future and make responsible life choices you are a racist. Pretty much the standard leftist line.
5.17.2006 8:33pm
Steve:
In other words, by teaching children to think about the future and make responsible life choices you are a racist. Pretty much the standard leftist line.

More proof that the comments policy has pretty much lost its meaning.
5.17.2006 8:41pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Here is another internet definition (below). I fail to see why this sort of thinking is racist.


Future Time Orientation for career is a personality characteristic defined as the "general capacity to anticipate, shed light on and structure the future of one's career. (Gjesme, 1983)" Those who score high in the construct are likely to spend more time thinking about their future career and engaging in career development activities for the benefit of their future career than those who score low in the construct.

The construct being measured is an important assessment tool for the workplace, specifically for hiring practices. By measuring potential employees' FTO for career, human resource personnel and managers can recognize candidates who have the personality to succeed in a work position. A candidate with a personality that is conscientious and proactive is likely to succeed

5.17.2006 8:51pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
SLS 1L,

Racist mockery is racist; I don't think that having a uniform language is. Of course, if the reason for implimenting a uniform language is simply to discriminate against racial minorities, then that's racist too. But again, the simple desire for a uniform language can't be defined as racist. It's dishonest to make this kind of radical argument in the form of a "definition."

As an aside, there just seem to be so many disconnects here. If a private company defining white panty-hose as "nude" qualifies as racism, this simply can't be because other groups are politically less powerful. You can't rationally limit "racism" to actions by the politically most powerful group and then also have it include petty slights like the naming of panty hose. If we're talking about political oppression, then we're talking about political oppression; we're not talking about any sort of lack of political correctness. In fact, then we're not even talking about open race-based animus on the part of individuals or private companies. Indeed, I'd say this is a major reason why hinging the definition of "racism" on political power as opposed to actual racial hostility is so wrong.
5.17.2006 8:51pm
drank:
That's a pretty amazing definition. If a student announces that she "plans to graduate at the top of her class, and to go to medical school", seemingly she is guilty of two counts of being a cultural racist.

As a Seattle resident, it's always great to see inspiring examples of my tax dollars hard at work!
5.17.2006 9:02pm
Bob Smith (mail):
If "defining one form of English as standard" is racist, then what's the point of having an educational system? To not acknowledge that not speaking English well, in a standardized manner, is to be relegated to an economic ghetto, does a huge disservice to our children. Then again, I'm not sure that the authors of this standard actually care about the consequences of their policies. The more they fail, the more money they can demand from the taxpayers.

I think there's also a component of institutional featherbedding here. If all dialects of English are valid, then no teacher can be held to account for the failure of their students to learn standard English, since it would be racist to force them to learn it.
5.17.2006 9:05pm
TKCP (mail):
My hastily unpacked understanding of FTO is that it refers to an individual's
(1) expecting personal survival into a future
(2) that it makes sense to plan for
(3) in a manner that strikes others (frequently rehabilitative care staff or educators) as productive and rational
and further assumes that
(4) this quality is measurable, at least in comparison to others in some group (peer group?).

I imagine the practical difficulties in ensuring this does not take on racist tones arrive with (3) and (4). Varying cultural expectations will result in how living for the moment and setting up future goals are balanced.

What happens in a predominately white, middle-class, classroom where parents and role models have generally earned at least master's degrees and where, say, a young black male from a lower-class, single-parent household in the same community plans on leaving at 16 to take his G.E.D.? What assumptions can you picture being made about his choice by teachers, parents, classmates? How would this change if the young man in question were white? This is an example of what I think a conflict involving FTO and potential racism might look like.
5.17.2006 9:06pm
guest:
Steve asked:

How do countries with more formal dialect systems handle this? [...] What about a country like China or India with countless dialects?


India has a simple solution to this problem: English. National schools are run in English and no one gets to use their own local language/dialect.
5.17.2006 9:13pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Mightn't any government program that treats people of color differently from others be considered racism under this standard?

Well if there is going to be one form of English, shouldn't that be colour?
5.17.2006 9:14pm
Steve:
India has a simple solution to this problem: English.

Good answer, and I guess I should have thought of that. But I still wonder about China!
5.17.2006 9:15pm
NDO (mail):
Perhaps by "future time orientation" the author intends the idea satirized by "you'll get pie in the sky by and by, by and by"?--i.e., that people should wait for a future reward rather than striving to better their condition now?

This is, of course, functionally exactly opposite to your given definition, Drill Sergeant, but it is at least the sort of thing one might actually want to avoid.

The individualism=White correlation is bizarre; surely the authors are aware that modern collectivist thought is largely the product of white thinkers? (Marx, anyone?)
5.17.2006 9:16pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
I worked for the U.S. Army in Wuerzburg, Germany. They hired students from the local English translation school to teach basic German to the soldiers. It was a good deal for the students because they got exposure to real English speakers. However, our instructor told a story of how some of his teachers were rather displeased with all the Americanisms he learned because he was supposed to be learning "English" English, not "American" English. So I am not so sure what you mean by "standard" English. If I say "I want a fag and a rubber" in the U.S. and in England it means two entirely different things.
5.17.2006 9:21pm
Tom952 (mail):
How about the preference for white women by wealthy black men (P Diddy, Prince, Tiger Woods...). Are they racists, or are they validating racists?
5.17.2006 9:28pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
The Indian comparison is intriguing.

On the one hand we seem to have Seattle attempting to lower the bar and declare that attempting to teach "standard English" (really Standard American of course in this context) is racist.

In reality, the marketplace determines value as any economist who isn't a Marxist would tell you. Wanting to legislate an alternative value doesn't make it so.

Blacks and Whites (poor whites) in this context, though of course it applies to all) who can speak "standard English" have a much great chance of breaking out of poverty and succeeding in the broader world. Hence;

- The relative success of even first generation black immigrants from the British Caribbean colonies who come empowered with the Queen's English and an FTO orientation.

- And of course a whole sub-Continent (Indian) who recognize that success is more likely with a good education and the ability to sound like you grew up in the mid-west.
5.17.2006 9:29pm
Broncos:
Freder:
It is an interesting point, but how much application does it have in this context?

An example of a real-world problem: Many kids today (including, if not predominantly, those who are white and upper class) primarily engage in reading and writing via aim and texting. Sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling habits are formed in this environment, and kids bring them to school. Should the fact that "rubber" may have more than one meaning prevent a teacher from instructing children according to a standard model?
5.17.2006 9:30pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Ah Freder,

I remember those Franken wines with great pleasure. In Kitzigen, I once had a trockenberenauslese that was like liquid gold. :) 1971 was the vintage as I recall.
5.17.2006 9:34pm
R. Gould-Saltman (mail):
Sez Barry G.:

"Generally, if you look it up on google it is an expression used by Communists who discuss education. Apparently, the expression "future time orientation" is used disparagingly to criticize the capitalist/Judeo-Christian idea of achievement and personal growth. In other words, by teaching children to think about the future and make responsible life choices you are a racist. Pretty much the standard leftist line."

Hmm, not only Red-baiting, but pretty transparently lousy Red-baiting.

First, the Google-search of the expression
"future time orientation", as I expected, yields many hits, and other than references (many quite quizzical. as in "Wotthehell?") to the same Seattle schools policy statement, NONE of the first thirty or forty seem to involve references to any works by any notable communists on education policy. So the claim about the "general" use of the term is apparently false.

Next, I've skimmed Prof. Mestenhauser's piece, (it's written in an educational sociology jargon which I find painful going REGARDLESS Of the idealogical bent of the author, in this instance, clearly NOT Marxist in any sense)t) and I don't THINK even HE'S using the term in the way, or making the claim that Barry G. makes about the significance of the term.

Mestenhauser adopted the term from Clyde Kluckhohn, again, not noted mostly as a Marxist educational theorist (though I once heard a joke to the effect that "The average Dine/Navaho household consists of the nuclear family of five, extended family of four, and Dr. Kluckhohn". Anthropologist jokes. Go figure...))

So, without anyone calling anyone elseany more names, anyone, IBNLT Barry G. want to offer SOME explanation or citation in support of the name-calling?


BTW, without reference to its idelogical slant, the Seattle pice, I'll freely admit, it pretty much hooogly as well...



rfgs
5.17.2006 9:35pm
Wintermute (mail) (www):
I don't even buy the vague and expansive "social power" definition above. I restrict racism to a state of inferior legal rights suffered by a racial group. Anyone proposing such inferior legal rights can be called racist. But much of what is called racist is merely racial, and at least some of that should remain beyond the reach of the law: for example, racial preferences in one's friends and lovers. Usually when I hear lefties calling someone a racist bigot, it is such an excessive and facile description as to signal damaged minds and rhetorical styles that stultify helpful public discourse and drive people to the right.
5.17.2006 9:48pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
In Kitzigen, I once had a trockenberenauslese that was like liquid gold. :) 1971 was the vintage as I recall.

My favorite was the neuwein season (basically, the Germans couldn't wait and just tapped the wines a few weeks into the fermentation process in October, early Novemeber and sold the wine in 4 litre plastic jugs and had festivals in the local villages). Watch out though--it would give you a hell of a hangover.
5.17.2006 9:53pm
BGates (mail) (www):
Freder, you must be some sort of linguistic savant. You are not sure what 'standard' English means within the context of an American public school, yet every post of yours I've ever read has been in flawless American English.
5.17.2006 9:55pm
sbw (mail) (www):
Heh! "DELIVERING ON THE DREAM" it says in all caps. A claim sans proof.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
5.17.2006 10:11pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Freder: Great line about fags and rubbers. BGates: Great line about Freder.

As to standard English, here's my sense: One of the greatest disservies that parents and schools can do to blacks and Hispanics is not to teach them that there's a "standard English" (in America, standard American English, in Britain, standard British), and that they'd better learn it and use it if they want to get ahead. In a perfect world, that might not be so. In today's world, speaking black English, Spanglish, southern English, Brooklyn English, and the like is going to leave one at a huge disadvantage -- and the disadvantage would be greater still if one's looks already lead many people to undervalue you.
5.17.2006 10:13pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Freder, you must be some sort of linguistic savant. You are not sure what 'standard' English means within the context of an American public school, yet every post of yours I've ever read has been in flawless American English.

Well, if "standard" English consists of never starting a sentence with "and" or "but" or never ending a sentence with a preposition, I want none of it.
5.17.2006 10:14pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Strangely, I never heard of Neuwein in Northern Franconia (aka Schweinfurt etal). I was exposed to it a bit later (81) in Vienna, or more precisely Grinzing. A village outside the city. The local Gasthauses are called Heuriger and specialize in Neuwein.

Lots of fun, but terrible hangovers.

When were you there?

As an aside, my most vivid memory was a a beer fest up near Bad Kissingen in 1978. standard bench tables, omp-pa-pa band, beer, beer maids, roast chicken and wurst. I was there with my wife, the Colonel's wife and a couple of other folks. In the middle of a set of music, the band played the Horst Wessel and folks started singing along. You have to figure that a 20 year old WWII vet was now 53 and in prime beer hall singing mode. Anyway, the 3 of us Ami, felt like the Jews at the back of the hall in Cabaret. We left quietly shortly after. A strange and memorable night.
5.17.2006 10:17pm
sbw (mail) (www):
If the key to equality is reciprocity, since "The network of institutional structures, policies, and practices that create advantages and benefits for Whites, and discrimination, oppression, and disadvantages for people from targeted racial groups." conveys advantages to those who are not white, this policy must be rejected as racist!
5.17.2006 10:20pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Eugene,

Southern English does have one niche market. It's the preferred language for calling cadence and providing "direct corrective counseling" (read ass-chewing) by the entire Army regardless of your birth state.


Trust me on this, my nick name says it all. I was born in Northern California, but when I was a Drill Sergeant, my professional vocal voice had more than a bit of drawl to it
5.17.2006 10:24pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
In today's world, speaking black English, Spanglish, southern English, Brooklyn English, and the like is going to leave one at a huge disadvantage -- and the disadvantage would be greater still if one's looks already lead many people to undervalue you.

Writing "Standard" American English and Speaking it are two entirely different things. What is spoken standard English? Liguists agree that the accent of coastal Georgia and the Carolinas is probably closest to the "Standard" English as it was spoken in early 18th Century Southern England so is probably more "English" than English. Likewise, the "Cajun" accents of coastal Louisiana are closer to the French accents of the 17th Century than anyone alive in France today.
5.17.2006 10:25pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Wintermute,

>Usually when I hear lefties calling someone a racist bigot, it is such an excessive and facile description as to signal damaged minds and rhetorical styles that stultify helpful public discourse and drive people to the right.<

As a lefty, I tend to agree, and I find it pretty frustrating. As much as I've tried, I just can't find any support for the idea that what America really needs, or particularly what liberals really need, is to raise the level of anger and distrust amongst minorities that we're just a country full of white closet racists. Which is exactly what this kind of policy tries to do. I think it's extremely counter-productive and damaging.

At the same time, I think this type of rhetoric is really only supported by a very small percentage of the population or even lefties. The major problem the rest of us face is that it's just really hard to counter it without things becoming even more divisive. This is exactly why this method of redefining "racism" is so effective and pernicious, because it forces others to then become "racism apologists," which people tend not to want to even sound like.

I think the real disagreement among liberals and conservatives isn't between those who support this kind of rhetoric and those who don't; it's simply a matter of whether the rhetoric should be publicized and chastized. Liberals, I think, tend to believe that we're worse of making a big deal out of it, even if they disagree with the actual sentiment.

Still, I'm with the moderate conservatives on this one; I think something has to be said. As you said, when liberals don't distance themselves from these kinds of radical accusations, I think it drives moderates to the right.
5.17.2006 10:26pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Wintermute,

Nicely put, as long as you'll concede the same about some of the other labeling equivalents such as "sexist"
5.17.2006 10:30pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
whoops, I meant Marcus1
5.17.2006 10:31pm
Shangui (mail):
How do countries with more formal dialect systems handle this? If I'm a Basque student at the University of Madrid, am I expected to write my papers in standard Spanish, or can I write them in Basque? What about a country like China or India with countless dialects?

In both the PRC and Taiwan, Mandarin is the only dialect allowed in schools. In the PRC, at least until recently, it was also the only dialect allowed on TV and on the radio. I'm not sure if that is still the case. There was some Taiwanese dialect media in Taiwan under the KMT's martial law and there has been an explosion of it since martial law was lifted in the late 80s. Taiwanese is being used much more widely now on Taiwan than it was 20 or even 10 years ago. There has even been talk of making it the main dialect in schools, though this is very unlikely. On the mainland, many of the special characters used by the larger dialects, such as Cantonese, have fallen out of use because they were essentially not allowed to be printed. While the CCP obviously can't deny the existence of other spoken dialects, they have tried to pretend that the languages are written the same way. This is true only in a limited sense. I should also note that I use the term "dialect" with some hesitation. Cantonese and Mandarin are totally mutually unincomprehensible. They are far more distant phonetically than Italian and Spanish or even Italian and French. Anyway, it's a confusing situation that is increasingly in flux.
5.17.2006 10:37pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Strangely, I never heard of Neuwein in Northern Franconia (aka Schweinfurt etal).

I was there much later than you ('95--'97), although you may have run into my wife (way--21 years--before I met her) and her ex-husband. Her first assignment, in 1979, as a PFC (she's a MAJ now) was to Schweinfurt, she was a medical clerk at the time. Her soon-to-be husband was either a 1LT or 2LT in the armor (either 1 or 2-64 I think).
5.17.2006 10:38pm
Steve:
Thanks, Shangui. That's very informative.
5.17.2006 10:39pm
Shangui (mail):
In other words, by teaching children to think about the future and make responsible life choices you are a racist. Pretty much the standard leftist line.

The Seattle Public School definitions of racism are clearly absurd. But so is the notion that "by teaching children to think about the future and make responsible life choices you are a racist" is standard leftist line. Name a single national-level left-leaning politician who has said anythinhg even remotely like this. And no, simply defending social programs doesn't count. Can you name one?
5.17.2006 10:43pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
And some here a few months back or so contended with a straight face "What liberal/Socialist/Commie bias in academia ?"

The quote is interesting only for being so unbelievably ridiculous on its face.

Says the "Dog"
5.17.2006 10:43pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
What was his name?

It was 2-64 and 3-64 Armor, Conn Barracks. I was in both but left in 78
5.17.2006 10:44pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Eugene,

There's another interesting section of that Seattle www page.

Culture
The way of life of a group of people including the shared values, beliefs, behaviors, family roles, social relationships, verbal and nonverbal communication styles, orientation to authority, as well as preferences and expressions (art, music, food). “What everybody knows that everybody else knows.”

Acculturation
A dynamic process that occurs when members of one culture (culture of origin) come into contact with another culture (host/dominant culture) over a long period of time. The process involves exposure to, reaction to, and possible adoptions of aspects of the other groups culture. Adapting to the characteristics of the larger or dominant culture, while retaining some of one’s unique cultural traits.

Assimilation
The process of giving up connections to and aspects of one’s culture of origin and blending in with the host/dominant culture. Also, the wholesale adoption of the dominant culture at the expense of the original culture.




Me thinks from the tone, that they aren't enthusiastic supporters of Assimilation? Or am I over sensitive?
5.17.2006 10:47pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
What was his name?

Bill Hawkins
5.17.2006 10:47pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
And it was 2-64 because I inspected them in '96 and they were one sorry unit.
5.17.2006 10:49pm
SLS 1L:
Professor Volokh: I don't think that's not what's being criticized by the statement. What's being criticized is the notion that one form of English is "standard," (not true) as opposed to "the kind of English used by upper-class people in high-register contexts." The problem is that people will often act as though (and even assert), the so-called "standard" English is in some way inherently superior to other dialects (as with speaking AAVE, or even a Southern accent, being treated as evidence of stupidity).

Teaching kids that there's a form of English that it's useful and important to be able to use is very, very different from teaching that there's one form of English that's correct English, and all other forms are wrong.
5.17.2006 10:52pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
BarryG said:


In other words, by teaching children to think about the future and make responsible life choices you are a racist. Pretty much the standard leftist line.


Ohh give me a break. You know many people believe in many liberal causes simply because they want to maximize human happiness and minimize suffering. Given that many people are not always going to be responsible even though it would be better if they were it is perfectly reasonable to believe things like safety nets, public services and other programs to help people who aren't John Galt.

I mean look at how decent people treat their children who run into problems. A decent person will try to raise their children to be decent responsible people but if their adult child loses their job, has a mental breakdown or even runs into problems with drugs they will still step in and help them out. You shouldn't be a sucker and keep feeding your kids drug habit and you want to encourage them to be self-supporting but this doesn't mean offering them a safety net is a bad idea.

Clearly if it turned out that massive social programs and government benefits increased societal happiness then these would be the right programs. This clearly isn't absurd on a priori grounds and while some programs are clearly a bad idea (and some things done privately like police forces are a bad idea) many of these questions rest on complex economic and psychological problems that reasonable people can disagree on.

Sure there are plenty of ridiculous liberal wackos. I live in berkeley, I should know. There are also plenty of conservative wackos (e.g., moralistic crusaders who would take away your rights to free speech and people who want homosexuality to be a crime). However, it is getting kinda annoying the way so many people on this blog talk as if no one could be a reasonable sane person and also a liberal.
5.17.2006 10:55pm
SLS 1L:
correction: I don't think that's what is being criticized, not what's not being criticized.

To put my point another way: you are treating a criticism of an actual social practice (teaching kids that one form of English is "correct," "standard" English, and all other forms are wrong and their use is evidence of stupidity) as a criticism of the most sympathetic intellectual proposition that practice might arguably be said to embody (that it's useful to know "standard" English to get along in American society, and kids should be taught that).
5.17.2006 10:56pm
frankcross (mail):
SLS, it looks like it says it's racist to teach one form of English as "standard."
You write here that hat "it's useful to know 'standard' English to get along in American society, and kids should be taught that"
Under the language, it appears they would call you racist
5.17.2006 11:08pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
As y'all probably know, I am a raving liberal. Yet for most of my adult life I have lived in the south, or within spittn' distance of it (when I lived in the People's Republic of Alexandria, I was dead serious when I said I knew exactly where the south began: about 3/4 of a mile from my house). But yet I use phrases like "fixn' to", "right near", and words like "y'all" and "ain't". I also grew up in Chicago, so I also ask people if they want to "go with" and sometimes refer to "de Bulls" and "de Bears". My parents are also English, which causes all kinds of additional complications. Now do these non-standard usages make me ignorant or stupid? I don't think so. They are regionalisms that are part of the rich heritage of the English language that it would be a pity to lose.
5.17.2006 11:09pm
Seamus (mail):

Teaching kids that there's a form of English that it's useful and important to be able to use is very, very different from teaching that there's one form of English that's correct English, and all other forms are wrong.



The Seattle statement didn't say you had to define one form of English as "correct" and the others as "wrong" to be a racist; it said you could be guilty of "cultural racism" simply by saying that one form was "standard," which is pretty much what "[t]eaching kids that there's a form of English that it's useful and important to be able to use" amounts to.
5.17.2006 11:12pm
Peter Wimsey:
SLS 1L - I understand your point, but I think it's really just about semantics. While I certainly don't think that anyone should be denigrated for speaking a different dialect of English, a school would be, IMO, completely irresponsible to not teach "standard American English" (or "school English" or "mainstream English" or whatever name you want to give it.) Particularly in a situation where the non-standard dialect has different grammatical forms than standard English.

I taught in a high school (Gymnasium) in Germany for a while. Even though the local dialect was Swabian, which was what most people spoke outside of school, school instruction was in high german...and parents would become upset if the teachers didn't speak high german in class.

I think that this is a completely reasonable approach - no one is denigrated for speaking Swabian (and all of the teachers spoke it as well), but it was recognized and generally accepted that people needed to be able to speak high german to be able to communicate with people from other regions. I think that the same attitude should prevail in US schools.
5.17.2006 11:14pm
Jared K.:

And some here a few months back or so contended with a straight face "What liberal/Socialist/Commie bias in academia ?"

Right. Because a policy of the Seattle Public School system is representative of all academia.
5.17.2006 11:20pm
SLS 1L:
Peter - my point is not about semantics, it's about pragmatics. The complaint that the labeling of high-register upper-class English as "standard," and the various social practices that surround that, such as labeling other uses "wrong" instead of "different," or telling kids that it's never acceptable to speak in their home dialect in class even when it's not necessary for any instructional purpose, sends the perverse and intellectually indefensible message that people who speak differently are bad or inferior. The point is that both the semantics and the surrounding social practices need to be changed.
5.17.2006 11:24pm
Bleepless (mail):
Freder
I once spent six weeks in Dallas and came out saying "y'all." It can be a second-person plural, which ordinary English lacks. The possessive is "y'all's."
5.17.2006 11:25pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
"Now do these non-standard usages make me ignorant or stupid?"

Well . . .

OK, no. But it would be ignorant or stupid to pretend like you didn't know what standard American English was or that it shouldn't be taught in school.
5.17.2006 11:27pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
Or was it just a shot in the dark that you managed to label as 'non-standard usages' what are, in fact, non-standard usages?
5.17.2006 11:29pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
In sane parts of the world, y'all is the second person plural. But in Texas, its the second person singular, and all y'all is the plural. Go figger.
5.17.2006 11:30pm
Raw_Data (mail):
"Name a single national-level left-leaning politician who has said anythinhg even remotely like this."

Name a single national-level left-leaning politician.
5.17.2006 11:32pm
Raw_Data (mail):
Btw, while the Seattle school system is held in generally low regard by most Seattle residents, the system does indeed reflect fairly accurately the mentality of most Seattle residents.
5.17.2006 11:35pm
Broncos:

Now do these non-standard usages make me ignorant or stupid? I don't think so. They are regionalisms that are part of the rich heritage of the English language that it would be a pity to lose.

I see the point, but I think it is a little blunt.

Personally, the way that I speak in my office with colleagues has very little to do with the way I speak on my couch with friends. I haven't irrevocably relinquished my local mannerisms by learning how to speak to my employer and to clients.

However, I will say that my mother is an immigrant (I won't say from where), and I can't speak her native language. It isn't from her lack of effort (she taught all of my siblings), but my own. I grew up in an area where everyone spoke english, and as a boy I had very little interest in taking time to learn another language.

So, from my own experience, I think that if 2nd and 3rd generations lose the ability to speak in their (grand)parent's tongue, it isn't because a classroom forced them to learn "standard" english; but because they didn't need the mother tongue to flirt with girls or play basketball. If I had to use my mother's native language in order to be social, I would have learned it quickly; regardless of what English my teacher taught me was correct. It's overall neighborhood-level social assimilation that primarily matters, not english curriculum.
5.17.2006 11:40pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Bleepless,

From my Army days I'm a firm user of y'all. It certainly beats the northern second person plural.

youse guys
5.17.2006 11:49pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
I was taught the proper plural of "y'all", is "all y'all".
5.17.2006 11:50pm
Thief (mail) (www):
1) An example from my brief experience with Arabic: I don't think anyone would credit the Arab world for many modern scientific, cultural or business advances, but even they don't fall for this steaming pile of nonsense.

There is a wide variety of accents and dialects in the Arab world, both by country and region. (It's hard for an untrained ear to pick them up, but it just takes experience.) However, despite all the various accents, there is still one standardized form of Arabic, called Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). MSA is what you hear on the TV news, on the radio, in business transactions, in formal education settings, among Arabs from different countries conversing with each other, and most importantly, when reciting from the Qu'ran (MSA is a modernized version of the classical Arabic used in the Qu'ran, which is quite important since they believe that the Qu'ran is the verbatim word of God himself!). In fact, my Arabic teacher, an Algerian, told us that every Arab knows both MSA and their local dialect (in his case, Maghrib Arabic, used in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.)

2) Like it or not, modern life imposes its own needs on everyone, quite apart from what closet Marxist ed-school scribblers would like to see. Having one recognized "standard" dialect in a language is a useful, perhaps even necessary concession to the fact that people are more mobile than ever before, and that people who can speak that form in addition to their native dialect enjoy a comparative advantage. The goal of education needs to be to prepare the student to be successful, not validate some pet social theory or philosophy. That's real pragmatism.
5.17.2006 11:54pm
Bob Smith (mail):

Well, if "standard" English consists of never starting a sentence with "and" or "but" or never ending a sentence with a preposition, I want none of it.

The "rule" about never ending sentences with a preposition was promulgated by linguistic elitists who thought Latin was a superior language and attempted to paste its rules onto English. As so many have found, it's non-sensical when applied to English and many schools no longer teach it (sadly, not until long after I had to suffer through it).
5.17.2006 11:59pm
abb3w:
The objection on defining "skin tone", I can see. My yet-another-modest-proposal is to address this by more multi-ethnic porn in schools. =)

As a computer geek who has read most of the RFC's that underlie the internet, I'm afraid I believe the social benefit of "defining one form of English as standard" outweighs the social costs. I've an immigrant aunt who is adamant that immigrants should learn English ("because I had to, dammit!"), and insisted her kids learn to speak PROPER English (no mean trick in Staten Island; they've noticably less local accent than the rest of my cousins there). Admittedly, this shouldn't take the form of absolutely prohibiting colloquialisms such as "ain't", "y'all", and the use of "they" for the gender ambigious singular; language still evolves. (Yeah, those are white southern examples, but I've only lived in rural NY and suburban VA, so I'm not fluent enough to give examples from Jive or Ebonics.) However, use of colloquialisms should be discouraged in more formal contexts.

Identifying only whites as great writers and composers I can only half see. Music education in my school days wasn't spectacular then, and it's reportedly getting worse according to my sister (who knows from raising rug rats). By all means, encourage diversity... but not at the price of quality-- there needs to be enough focus to learn something well. If they have specific suggestions for works that should be included in the curriculum, by all means make them. If they can't be specific, they should be ignored.

"Emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology" worries me. Borg jokes aside, one of Star Trek's better attempts to reconsider our own culture is their exploration of "needs of the many" versus "needs of the few". Either in extremis is destructive to a society, and it's worth constantly discussing where the balance should lie. However, pushing one or the other in particular seems dangerous; perhaps this is one case where "teaching the controversy" makes sense.

As for "having a future time orientation"... I'm going to wax offensive. Evolution is a fact; so is the Economic law of Supply and Demand. Some cultures will prosper, some won't, depending in part on the traits they pass to the members... and the members will prosper depending on how well they adapt to the environment. I believe that planning for the future is essential for a society to avoid stagnation and collapse, and that the current lack of such in this country has been the single biggest problem in the United States over my entire lifetime. I back that, by regarding the four years of my life I spent deliberately NOT planning for it (as an adaptive technique to deal with long-term depression) as one of the biggest disasters of my life. (Admittedly, it beat suicide; is that the best objective they're hoping for???) If you want to de-emphasize "future time orientation", you —ing well need to convince me that the alternative will have substantial long-term benefit. If you reject FTE so completely that you don't accept long-term benefit as a valid basis for judgement, go overdose on cocaine — it's great in the short term.
5.18.2006 12:03am
DK:
Um, aren't all of y'all who defend regional idiosyncracy and non-standard English "emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology"?

Really, the point of the linked text is to define everyone as racist. The rest is just window dressing.
5.18.2006 12:03am
The Drill SGT (mail):

Really, the point of the linked text is to define everyone as racist.

everyone? or every white male? That's the subtext I get.
5.18.2006 12:13am
Broncos:

The complaint that the labeling of high-register upper-class English as "standard," and the various social practices that surround that, such as labeling other uses "wrong" instead of "different," or telling kids that it's never acceptable to speak in their home dialect in class even when it's not necessary for any instructional purpose, sends the perverse and intellectually indefensible message that people who speak differently are bad or inferior. The point is that both the semantics and the surrounding social practices need to be changed.


Practices that need to be changed are those that debilitate an individual. Correcting an "incorrect" usage of english is only debilitating if either (a) the "incorrect" english is more useful than "correct" english; or (b) the teacher sends a message that the student's inherent stupidity is revealed by their language, and they are incapable of learning "correct" english. Some teachers are guilty of (b); but the mere fact that a teacher requires a child to speak in "correct" english doesn't mean that they are. The overwhelming majority of teachers believe in their student's capacity to learn, that's why they teach.


Moreover - If we believe that "non-standard" english is just as good as "standard" english, shouldn't it be affirmatively encouraged?

For example, our President's speaking abilities are widely commented on. Some say that being "plain-spoken" conveys sincerity, and is a political asset. But even among people that I've heard argue this, I've never heard the argument that he should display a *worse* command of the English language. Apparently for the presidential role, his command of english is sufficiently poor. No more, no less.

Is it elitist to correct his mistakes? Since he's an elite, should only elites be able to correct him? Or, do we have a right to expect a certain comfort with English from him, given the role that he plays?

If we are to prepare every child to be President, we should teach them to speak like it.
5.18.2006 12:13am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
SLS 1L,

Your position is very nice and gracious, but 1. I think it's still well short of what the policy says, and 2. Even so, I think it's totally unrealistic.

The policy says that it's racist to define one form of English as "standard." Do you really agree? I don't think you do. Standard doesn't mean superior. It just means standard, and the fact is that we do have a standard English language which people benefit a great deal from using.

As far as not wanting to send the message that non-standard uses of English are in any way inferior, I simply don't think that can be a priority in school. Teachers should be able to disparage use of the word "ain't" without fearing that they'll offend someone. Of course, a teacher shouldn't disparage the dialect of a certain group of people just to disparage that group, and there has to be some finesse there, but the idea that a teacher has to treat all uses of English as equally valid strikes me as a recipe for student failure.

School is school. If a teacher hears two students talking together in non-standard English, the teacher shouldn't be afraid to comment on it. They shouldn't be racist about it, by targeting specific racial groups, but they should target the use of non-standard English. This idea that actively promoting one kind of English is "indirectly racist" is, I think, an absolutely terrible idea. As the policy here seems to indicate pretty clearly, it is based in this idea that we can't really say anything is better than anything else without being racist toward the people who happen to do the less desirable thing. That doesn't work! Calling this kind of thing -- the standardization of a language -- inherently racist, is simply to entrench the race problems that we're trying to fix.

Now, if you're just talking outside of school, that people should respect those who happen to have a different dialect, I think that's great. In school, though, I think it's totally counter-productive to say that teachers have to respect all forms of English. It seems you have to recognize that at some point, that kind of respect becomes the erasure of all standards, and does become a drag on improvement. Doesn't it? Which I think is what BarryG was talking about.
5.18.2006 12:26am
Harry Eagar (mail):
The only well-known American who speaks standard English is Bill Clinton.

Millions of Americans (and non-Americans) routinely write standard English, which is how we can make ourselves understood even though if we were speaking our mother dialects some of us would have a pretty hard time making ourselves understood.

The concept -- evidently unknown to the Seattle educators -- but mentioned somewhere upthread is 'register.' Unless you are Bill Clinton, people normally adapt their registers to the person/persons they are addressing. Lawyers might not address judges the same way they talk to the guy who mows their lawns, but switching registers is not necessarily racist.
5.18.2006 12:43am
The Drill SGT (mail):
Harry,

There's another interesting phenomena. A large number of folks can recognize standard English when they hear it, and in turn think that they speak it, even when they are actually speaking something a bit less perfect than the standard.

I think it has to do with the conscious brain understanding what is standard, but when speaking, we do so (as many folks have commented: without engaging our brains) automatically using deep unconscious language skills.
5.18.2006 12:50am
JB:
Thief: Not every Arab knows MSA (or al-fusha as they call it). That's the problem, and one of the reasons why so many Arabs are poor and uneducated. MSA is in a similar position to Latin, with the various dialects being the romance languages. So you have a lot of people speaking the equivalent of French, who can't advance far in education without learning Latin.

It's a terrible system.
5.18.2006 1:21am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Name a single national-level left-leaning politician

Please do. In fact, name several. (They do exist, right?) And, tell us what label we can use for other prominent Dems. Use as many categories as you'd like.

In many of these arguments, a politician gets named and then the response is "not left-leaning" or "not national-level". It would be nice to avoid that by getting an approved list in advance.
5.18.2006 1:27am
Doc (mail):
Just to add some more about China, studying English is also mandatory, from an early age through grad school. In Shenzhen (where I teach 'oral English'), it is taught in primary school, kindergarten, and in some pre-schools. English coursework continues through the doctoral level, with the English tests a major component of advancement, and the quality of school a student can attend. Teaching for these tests emphasizes written English, and until recently, it was possible for a Chinese student to get to college without ever hearing English spoken.

As for dialects, Mandarin is taught in school, but students might speak another dialect at home. In the South, this is usually Cantonese. Shenzhen has its own wierd combination of (mostly) Mandarin, Cantonese, and Hakka, because it has a population drawn from all over China.

The written language is what makes all of these dialects "Chinese" - the words sound different, but they are (generally) written the same (except that the PRC simplified a bunch of characters, so there are now two writing systems). This means that TV shows are subtitled, so non-Mandarin speakers can follow the dialogue. Most DVDs have two "Chinese" subtitle options - simplified, for the PRC, and traditional, for Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc.
5.18.2006 1:59am
pallen:
'Standard' English in my book is a set of conventions that discourage needless ambiguity. Non-standard English requires you to be a substantially more contextual reader--e.g., to determine whether a double negative should be taken as a positive or a negative.

I don't think 'standard' english is as much involved with rules such as beginning sentences with conjunctions, and I think most people recognize this.

Thus, you usually shouldn't start a sentence with a conjunction but you should never write a double negative to mean the negative.
5.18.2006 2:56am
hey (mail):
China... big, big fights, as is to be expected with 1 Billion people governed by totalitarian communists (am I red baiting? offending the liberals/leftists on the blog?).

India: very good solution, much better than the way that England deals with it.

People need to get over their class orientation and work the system. So what if your version of English isn't "high class", pull your head out of your posterior and adopt whatever works, in this clase the highest communicative class register you can use. Don't use aristocratic registers designed to exclude (Aristocratic English, Boston Brahmin American), instead go for TV English or American as they are communicative and broadly understood (thanks to the media).

To the people complaining abotu the shot at the leftists: do you not see how this follows the trend of Left demanded Speech Codes, the precepts of critical studies theory, and the broad agenda of Left identified groups and movements that demand mutually supportive adoptions of certain tenets. Finding ever more things that are "racist", "sexist", or "oppressive" is a project of millions of people associated with Animal Rights, Feminism, Environmentalism, Ethnic identity movements (ex White Identity KKKlukkers)... They use Marxian analysis to pursue their goals of changing/ending society. A good example of national Leftist politicans following these tactics would be Cynthia McKinney, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton.
5.18.2006 3:00am
walt61:
The words of Bill Cosby:

"They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' ... And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. ... Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. ... You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!"
5.18.2006 5:09am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I don't see Seattle's position as dealing directly with language or any other issue the statement raised.

Instead, it provides the ammunition to describe anybody at any time of racism for anything a 'crat may find inconvenient.

Since racism is a Very Bad Thing, the accused will be required to cease and desist under threat of process, due or not. Fired, smeared, reproached.

This is not a discussion of the place of language in society, or planning horizons, or anything else. It's a toolbox for behavioral manipulation.

The solution is to remember that, just as (you, sing. and I, and everybody else) KNOW that accusations of racism are manipulative scams, so does everybody else. So when threatened with an accusation, remember the accuser doesn't believe it any more than you do, nor does anybody who hears it. The emperor is bucknekkid.

This is not to say that a "board" of manipulators may not have actual power which can use the accusation. That's why they got appointed, elected, whatever. To have power. But as a general rule, everybody knows it's a scam.

So. Why would they do this? One commenter remarked of bilingual education (which in practice means monolingual in a language other than English)that its purpose is to provide a large supply of people unqualified for work at any but minimum wages--he blamed the hospitality industry.

Anyway, the statement from the school board requires the raspberry, not learned discussion.
5.18.2006 9:09am
A.C.:
I'd like to get back to the "future time orientation" and individual vs. collective problems. It seems to me that some groups in America might benefit from becoming more future-oriented and more individualistic, but I really hesitate to recommend such a course to everyone.

I recently finished a professional degree. While I was in school, I found myself among a group of people from a different ethnic group and higher social class than mine. They were the best examples of future time orientation and extreme individualism that I have ever encountered. And they were bonkers! Just being around them was painful.

There are good alternatives (or perhaps counterweights) to a future time orientation, in my opinion. There's a sense of history, for example, and the ability to be in the moment and focus on what's in front of you. Some cultures develop these traits more than upper middle class Americans do these days, and so I question the idea that the upper middle class model is unambiguously best. The same applies to individualism. Sometimes it's good to be part of a team, or to cooperate with other people instead of competing with them. Pure competition all day, every day doesn't seem to be good for people.

Is it racist to demand that everyone follow the cultural patterns of the upper middle class? Not particularly, I would say. Is it a good idea? Definitely not. For one thing, we probably won't play, and the world doesn't need any more of that extreme anyway. Should the people at BOTH extremes move in a bit towards the middle? That's where I say yes.
5.18.2006 9:29am
jallgor (mail):
"You" is both a second person plural and a singluar. I grew up outside new York and have managed all my life to get by without using either "y'all" or "youse guys." I can also attest to the fact that someone who uses "youse guys" in New York would be stereotyped as poorly educated or low class. I don't think the same can be said of y'all in the south but I only went to school there so I don't know for sure.
5.18.2006 10:40am
Ryan (mail):
So, as a white person who enjoys the music of Miles Davis, the literature of Octavia E. Butler and the philosophy of Lin Yutang I am a racist because I am an individualist.

It is my sincere hope that this kind of thinking only ever represents a tiny fraction of the far, far, far left.

Ryan
5.18.2006 11:45am
Houston Lawyer:
On a prior thread, I learned that usage of y'all varies throughout the South. In Texas, it is the second person plural.

Standard English is spoken throughout the country with many different accents. Some of these accents are more pleasant to the ear than others. Personally, I love hearing a woman with a Southern drawl from Georgia.

As Freder noted, each dialect has its own variances from what we all agree is "standard" English, but these variances are often cherished and make our lives richer.

I have personally stopped the hiring of individuals who applied to work at my prior firm, not because I thought they didn't have the brain power to do the job, but because they used the term "axe" instead of "ask" or referred to the "libary". We all need to be taught "standard" English so that we don't have limited employment opportunities in the future.
5.18.2006 11:55am
Gunner (mail) (www):
This whole definition is from the book "Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook". I have emailed one of the three editors and hope to get a reply or comment.

It looks like Seattle simply copied this page from a diversity website
5.18.2006 11:59am
Bisch:
This is my favorite part:

"...and label people of color as ... different"

Doesn't the statement itself label people of color as different to whites?
5.18.2006 12:15pm
Mahlon:
"Future orientation?" Oh, the Seattle Public Schools must be trying to say that it believes (as if an entity can have a belief of its own) that people of color have no future and it is rude to remind them of the fact.

Sorry, I didn't get a chance to read all of the posts (I know it's bad form), but what are these idiots thinking?
5.18.2006 12:19pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
JB's critique of Arabic is right. Modern Standard Arabic is the Latin of the reigon. Its use identifies one as educated because you need an education to reach that standard. Uneducated Arabs from two parts of the same country might very well need an interpreter to understand each other fully because they lack the standard.

MSA is one of the tools used to keep a unified "Arab umma". Without it, the various Arab states would move apart far more quickly. But increasingly, local TV and radio are using dialects (the dominant, "standard" dialect of the country) at the expense of the pan-Arab MSA. Satellite TV, on the other hand, does use MSA, again pulling the fringes toward a center. Tension exists in all languages.

Some dialects--particularly Egyptian--are widely understood throughout the Arab world because of the early jump of the Egyptian film industry. That supremecy, however, is being whittled down as more countries produce films in their own dialects.
5.18.2006 12:19pm
Shangui (mail):
The written language is what makes all of these dialects "Chinese" - the words sound different, but they are (generally) written the same (except that the PRC simplified a bunch of characters, so there are now two writing systems).

But again, this is more the case now than it was historically. The different vernaculars (as opposed to literary Chinese 文言文 or 古代漢語) often had a great number of unique characters, especially Cantonese. They also frequently had fairly diverse grammatical constructions. Both the PRC and the KMT in Taiwan did their best to eliminate the dialect characters because both had/have a strong vested interest in the idea of a single Chinese culture. This notion is falling apart in Taiwan for a number of reasons, many of them political.

It's also worth noting that Mandarin (or really, a standardized form of Beijing dialect) is the oddest and newest dialect in terms of phonology. The heavy influence of Mongolian from the 13th century on has resulted in the lost of consonant endings for many phonological units.
5.18.2006 12:32pm
Rational Actor (mail):
A serious problem with broadening the definition of "racism" is that it begins to dilute the meaning. And, as an aside, isn't "future time orientation" the difference between "school" and "day-care?" Or is sex-ed a way of getting over that "future time orientation" problem?
5.18.2006 12:49pm
charming southerner:
Mr. Volokh,
You'd be surprised how far a little bit of *subtle* southern english will get you. I'm being serious. Throw in a couple "y'all's" or "fixuns" in your next conversation and i guarantee you'll get a smile. Heck, I'm of the opinion that George W Bush won an election solely on the use of the word "folks."
5.18.2006 12:55pm
Mahlon:
Rational Actor - Whenever we change (or expand) the meaning of a word, we make it less precise. In turn, when we so dilute the language, we also impede our ability to think clearly. Most people think in words. If we use these diluted, imprecise "words" in our thinking, that thinking also becomes muddied. The whole process is tremendously destructive. On the whole, Americans misuse the language so much, that we have lost the ability to think clearly. This condition is, in large part, the fault of our public school education system. It is infested with educationists instead of educators.
5.18.2006 12:58pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
A question: Is a lack of sensitivity toward racial social issues appropriately called "racism"?

Personally, my feeling is that "indirect racism" isn't racism at all, it's something entirely different, and the name shouldn't apply. This isn't to say we don't benefit from education and sensitivity in certain regards, but simply that a lack of education or sensitivity can't legitimately be called "racism."

If these liberals said that the Republican party is racially insensitive, I could totally join them. When they say that Republicans are racist, though, it just strikes me as extremely offensive and wrong. I guess these liberals feel that people like me are a small and insignificant audience, but I'm not sure they're right about that.
5.18.2006 1:07pm
James Ellis (mail):
Isn't King's "I have a dream" speech indicative of a Future Time Orientation?
5.18.2006 1:40pm
Mahlon:
Marcus - I don't disagree with you except on a linguistic level. Racial sensitivity is a personal trait, i.e. one embodied only in living, sentient beings. The Republican part is an entity, not a person. Thus it would be better to say that Republicans, generally, could be said to be racially insensitive, although that may be something of an overstatement. I completely agree with you that rascism is quite different from racial insensitivity.

Could you not, however, as easily, and as correctly, say that others (i.e. those not in the Republican party, to use your delineation) suffer from racial over-sensitivity?

This is the problem with the misuse of words, intentional or not. Lines become blurred and thought muddied. Labels and sweeping generalizations are a poor substitute for reason. They are the crutches of the lazy and the dishonest.
5.18.2006 1:40pm
Gary McGath (www):
The hijackers of the concept "racism" have sunk to absolute bottom now. They can't possibly believe that treating people as individuals means treating them by race, but they know that using bogus accusations of racism allows them to intimidate people.

The Seattle school administrators evidently want to teach people to be collectivists, so they are using fabricated charges of "racism" to punish any student who challenges their ideas. And if a student points out that racism is itself collectivist -- treating people according to the group they belong to, rather than according to their personal merits -- the dissident student can simply be expelled for "racist speech."

The Seattle school system has, if that document is any indication, simply an indoctrination system.
5.18.2006 1:45pm
U.Va. 0L (mail):
If "defining one form of English as standard" is racist, isn't it racist to define one definition of racism as standard?
5.18.2006 1:50pm
Mahlon:
Mr. Ellis - Does this mean that "Annie" is off the school's list of acceptable musicals, too?
5.18.2006 1:53pm
Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat (mail):
There is genocide occuring in Africa this very moment and Seattle educators are condeming nude pantyhose.
5.18.2006 2:02pm
statfan (mail):
Some people propose that there's such a thing as standard English, and it just happens to be what middle and upper class white northerners speak. Of course, this is sort of an odd definition of standard -- it really boils down to "average." Let's take it as a given that no dialect of English has any real advantage outside of the cultural context -- no dialect makes its speakers smarter, for instance, and none is easier to understand over a noisy telephone line, etc. I guess some people would argue that AAVE's lack of inflection for possessives (for instance) renders it unclear, but I think this argument is spurious because (a) AAVE speakers understand it just fine, (b) many other languages have unmarked possesives, and (c) if more inflection were better, we would all be speaking Latin -- or Finnish.

It's actually pretty trivial to look at a dialect map and find a bunch of terms or pronunciations such that (a) a majority of Americans uses that term/pronunciations and (b) a small minority of Americans use all such tersm/pronunciations. A minimal example (if you'll forgive a majority/plurality slide) would probably be "pop" (vs soda) and "you guys" (vs y'all, you, you all, etc) -- a plurality prefer each of these, and yet probably fewer than 25% of people use both.

Anyway, the point of al lthis is that I notice a fairly bizarre sentiment above which seems out-of-line with the generally individualist leaning of this blog: "we all need to be taught "standard" English so that we don't have limited employment opportunities in the future." Isn't the problem here the people discriminating on the basis of dialect? Imagine that there were a very inexpensive, safe, and painless surgery that a black person might undergo, and come out looking like an ethnic German. Would we recommend that black people do this to avoid being discriminated against? Shouldn't we instead be focussing on changing the behavior of the racists instead? Wouldn't that surgery be a form of capitulation to racism? And skin color isn't that fundamental to culture -- speaking the dialect of your peers and heros is much closer to the heart of culture.

THese same people (no doubt) urged the publication of the Mohammed cartoons because we shouldn't capitulate to threats of violence. Why should we capitulate to the more minor threat that some racist lawyer isn't going to offer us a job?
5.18.2006 2:28pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Anyway, the point of al lthis is that I notice a fairly bizarre sentiment above which seems out-of-line with the generally individualist leaning of this blog: "we all need to be taught "standard" English so that we don't have limited employment opportunities in the future." Isn't the problem here the people discriminating on the basis of dialect?
The problem isn't that white middle class people find black English unpleasant. The problem is that there is a significant problem understanding it. Look, a few years back, I returned from a business trip to my company's corporate headquarters on the corporate jet. (A Gulfstream V is a very civilized way to travel.) One of the other engineers on board was from Texas, a white guy--but the combination of jet noise and that he was speaking with a thick Texas accent meant that he had to repeat some of his statements several times before I could understand him.

I had a similar problem in a BBQ place we went for lunch--the white guy behind the counter was a bit of a struggle for me to understand. Most other Texans I met, generally much better educated than the guy in the BBQ joint, were completely comprehensible.

The purpose of language is communication. If communication is rendered difficult, this is more than just prejudice.

By the way, I don't dispute that accent often prejudices people. Like most Americans, I hear a West Virginia hillbilly accent, and my initial reaction is, "Ignorant hick." But I recognize where this reaction comes from, and I work hard to get around it. I went on a test drive with a guy with a very strong hillbilly accent some years ago, and I told myself, "Ignore the accent. He might be a smart guy, like our Director of Hardware Engineer, who also sounds that way." Anyway, by the end of the test drive, this guy had demonstrated that he was indeed, an ignorant hick--and not because he "spoke funny."
5.18.2006 2:53pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Why do we take it as given that all dialects are equally easy to understand?

I taught what would be called english comp at a HBCU for incoming freshmen. Even their attempts at written English were hard to understand, and their spoken English was tough, too. And these were the kids who had graduated toward the tops of their classes--albeit in Mississippi.

I developed the term "nonspecific referent" because I couldn't find the proper phrase in a grammar book. It means "him", "her" "them", includes prepositions and occasionally other words referring to specfic people or objects, or directions, or places. If you want to see how well it works, watch "Cops" when the civilians they're talking to are lower class Southern whites, or lower class blacks.

I listened hard to the kids' conversations and found at least three, if not four, times as many requests for clarification as in Standard English conversations I listened to after I got home and was interested in the subject.

Taking it as given is an act of faith unsupported by evidence.
5.18.2006 3:35pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
>Some people propose that there's such a thing as standard English, and it just happens to be what middle and upper class white northerners speak.<

So you're insinuating that standard English is an invention of white northerners in reaction against the language used by racial minorities?

I think there are many reasons why standard English is what it is. Essentially, it has evolved as a clear and professional way for various people to communicate. One can say it's unfair that the rich people get to choose the standard language, but guess what, if you want what the rich people have, then you have to play by their rules. You can take a principled stance and insist on speaking in a dialect that the rich people don't understand, but then you have to accept the fact that you're going to fail in the rich man's world. I don't think that's advisable. And I don't think it's a system we can change. And even if we can change it, I still don't think it's advisable until we actually do, which isn't going to happen.

Even beyond that, though, standardization is a good thing, because it allows the language to stay the same. If we go ahead and encourage the kids to come up with their own new way of speaking, pretty much us adults don't know what the hell they're talking about. That's a legitimate problem.

Now, the Seattle policy seems to propose an entirely different system. I don't throw around the term "communism," but that's really what it is. No individualism, providing for the community, no personal or cultural advancement. I guess that's one way of doing things, and under that view, it makes sense that we wouldn't encourage anybody to change anything, because I guess it's easier to just stay the same. Most of us don't seem to buy into that theory, though. We seem to accept that we live in a competitive world. That being the case, I think that encouraging the standardization of language is actually a way of leveling the playing field, not of disrespecting minorities.

To answer your question, though, surgery to change one's skin color isn't anything like learning a standard English language. Objection to skin color is pure bigotry, whereas problems resulting out of language are not. One can turn anything into an assault against "who I am as a person," but my experience is that doing so is almost always a bad idea, and that we're almost always better off learning to change. Hypothetical surgery to change the way a person looks is obviously not one of those things.
5.18.2006 3:36pm
statfan (mail):
The problem isn't that white middle class people find black English unpleasant. The problem is that there is a significant problem understanding it.

In that case, we ought to abolish vocabulary-building activities in the upper levels. I have quite a large vocabulary, and I frequently find that people don't understand me. I'm not even using very unusual words that I've learned from science fiction like uhlan, digitigrade, or struthious -- I've had problems with sartorial, which I'm sure I was quizzed on in high school.

Also, when you say "there is a problem", you seem to mean "upper class white people have a problem". The converse is true as well. If you think that the minority here ought to conform to the speech patterns of the majority, I can respect that. I personally have been looking for an excuse to learn Chinese.
5.18.2006 3:37pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Incidentally, the real question is how to teach children to write well. That's what children really need to know. Everybody who writes knows that there are effective and ineffective ways of writing.

So I'd say, if people want to attack the idea of "standard English," then they have to explain how we're still going to teach children to write well. My feeling would be that to teach children to write well, you need a standard language. And that it should be recognized and praised as the standard language that everyone understands.

Which isn't particularly individualistic, I guess, but then, we already know what the policy said about that.
5.18.2006 3:50pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Statfan

>Also, when you say "there is a problem", you seem to mean "upper class white people have a problem". The converse is true as well.<

Except that the upper class white people don't have a problem; they're doing fine. That's the problem here, which infinite respect isn't going to change.
5.18.2006 3:57pm
hey (mail):
Why is "American Standard" standard? Because that's what has been on Radio and TV for the past 80 some odd years. No value judgement as to why this got picked, but now that it HAS BEEN picked, it does have communicative advantages (if you're watching TV, films, or listening to radio you've been exposed to it).

In any region with a specific accent understands someone with Standard American, while someone with an equally thick accent from another region is less comprehensible, especially in difficult circumstances. It's just basic signal processing, and is similar to the ability for a unilingual English speaker to make sense of written German/Dutch vs their ability to make sense of written French/Italian vs their ability to make sense of written Chinese/Japanese. As things become less familiar, you are less able to determine what it means.

One dialect WILL become the standard in a society with mass media and telecommunications, as dialect/language formation is a function of communication distance/isolation. Language formation in relatively impassable jungles in New Guinea is extreme, while we see dialect extinction in modern society thanks to technology and personal mobility. In a society with educational credentials, the flavour attached to high educational achievement will be preferred for status reasons.

It is not just the dialects of lower class blacks that are denigrated by society: middle to upper middle class white females in California (Valley Girl), middle to upper middle class white male surfers in California (Surfer), all classes in Boston and New England (High Bostonian/Boston Brahmin, etc... how many "Pahk the Cah at Hahvad Yahd" jokes are there?), lower class Appalchian whites, lower class Southern Whites, lower to middle class New York accents (Brooklyn, New Jersey). They're relatively uncommunicative, isolationist (for either elitist or solidarity reasons), and very hard to understand, almost mutually incomprehensible. They also could all function perfectly well as the standard dialect, but are not standard.

On the pop/soda... that's not a useful discussion. The southern "Coke" is a dialect change, while pop/soda is just regional synonym preference, as is the choice between sofa and couch. People will understand you either way, but unless you're Canadian Chesterfield will mean at most cigarettes, not somethign to sit on.

I think the defense of "Standard American is racist" just shows the differing attitudes amongs the left and right. The Left worry about how this makes people feel and if there are any reasons beyond power relations that we have it. Should we not do away with it as part of the class struggle (as Labour in the UK has worked against upper class accents)? The Right wonders how in the hell it matters, grow up (get a haircut and get a real job) and use the system as it exists to your advantage. The decision has been made, lets work on using the system as it exists rather than distracting ourselves worrying about coulda, woulda, shoulda.

I definitely side with the Stop Whining faction. When I'm in the South I drawl, y'all. In the northern US i avoid "eh" and change the pronunciation of about/aboot/abaht. Canada sees "eh" and "aboot", while the UK gets a change in accent and the use of brilliant and cheers. I'm a mercenary chameleon, as is almost every other person in the world, so why get worked up?
5.18.2006 4:25pm
statfan (mail):
So I'd say, if people want to attack the idea of "standard English," then they have to explain how we're still going to teach children to write well. My feeling would be that to teach children to write well, you need a standard language. And that it should be recognized and praised as the standard language that everyone understands.

I think that Shakespeare wrote quite well, before English spelling was standardized. His dialect is as far from yours as AAVE is, and his vocabulary is farther. And as I noted, it's not the case that everyone easily understands any given dialect of English.

If you want a non-individualistic analysis, why not check out the concept of Linguistic Justice -- basically, the idea that since everyone benefits from communication, the costs of language learning should be shared equally as well.

Except that the upper class white people don't have a problem; they're doing fine. That's the problem here, which infinite respect isn't going to change.

You are intentionally taking that quote out of context -- the context was "problem understanding people with different dialects."
5.18.2006 4:28pm
Jaime non-Lawyer:
Oh the irony. Isn't the whole purpose of public education to prepare children for the future? Aren't schools by default promoting Future Time Orientation? Is the Seattle School District arguing for its abolition?
5.18.2006 4:55pm
reneviht (mail) (www):
Judging from all the posts on this blog relating to something called "blue booking," I can assume that this school system isn't interested in creating the lawyers of tomorrow.

I wonder if the anti-language-discrimination idea sunk into some of their heads because some of them are programmers who have been instructed to follow syntax conventions unlike what they're used to (braces always go on their own line, variable names use underscores instead of capitals between words, etc.)
5.18.2006 4:59pm
Bisch:
statfan said:
Also, when you say "there is a problem", you seem to mean "upper class white people have a problem". The converse is true as well.

So if the converse is true, then doesn't that mean that everyone has a problem ... and therefore "there is a problem" is a pretty clean way construction that says the same thing? So where's the beef?
5.18.2006 5:01pm
statfan (mail):
Why is "American Standard" standard? Because that's what has been on Radio and TV for the past 80 some odd years. No value judgement as to why this got picked, but now that it HAS BEEN picked, it does have communicative advantages (if you're watching TV, films, or listening to radio you've been exposed to it).

Well, as it happens, I don't watch TV. And I know a number of people who listen mainly to rap music, which is in AAVE. Also, speaking as an individualist, why should I delegate my choice of language to the radio and television company executives? If they started broadcasting in Mandarin tomorrow, should I learn Mandarin?

Finally, Wikipedia tells me that the use of a uniform dialect on TV is decreasing, rather than increasing.

One dialect WILL become the standard in a society with mass media and telecommunications, as dialect/language formation is a function of communication distance/isolation.

There is no evidence of this -- AAVE is no less pronounced now than fifty years ago. Also, shouldn't communication increase dialectization by exosing people to more dialects than previously? I was born and raised in Philadelphia, but I use "y'all" because I find it convenient to have a plural for "you", and because my parents would have complained about "youse", the (lower-class) Philadelphia standard.

"On the pop/soda... that's not a useful discussion. The southern "Coke" is a dialect change, while pop/soda is just regional synonym preference, as is the choice between sofa and couch."

When other people do it, it's a dialect -- when you do it, it's just a word choice. Personally, I speak standard English, but I use the regional synonms of Japan. So, instead of saying "please speak English,", I say "kudasai hanasu eigo" That's Japanese words, but English syntax. Which reminds me: why is nobody sending teachers into North Dakota to try to eradicate the accent you hear in Fargo? Why is AAVE always the target here?

"I'm a mercenary chameleon, as is almost every other person in the world, so why get worked up?"

It's easy for you, as a non-black person, to be mercenary, since everyone will hire you.

"...distracting ourselves worrying about coulda, woulda, shoulda..."

So much for moral clarity -- if you don't care about what's right, why should you expect anyone else to follow your prescriptions, or your laws?
5.18.2006 5:07pm
statfan (mail):
I wonder if the anti-language-discrimination idea sunk into some of their heads because some of them are programmers who have been instructed to follow syntax conventions unlike what they're used to (braces always go on their own line, variable names use underscores instead of capitals between words, etc.)

I'm a programmer, and I choose to use Python, which requires and enforces proper whitespace. So, uh, no, that's not where I'm coming from.
5.18.2006 5:12pm
statfan (mail):
So if the converse is true, then doesn't that mean that everyone has a problem ... and therefore "there is a problem" is a pretty clean way construction that says the same thing? So where's the beef?

Cramer's sentence didn't admit the converse -- read it again.
5.18.2006 5:12pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
I guess us libertarian science fiction fans are SOL in the racism department.
5.18.2006 5:20pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
statfan engages in what almost sounds like parody:


In that case, we ought to abolish vocabulary-building activities in the upper levels. I have quite a large vocabulary, and I frequently find that people don't understand me. I'm not even using very unusual words that I've learned from science fiction like uhlan, digitigrade, or struthious -- I've had problems with sartorial, which I'm sure I was quizzed on in high school.
The purpose of language, as I have said, is communication. Watch William F. Buckley at work, and you will see what happens when the goal isn't communication, but to make oneself look smart. I'm told that my books are quite readable (for serious scholarly history) because I avoid jargon and I use relatively simple sentences. There's nothing wrong with having a large vocabulary, but it is more useful for understanding others than for communicating to others.

In any case, your stand is the classic leftist Procrustean position--instead of improving those in an inferior position, you propose to degrade those on top.

Also, when you say "there is a problem", you seem to mean "upper class white people have a problem". The converse is true as well.
Upper class white people aren't the ones who are out of work, begging the government to help them.

If you think that the minority here ought to conform to the speech patterns of the majority, I can respect that. I personally have been looking for an excuse to learn Chinese.
I've emphasized the one important word that you wrote, but seemed not to have read: here. If I lived in a place where a majority spoke Chinese, I would learn Chinese. I live in the United States, and my German, French, Scots, and Italian ancestors figured out that the path to success involved learning the language that most people speak.
5.18.2006 5:22pm
Mahlon:
Marcus - You point on the the need for a "standard English" in order to teach writing could not be more correct.

The rules of "standard English," especially in writing, exist for a reason. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, usage, etc. do not exist for their own sakes, but as a way of establishing expectations of the reader. They are like traffic rules. If everyone else on the road has a reasonable idea of what you are going to do (signal before turning, stay in your lane, etc.) there is less likelihood of an accident. It's the same with language, and more specifically, writing. Keep in mind that when reading someone else's writing, the reader is deprived of the non-verbal portion of the communication, which some say makes up 93% of spoken communication.

If language is in a state of constant flux, the receiver is denied the framework, the standards if you will, within which to interpret to communication. In short, if someone writes without using the "rules," the reader is left left to her own devices to divine meaning. Any writer who doesn't follow the accepted rules will almost never be understood.

Most people, including college graduates (and more than a few with higher degress) cannot write to save themselves. All you have to do is read the newspaper to see examples of poor writing. It is the degradation of "standard English" through public education and its apologists which are to blame.
5.18.2006 5:24pm
A.C.:
How about "everybody CAN have a problem"? Earlier I mentioned the stress caused by, and presumably experienced by, people who are excessively goal oriented and competitive. Type A personalities, anyone? Heart attacks? Family breakdown? It's not the same as what you see among slackers who can't plan at all, but it's still a problem.

On the language issue, there's one set of "problems" associated with working class dialects, but there's a whole different set associated with dense, bureaucratic writing that no one can follow. People of all social classes need to LEARN how to think clearly and express their thoughts in ways (plural -- nobody can get by with just one) that communicate to other people. Even rich folks aren't born knowing this stuff, especially the part about thinking clearly in the first place, and nobody speaks perfect written English with all the commas and whatnot in the proper places.

All this talk about dialect and racism has made me want to go home and reread "Huckleberry Finn." There's some clear thinking and great writing for you, complete with non-standard dialects and a reminder about real racism and the effort to triumph over it.
5.18.2006 5:33pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
statfan writes:


Well, as it happens, I don't watch TV. And I know a number of people who listen mainly to rap music, which is in AAVE.
Fine. If you want to limit yourself to the culture of AAVE, go ahead! But don't whine about not getting ahead, then.

Also, speaking as an individualist, why should I delegate my choice of language to the radio and television company executives? If they started broadcasting in Mandarin tomorrow, should I learn Mandarin?
Well, according to the Seattle school district, being an "individualist" means you are a RACIST, and therefore we don't have to pay any attention to you at all! See how silly the left's Humpty-Dumptying of language is?

If radio and television companies started broadcasting entirely in Mandarin tomorrow, I would be learning it, because it would mean that there weren't a lot of non-Mandarin speakers left in the U.S.
5.18.2006 5:47pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
statfan writes:


If you want a non-individualistic analysis, why not check out the concept of Linguistic Justice -- basically, the idea that since everyone benefits from communication, the costs of language learning should be shared equally as well.
This is an excellent idea--except that middle class and above kids tend to learn to read and write from Mom, Dad, and older siblings, while poor people, especially poor minorities, learn to read and write from public schools that are funded by taxes that fall mostly on the middle class. So "the costs of language learning" right now are unequally shared--with the middle class paying disproportionately to help poor, largely black kids, learn how to communicate.

Face it: ghetto culture--which has largely defined itself in the last forty years--is destructive. It prepares kids to be hoodlums, and little else. Bill Cosby and Thomas Sowell have both written about how dramatically worse the situation has become for black kids since they were young. Learn from them.
5.18.2006 5:52pm
Hans Bader (mail):
The Seattle school district, the largest school system in Washington State, has a nasty, insane message for budding entrepreneurs, civil libertarians, and free market conservatives: your belief in individual rights or individual initiative brands you as a racist.

The Seattle Public Schools formally define individualism as a form of “cultural racism,” declaring that “cultural racism” includes “emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology.”

On their web site, they also define racism to include stereotypically white traits such as “future time orientation,” which is a pejorative word used among African-American studies professors for studying and “acting white” to reap future advancement, rather than devoting one’s energy to being hip or cool and enjoying the moment.

It is racist for the Seattle schools to stereotype achievement as a “white” characteristic. Plenty of non-whites study and exercise self-discipline. No school system should disparage student studying and achievement. That is at odds with a school system’s basic educational mission.

The Seattle schools also declare “equality” of treatment to be a form of racially-biased assimilation, favoring instead affirmative action in the form of “unequal treatment for those who have been disadvantaged over time,” to give historically oppressed groups “special programs and benefits.”

The “equality” they deride – the notion that “people who are the same in those respects relevant to how they are treated in those circumstances should receive the same treatment” – is the same notion of equal treatment whose infringement is the basis for a disparate-treatment discrimination lawsuit under the federal civil rights laws, under U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

In an apparent conflict with federal law, the Seattle schools deny that whites can be the victims of racism. They define racism as limited to acts against groups that have “little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites).”

By contrast, federal appeals courts routinely rule against institutions that fire or harass white employees, recognizing that whites can indeed be victims of racism. See, e.g., Bowen v. Missouri Department of Social Services (2002) (racial harassment of white employee by black co-worker); Taxman v. Board of Education (1996) (termination of white teacher instead of black teacher). And the Supreme Court held that racial discrimination against whites by local governments is generally illegal in City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. (1989). Affirmative action can’t be used to justify terminating or harassing an employee.

The Seattle schools’ racist policy, which appears to condone unlawful racial discrimination and retaliation against whites, is on the web site of its Equity and Race Relations department, directed by Caprice Hollins, a politically-correct self-proclaimed multicultural “educator.” Some education.

It appears that the Seattle schools would rather spend their time teaching (and practicing) racism, rather than reading, writing, and arithmetic.

The Supreme Court is currently considering a challenge to the Seattle schools’ policy of assigning pupils to schools based on their race, in the case of Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1. The Seattle schools’ racist web site should be brought to the Supreme Court’s attention, since it speaks volumes about the school system’s discriminatory purpose, and a discriminatory purpose invalidates even an otherwise permissible affirmative action policy under the Supreme Court’s 1996 decision in Shaw v. Hunt.
5.18.2006 6:28pm
Raw_Data (mail):
England ruled the world because of plummy accents as much because of the playing fields of Eton.

The USA (as does as every country) has its equivalent.

Fight class differences if you like but it is much easier to ape the top dogs.

If we want to elevate the masses, teach them to speak like commanders. The idea that we should keep lower income -- "lower class" if one prefers -- people in a linguistic cage (by suggesting that they keep their uneducated accents) is absurd and cruel.
5.18.2006 6:39pm
Michael B (mail):
Some are common sensical and to be applauded, some are little or even nothing more than self-parody (e.g., the overt definition of "assimilation" and the inherent definition of "individualism"), then there are some notable omissions:

Sexual Predation by Public School Teachers (SP-PST)

Legal Remedies for SP-PST

Too, one very much gets the sense that if there are any disagreements, such as those which pertain to the definition of "assimilation," then was is simply expected to assimilate and get with the program.
5.18.2006 7:00pm
Bob Dobalina (mail):
Um... Doesn't the bit about future time orientation remind anyone of the Hoppe controversy at UNLV?
5.18.2006 7:02pm
SLS 1L:
pRopose, i do - that many grammr ruls unnecessary understanding 4 ~ suggest d0 i that mostly means of class background signalling they r;
5.18.2006 7:11pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

pRopose, i do - that many grammr ruls unnecessary understanding 4 ~ suggest d0 i that mostly means of class background signalling they r;
Yoda does IM.
5.18.2006 7:18pm
statfan (mail):
Clayton: Yes, that was in fact a parody. The notion that we need the government to impose some sort of totalitarian "standard English" to communicate is hilarious to me, and I can't imagine why any individualist would support it.

The Seattle public school page linked above is equally hilarious when it defines individualism as "cultural racism." I shouldn't have to comment on any of the rest in order for my points about language to be heard, but apparently I do. Let me see if I can figure out how that page got so stupid. I think it is likely that they mean that there are some strains of individualism which denies that structural inequalities exist or matter. How someone gets from "some views associated with individualism can have racist effects" to "individualism is racism" is easy to understand -- idiocy. Likewise, I can see where the "future time orientation" thing (as opposed to "future space orientation"?) came from. A web search tells me that FTO appears (at least in whatever moon language this is written in) to mean something like the view that new culture is better and thus older cultures should die out. The converse, past time orientation, would be something like conservativism. Which I guess means that the Seattle people aren't so into liberalism either.

Upper class white people aren't the ones who are out of work, begging the government to help them.

Clayton's hypothesis: upper class white people don't hire black people because of their dialect, and thus black people are at fault.

Research shows: upper class white people don't even invite people with black-sounding names back for interviews -- they never hear the dialect; they only see the resume.

Which isn't to say that if the names were scrubbed the dialect wouldn't make a difference. But it hardly seems fair to say that black people ought to change when the problem is with white people in the first place.

I've emphasized the one important word that you wrote, but seemed not to have read: here.

I meant "in this case".

If I lived in a place where a majority spoke Chinese, I would learn Chinese.

You do live in a place where a plurality speaks Chinese -- Earth. Why should we be drawing distinctions on a country scale here? Why not a local scale, or a state scale? And again, why are people picking on AAVE instead of, say, the Boston accent?

Face it: ghetto culture--which has largely defined itself in the last forty years--is destructive

I never claimed it wasn't. But AAVE is totally independent of ghetto culture.
5.18.2006 7:23pm
SLS 1L:
statfan - thanks.
5.18.2006 7:36pm
statfan (mail):
SLS 1L, I'm just pissed that I'm posting under a pseudonym here -- I should have posted under my real name, since I'm fairly happy with this line of argument.
5.18.2006 8:08pm
TL:
What if I say that there are exactly two kinds of standard English: 1) the racist one, and 2) a single alternative which substitutes "tomahto" for "tomayto". Am I still a racist?
5.18.2006 8:27pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Statfan, unless you are being obtuse for the sake of getting a rise out of people, your understanding of what language is used for is deficient.

A concept I learned that is useful is 'language of common communication.'

What that might be depends upon whom you are trying to communicate with. But in the congregation that speaks the various dialects of English, there is one language of common communciation. Standard English.

It just happened, but there it is.

I get the same confused argument as yours living in Hawaii, where the local equivalent of the Seattle school board wants pidgen (formally, Hawaiian Creole English) to be regarded as 'just as good' or 'just as valid' as Standard English.

What could that mean?

Well, if you are going to work in a restaurant kitchen here, you'd better be able to get along in pidgen. If you want to be an aeronautical engineer anywhere, you'd better be able to communicate in Standard English.

As a practical matter, you get a lot more options with Standard English than with any of its other dialects; and worldwide, you get more options with English than with Chinese, even if more people 'speak Chinese.'

Standard English is no more unfairly privileged compared to AAVE than English is unfairly privileged compared to Cornish.
5.18.2006 8:37pm
statfan (mail):
Harry Eager, I dispute the idea that there is such a thing as standard English. I think people have some weird idea that in 1700 or whatever, King George sat down and said "here is Standard English," and everyone started speaking it. Then around 1832 or whatever, black people stopped speaking Standard English and started speaking AAVE just to be obtuse. Well, that aint the way it happened. Dialects develop over time in all sorts of ways, and many subcultures end up with distinct dialects.

Perhaps you think that the plurality dialects are "standard", and speakers of everything else else -- AAVE, British English, Australian English, Southern English, Brooklyn Jewish English, etc should pick any more-populous dialect. But I don't think this is a serious proposal, because I am willing to bet that you have some non-plurality usages and pronunciations that you cling to. Do you say "soda", for instance? Or "UMbrella?" Or any of a number of other things you can find on Burt Vaux's dialect site?

For some reason (I would not be so presumptuous as to claim it's racism), everyone picks on AAVE here -- rarely are British immigrants chided for their accents. Perhaps you have some idea as to why this is.

Also, there is nothing about AAVE which prevents its use in aeronautical engineering. Perhaps it will be difficult for speakers of a more common dialect to understand you -- but this is true of many dialects. It might also be hard for you to understand speakers of a more common dialect. I'm not sure why being in the minority here obligates one to change. Shouldn't we all work to understand more people?
5.18.2006 9:14pm
SLS 1L:
Harry - Hawaiian Creole English is a creole, not a pidgin, no? In any case, no valid instructional purpose is served by treating any mutually intelligible dialect of English as inferior to "standard" English, like "correcting" kids who are speaking AAVE on the playground or in the halls. Nobody does that to rich white kids when they speak the slang of the day, even though slang is less "valid" than AAVE, because slang is an inherently transitory structure used to demarcate in-groups and out-groups, while AAVE is not.
5.18.2006 9:23pm
Broncos:

In any case, no valid instructional purpose is served by treating any mutually intelligible dialect of English as inferior to "standard" English, like "correcting" kids who are speaking AAVE on the playground or in the halls. Nobody does that to rich white kids when they speak the slang of the day, even though slang is less "valid" than AAVE, because slang is an inherently transitory structure used to demarcate in-groups and out-groups, while AAVE is not.


Rich white kids should be corrected, if it helps them to learn to speak "standard" english.

Look, there are a lot of real-world problems caused by racism. Focusing on the relationship of "standard" english to any other dialect is, at best, a waste of time - and at worst counterproductive, given the social fact that kids need to learn this dialect in order to economically succeed. The very real-world instructional purposes served by "standard" english are recited in the thread above.

If we started from scratch, maybe I would agree with you. But we can't disassociate ourselves from the world when making policy. Is it the benefit of ideological purity worth the very real costs of harm to these kids?
5.18.2006 9:43pm
SLS 1L:
Rich white kids should be corrected, if it helps them to learn to speak "standard" english.
I look forward to your evidence showing that this kind of "correction" helps AAVE speakers but not rich white kids.

Seriously, this isn't about teaching AAVE speakers how to speak "standard" English. This is about sending the message that AAVE is wrong wrong wrong wrong.
5.18.2006 9:55pm
Broncos:

Seriously, this isn't about teaching AAVE speakers how to speak "standard" English. This is about sending the message that AAVE is wrong wrong wrong wrong.


I disagree, entirely.

While I (probably) agree with your goals, this method is simply counterproductive. The bottom line is that there are very few industries in which one can prosper without being fluent in "standard" english.
5.18.2006 10:09pm
Broncos:
If I were to conjecture the motivation for opposing a curriculum of "standard" english, it would be this: Poor people are often blamed for being poor, even when the blame is misplaced, and people see this curriculum as simply another instance of blaming poor people for being poor.

I sympathize. But I can't join you.
5.18.2006 10:12pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Statfan,

>Clayton's hypothesis: upper class white people don't hire black people because of their dialect, and thus black people are at fault.

Research shows: upper class white people don't even invite people with black-sounding names back for interviews -- they never hear the dialect; they only see the resume.<

I have to agree with Harry Eager that you're being obtuse on purpose. If you're just looking to make a point about disadvantages that minorities face, of course you're free to do that. What we're talking about here, though, is whether speaking niche languages that most people don't understand -- particularly upper class people -- creates an additional disadvantage. You must recognize that it does.

This isn't about finding a job at McDonalds, even if *any* employer might prefer an employee who speaks in a way that is clear, accessible and welcoming to the greatest number of people. Generally, McDonalds probably doesn't care whether a person can write clearly. If somebody actually wants to make a decent living though, it would be beyond negligent to tell them that they should resist any calls to adopt standard English. Not only is it much harder to judge the competence of someone who doesn't speak standard English, but it's reasonable to assume that such a person will be less proficient at a language he doesn't normally use. And why is that? Because a person IS much less likely to be proficient in a language that he doesn't normally use. And that's a problem, for him.

When I was studying opera, my professor told me I should try being more expressive and flamboyant in life, in order to help my acting skills on the stage. I had a hard time with that, but of course he was right. Only people of extraordinary versatility can completely change their mannerisms in various contexts.

I'm curious, incidentally: Do you think white people should be fine with being insulted on account of their race? If defining white panty hose as nude is racist, my feeling would be that making blanket insinuations about upper class white people is racist too. Is there really a defense for this, or is it just laziness? I've never been sure.
5.18.2006 10:43pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Statfan,

>For some reason (I would not be so presumptuous as to claim it's racism), everyone picks on AAVE here -- rarely are British immigrants chided for their accents. Perhaps you have some idea as to why this is.<

You keep ignoring the obvious and completely valid reason, which is that blacks are disproportionately poor and under-privileged. This is why it is suggested that resisting standard English for AAVE, a term I'm not familiar with, is counterproductive. I haven't seen anyone here picking on the way blacks talk. To the contrary, we're suggesting that the kind of respect you're calling for is harmful to blacks, and thus should be opposed.

There is another factor, though: affirmative action. It's admitedly hard to reconcile the idea that racial minorities should be given legal or other preferences on the premise that it is important that they are more competitive and succesful in relation to white people, but then that we should also respect and make sure we don't upset the ways in which we're different. To the untrained ear, liberal race theory sounds entirely schizophrenic.
5.18.2006 11:07pm
statfan (mail):
Speaking AAVE is a disadvantage because people discriminate against someone who speaks AAVE. I propose that we change the discriminators, rather than the minority dialect speakers. That's what my thought experiment about surgery above was supposed to show.

Or, since we must live in the "real world" in which black skin is a disadvantage, would you advocate that blacks get that surgery?

Why must the victims of racism change, while the racists stay the same?

Racism (and classism, probably equally) is the driver here -- that's why AAVE is stigmatized, while any british accent (even a lower-class one) is considered to sound "intelligent." There's also (at least in the North) a negative reaction to Southern English speakers -- again, the language is serving as a marker for a social group.

Just to be clear: I'm not claiming that everyone who wants to eradicate AAVE is a racist. But those who make that claim are serving the cause of racism, and should recognize that.

There is another factor, though: affirmative action. It's admitedly hard to reconcile the idea that racial minorities should be given legal or other preferences on the premise that it is important that they are more competitive and succesful in relation to white people, but then that we should also respect and make sure we don't upset the ways in which we're different. To the untrained ear, liberal race theory sounds entirely schizophrenic.

Wait, "upset the ways in which we're different"? I'm not sure what that means, so I don't know if I agree with it. If it means that if a black person chooses not to speak AAVE, I shoul call them a race traitor, well, I won't. There's a popular view among some people (left and right) that cultures and traditions are inherently worth preserving. I don't think that's true. My view of it is that individuals grow up surrounded by multiple overlapping cultures, and eventually choose which ones to belong to, and what role they will take in those cultures. We ought to judge people based on their skills and values -- without forgetting that these are shaped in part by society.

As for AA, everyone forgets that it is only intended to be used (a) where there is a history of discrimination, and (b) where it is the only way to remedy that discrimination. I don't see how dialects fit into that, except in that minorities are more likely to speak minority dialects.
5.19.2006 12:31am
statfan (mail):
I'm curious, incidentally: Do you think white people should be fine with being insulted on account of their race? If defining white panty hose as nude is racist, my feeling would be that making blanket insinuations about upper class white people is racist too. Is there really a defense for this, or is it just laziness? I've never been sure.

When people say that "studies show that [x sort of people] do something", they mean generally, rather than universally. Of course there are nonracist whites. But there are a lot fewer than one might think -- have some of your friends take an implicit association test some time if you don't belive me. So, yes, it's shorthand -- perhaps that's laziness, or perhaps efficiency.
5.19.2006 12:36am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
AAVE, is that an acronym for Ebonics?

Ebonics is wrong, and saying its wrong is not an attack on a person because of their race. Its wrong because it is grammatically inferior, often incorrect, and is neither universal enough of rich enough to accurately communicate about many types of things in our complex modern society. Its wrong because its use would doom the speakers thereof to positions where the accuracy, universality, and communicative abilities of ebonics are all either damaged or highly limited.

There are many programming languages for computers, some arcane and known to only a few, some with a rich library of a multitude of expressions that allow for vastly greater descriptions and actions, some more structured than others, etc. These programming languages can be evaluated in light of stated criteria and they can be ranked in order of quality to accomplish the goals contained in the stated criteria, universality, depth and breadth of his expressions, ability to accomplish the goals with precision, etc.

Saying that some languages are bad for the purposes at hand is not a hostile/racist comment towards that particular programming language, its merely the recognition of objective facts.

Of course to make such an analysis one has to define the goals to be accomplished, and in Seattle that makes you a racist before you get started.

Cultures and artwork and similar things, contrary to the PC orthodoxy that says its impossible to decide whether a stick figure drawing in a cave is less of an artistic achievment than the Mona Lisa, can be compared, evaluated, and ranked. Perhaps not with an extremely tiny degree of granularity, but certainly rankings of many/most cultures/artwork/technology of various peoples and societies can be made. Its certainly possible, imho, to rank and compare the cultural/artistic qualities of a cave dwellers stick figure drawing on a wall and the Mona Lisa, and as soon as you have a single premise of being able to compare and rank any two cultures/artistic qualities then the PC Orthodoxy of everything is equal and of equal merit is shown to be false and untenable.

Ebonics is wrong. So are multiple highly visible tattoos and piercings. These things make a public statement about who you are, what you value, and what you might think of others. They are all non-racial relevant factors voluntarily placed on public display, and are fair game for others to take into account in forming their perceptions about the personality and intelligence of those they meet.

Says the "Dog"
5.19.2006 12:36am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
SLS 1L,

Here's the test for you. If you're right that Ebonics and Standard English are both equally valuable, then there will never be a need for laws and government coercion to require people to pretend it is just as valuable or demanding quota's of ebonics speakers be hired. There will be no need for mandatory classes for non-ebonics speakers to learn ebonics. If Ebonics is truly valuable it will survive and flourish without the need for government intervention or regulation or enouragement of any kind. If an Ebonics speaker can not communicate with a co-worker, customer, or teacher effectively, that is a sign that there is something wrong with the use of ebonics in that situation. On the other hand if ebonics is valuable in its own right, such situations will be few and far between.

Says the "Dog"
5.19.2006 12:46am
Michael B (mail):
"Seriously, this isn't about teaching AAVE speakers how to speak "standard" English. This is about sending the message that AAVE is wrong wrong wrong wrong." SLS 1L

And scolding the alleged scolders can be, and often is, effectively, an attempt at re-establishing the meta-narrative being critiqued in the first place. PC scolds have become more ubiquitous than nuns in a nunnery. (And given their ideological certitudes and sophistication probably far less amenable to self-doubt and self-examination on this score, no matter how cogent the critique.)

It's probative, to cite but one example, to listen to Bill Cosby as pertains to these and similar issues - issues which reflect differences between what is essential and fruitful and helpful (i.e. "right") and what is misconceived, unfruitful and even dissipating (i.e. "wrong") - as Cosby and others are, increasingly, assertively suggesting.

"To the untrained ear, liberal race theory sounds entirely schizophrenic." Marcus1

Hence the offer, if not the demand, of ever more training, together with the one-upmanship vis-a-vis meta-narratives and corresponding scoldings.
5.19.2006 12:52am
Bleepless (mail):
Not one word about the school policy has appeared in the Seattle media. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. They love the public school administration. This also is the reason they have not reported on the Arab terrorist hitred by Congressman Jim McDermott.
5.19.2006 12:58am
Harry Eagar (mail):
AAVE = African American Vernacular English. Not necessarily the same as Ebonics. There are many AAVEs, some of them virtually unintelligible to speakers of Standard.

The idea that AAVE, with its impoverished vocabulary, is just as good for, say, aeronautical engineering is absurd.

Pidgen is what the mother tongue of many Hawaii-born people is called. The linguisticians formally call it Hawaiian Creole English. I have a problem with that, since it perverts the usual and established meaning of 'creole,' but that's the convention now.

There were several pidgens in Hawaii, Chinese pidgen, Japanese pidgen. What's called pidgen today varies from 'heavy' pidgen, which is virtually unintellible to a speaker of Standard, to everyday pidgen, which is evolving into something not much different from a very slangy (and tangy) American English.

If all you know is AAVE, you're shutting yourself off from most of the world's richest literature. You could say the same if all you know is Finnish, but then it would be hard to raise a claim of white racism.

AAVE is a language of extremely limited utility.
5.19.2006 2:19am
SLS 1L:
Harry - what's your beef with "Hawiian Creole English"? Creole is a technical term used by linguists.

I'd like to see your evidence for the claim that AAVE has an "impoverished vocabulary." One doesn't learn things like the technical meanings of "stress" and "strain" growing up speaking AAVE, but the same is true for speakers of any variety of English.

Or, to put it another way, if we both speak AAVE and I want to teach you physics, do I have to teach you "standard" English first?
5.19.2006 2:38am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Speaking AAVE is a disadvantage because people discriminate against someone who speaks AAVE. I propose that we change the discriminators, rather than the minority dialect speakers. That's what my thought experiment about surgery above was supposed to show.

Or, since we must live in the "real world" in which black skin is a disadvantage, would you advocate that blacks get that surgery?
The analogy is flawed. Skin color is irrelevant in virtually all situations. Language is not.
5.19.2006 3:02am
Dick King:
Can anyone claim with a straight face that senators Boxer and Kennedy are not left-leaning?

-dk
5.19.2006 4:02am
An SLS 2L (mail):
Just to set the record straight, "SLS 1L" (unclear if he's a "current" 1L, in which case he/she should be studying for Property) or a future 1L who has yet to actually attend a class doesn't represent the views of many people at SLS. I can say with some confidence that many people at SLS value the _uniformity_ of a common langauge, no matter what label we put on that langauge.

And, of course, many here would laugh at "future time orientation" as racism. All of this smacks of 1990s PC blithely translated into 2006 idiom.
5.19.2006 4:08am
DDR:

Sometimes when funny people get into positions of power, they write things that leave other people scratching their heads. This kind of situation came up in Dr. Strangelove:

Turgidson:

The duty officer asked General Ripper to confirm the fact the he had issued the go code and he said, "Yes gentlemen, they are on their way in and no one can bring them back. For the sake of our country and our way of life, I suggest you get the rest of SAC in after them, otherwise we will be totally destroyed by red retaliation. My boys will give you the best kind of start, fourteen hundred megatons worth, and you sure as hell won't stop them now. So let's get going. There's no other choice. God willing, we will prevail in peace and freedom from fear and in true health through the purity and essence of our natural fluids. God bless you all." Then he hung up. We're still trying to figure out the meaning of that last phrase, sir.

Muffley:

There's nothing to figure out General Turgidson. This man is obviously a psychotic.
5.19.2006 7:39am
Federal Dog:
Damned orangutan cultural racists:


http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/05/18/D8HMGU6O0.html
5.19.2006 7:56am
A.C.:
I didn't even know there was still a debate about AAVE. Seems to me that everyone has agreed it is a viable language among the people who speak it. It does everything it needs to do with verbs and nouns, including some variations that standard English doesn't have but that strike me as useful. I assume that people who use AAVE occasionally find themselves without a word for something new, but I suppose they invent or borrow new words when that happens. Everybody else on the planet does.

That said, most people who speak the heavier versions of AAVE at home will have to learn something closer to standard English when they leave home to go to school and work. That's not just to communicate with white people. It's also to communicate with people from India, Japan, Africa, or wherever who have learned English out of the standard textbooks and who conjugate verbs the way those textbooks say to.

I've never met an African American adult who didn't know this, but African American children who haven't yet moved around in the wider world may not be aware of it all. So the only real question is how to get this point across while still maintaining enough of a relationship to actually teach the new dialect. Saying "your language is BAD BAD BAD" and correcting kids while they are speaking to their friends in the hallway doesn't seem like a plausible strategy, does it? It seems far more sensible to acknowledge the non-standard dialect, to permit it for ordinary conversation and subjects like creative writing and drama, and to teach the international standard for formal conversations and the rest of academic work.

To go back to the collective vs. individualist thing, I'm getting a sense that some of you are thinking of collectivism in the sense of the political left. Working class and even lower middle class collectivism doesn't always look that way, and sometimes it even takes forms that conservatives can support. Relying on family members for childcare is one example, as is helping out neighbors in an emergency. People with money often seem to think that the only options are market transactions or the government, but private non-market options definitely exist. Some people even prefer them!
5.19.2006 9:59am
Erik H.:
One other issue which I find of great interest is that the authors aren't using the definition of racism that I learned:

"Discrimination against someone based on race."

No, they're using the "new" definition which seems to be more popular these days:

"Discrimination against someone based on race, so long as the person doing the discriminating is a member of the dominant social class."

Did anyone else pick up on that distinction? Does it strike anyone else as a tiny bit odd? This suggests from the outset that only white are capable of racism. And we all know this isn't true: not only is there racism against whites by some non-whites, but there is rampant racism between and among members of various races, none of which is necessarily more "dominant" than any other.
5.19.2006 10:32am
Dick King:
Can anyone claim with a straight face that senators Boxer and Kennedy are not left-leaning?

-dk
5.19.2006 10:34am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
statfan writes:


Speaking AAVE is a disadvantage because people discriminate against someone who speaks AAVE. I propose that we change the discriminators, rather than the minority dialect speakers. That's what my thought experiment about surgery above was supposed to show.

Or, since we must live in the "real world" in which black skin is a disadvantage, would you advocate that blacks get that surgery?

Why must the victims of racism change, while the racists stay the same?
Speakers of AAVE have to change for the same reason that white Texans with very heavy accents have to learn to speak in something closer to standard English pronounciation, and that non-English speakers need to learn English, if they want to succeed in the United States. It is about communication in the lingua franca of the United States, and it doesn't matter what color you are. The objection to AAVE isn't about race; it's about an inability to communicate.

The scene in Airplane! where the old white woman say, "Maybe I can help. I speak jive," is exaggerated to make a point, but the reason that audiences laughed is because it reflects a real issue: AAVE, like a number of non-standard forms of English, complicates communication.

I grew up in the Los Angeles area. I had one black friend who spoke completely standard English, except when he was being playful. You wouldn't know that he was black if you talked to him on the phone.

There were black kids that I went to school with who spoke English that was almost identical to mine--a few accent differences that I suspect are Southern in origin--but we were able to communicate just fine. I can't imagine that anyone would have refused them a job because they sounded a little different. (I can imagine someone refusing to hire them because of race, but at that point, what language they spoke would be irrelevant.)

There were other black kids in my schools who spoke something that, while not incomprehensible, was certainly non-standard English. I noticed that these kids weren't going to college, probably because the values that they learned at home didn't emphasize such "white" values as education and improving yourself (that dreaded individualism again!)

The need of employers for employees who can communicate in standard English is not racism. It's harsh reality in a society where nearly everyone speaks standard English. If you think it is unfair to expect people to learn and speak standard English, then don't complain about a lack of jobs. Expecting a white Southerner to speak and understand standard English, or expecting a French immigrant to speak and understand standard English, is not racism--and yet you insist that expecting people who grew up in the United States to learn standard English is racism.
5.19.2006 11:34am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
statfan writes:


Clayton's hypothesis: upper class white people don't hire black people because of their dialect, and thus black people are at fault.
They also don't hire white people who can't speak English. I guess that's racism, too!

I suspect that there's more involved than just the inability to speak standard English. I would suspect that you will find that the values of the parents are strongly correlated with whether they encourage their children to speak standard English or not. Bill Cosby and Justice Thomas speak standard English; I would expect that their children probably speak standard English. Bill Cosby and Justice Thomas both made something of their lives, starting from poverty, and relying not on brute strength or sports, but on their minds. Hmmmm. Do you suppose that what we may be seeing with AAVE is a particular set of cultural values that produce jive-speakers that don't see much value to education?
5.19.2006 11:41am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
My wife's family moved to Hawaii when she was in elementary school. Her brother came home one day speaking the local pidgin. Her father made it very clear that this was NOT acceptable, and he stopped speaking pidgin at home. Of course, this was a upper middle class home, and her father did not want his children to be trapped in the Hawaiian ghetto.

And yes, it was a ghetto. My wife remembers that the public schools were about two years behind Los Angeles schools in what they were teaching--and by junior high, they had largely abandoned teaching anything that could be considered academic training. Unfortunately, much of the local population considered education to be "acting white," and therefore held it in contempt. The result was that the public schools aimed for the lowest common denominator--preparing kids to work in food service, collect welfare, and surf. This is fine if you never want to leave Hawaii, I suppose, and you don't mind being poor. But oh, there's that future time orientation that we now know is CULTURAL RACISM!
5.19.2006 11:46am
Shangui (mail):
Its wrong because it is grammatically inferior, often incorrect, and is neither universal enough of rich enough to accurately communicate about many types of things in our complex modern society.

The ignorance about linguistics demonstrated by this statement is staggering. I would suggest you read any elementary linguistic textbook before saying things like this. What would "grammatically inferior" even mean? Do you have any concept of how grammars in languages work and evolve historically? Apparently not.

The issue of whether one is at an economic and social disadvantage if one speaks a non-standard dialect is a totally different story, and one that has to do generally with non-linguistic issues.
5.19.2006 12:31pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Shangui,

If a particular dialect or language doesn't have sufficient, specific words and constructs to effectively communicate about technical matters in accurate and specific manner than it is what I meant by grammatically inferior.

An Engineer can only refer to some many parts as "that thing-a-majig" and that other "thing-a-majig" so many times before effective communication is lost.

There are more issues here than just money, although that's a plenty big enough reason by itself with regard to why Ebonics is demonstrably wrong and inferior. What you described as ignorance does not even attempt to address all the other matters in my post analogizing to computer programming languages.

Says the "Dog"
5.19.2006 12:40pm
Hans Bader (mail):
For the benefit of journalists or researchers who may write in the future about kookiness and racism in the Seattle school district and its "Equity and Race Relations" department, I am reproducing below the entire text of the web page branding individualism as racism:

"Equity and Race Relations

Definitions of Racism

Racism:
The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites). The subordination is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society.

Individual Racism:
The beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism. Individual racism can occur at both an unconscious and conscious level, and can be both active and passive. Examples include telling a racist joke, using a racial epithet, or believing in the inherent superiority of whites.

Active Racism:
Actions which have as their stated or explicit goal the maintenance of the system of racism and the oppression of those in the targeted racial groups. People who participate in active racism advocate the continued subjugation of members of the targeted groups and protection of “the rights” of members of the agent group. These goals are often supported by a belief in the inferiority of people of color and the superiority of white people, culture, and values.

Passive Racism:
Beliefs, attitudes, and actions that contribute to the maintenance of racism, without openly advocating violence or oppression. The conscious or unconscious maintenance of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that support the system of racism, racial prejudice and racial dominance.

Cultural Racism:
Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as “other”, different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.

Institutional Racism:
The network of institutional structures, policies, and practices that create advantages and benefits for Whites, and discrimination, oppression, and disadvantages for people from targeted racial groups. The advantages created for Whites are often invisible to them, or are considered “rights” available to everyone as opposed to “privileges” awarded to only some individuals and groups.

Source: Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, 1197 eds. Adams, Bell &Griffin

Race
A pseudobiological category that distinguishes people based on physical characteristics (e.g., skin color, body shape/size, facial features, hair texture). People of one race can vary in terms of ethnicity and culture.

Ethnicity
A group whose members share a common history and origin, as well as commonalities in terms of factors such as nationality, religion, and cultural activities.

Culture
The way of life of a group of people including the shared values, beliefs, behaviors, family roles, social relationships, verbal and nonverbal communication styles, orientation to authority, as well as preferences and expressions (art, music, food). “What everybody knows that everybody else knows.”

Acculturation
A dynamic process that occurs when members of one culture (culture of origin) come into contact with another culture (host/dominant culture) over a long period of time. The process involves exposure to, reaction to, and possible adoptions of aspects of the other groups culture. Adapting to the characteristics of the larger or dominant culture, while retaining some of one’s unique cultural traits.

Assimilation
The process of giving up connections to and aspects of one’s culture of origin and blending in with the host/dominant culture. Also, the wholesale adoption of the dominant culture at the expense of the original culture.

Prejudice
An attitude or opinion that is held in the absence of (or despite) full information. Typically it is negative in nature and based on faulty, distorted or unsubstantiated information that is over generalized and relatively in-flexible. Prejudices can be conscious or relatively unconscious.

Oppression
Treatment of a group of people within a society that results in the systematic denial of equal access to civil rights, freedoms, and power within that society. It involves a devaluing and non-acceptance of the target group and can be manifested economically, politically, socially, and/or psychologically. Individuals, through their values and behavior, can collude with a system of oppression which contributes to its maintenance in a society.

Equality
"In any given circumstances, people who are the same in those respects relevant to how they are treated in those circumstances should receive the same treatment" (p. 45). Equality defined in this way, looks at the individual and the circumstances surrounding him or her. It does not focus on group differences based on categories such as race, sex, social class, and ethnicity. This view is one of assimilation because it assumes that individuals, once socialized into society, have the right "to do anything they want, to choose their own lives and not be hampered by traditional expectations and stereotypes" (Young, 1990, p. 157).

Equity
"…. deals with difference and takes into consideration the fact that this society has many groups in it who have not always been given equal treatment and/or have not had a level field on which to play. These groups have been frequently made to feel inferior to those in the mainstream and some have been oppressed. To achieve equity, according to Young (1990), "Social policy should sometimes accord special treatment to groups" (p. 158). Thus, the concept of equity provides a case for unequal treatment for those who have been disadvantaged over time. It can provide compensatory kinds of treatment, offering it in the form of special programs and benefits for those who have been discriminated against and are in need of opportunity."

Equitable Access
Equitable access provides groups of people access to resources, services and programs that would not otherwise be available to them due to disadvantages created over time resulting from many factors including marginalization, racism, discrimination, and oppression. In essence, equitable access attempts to create a level playing field between the have and have nots.

Equity and Equality Definitions came from Krause, J. K, Traini, D. J., &Mickey, B. H. (2001). Equality versus equity. In J. P. Shapiro &J. A. Stefkovick (Eds), Ethical leadership and decision making in education (76-90). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum."
5.19.2006 12:49pm
Dustin8467 (mail):
Does anyone have any insight as to whether the definition of racision as expressed on the Seattle Public School System web page is itself unlawful? By defining racism as something that can only be practiced "by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites)", aren't they treating people differently based on ethnicity? Would a White Student have a case for a hostile environment racial harassment suit? (especially if he is accused of being a racist for being an individualist while a Black individualist would not be considered racist since he is not a member of the group with more social power) Should the Department of Education investigate this?
5.19.2006 12:56pm
Hans Bader (mail):
Dustin8647 is right. Under federal law, unlike Seattle's policy, whites can be victims of racism.

In an apparent conflict with federal law, the Seattle schools deny that whites can be the victims of racism. They define racism as limited to acts against groups that have “little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites).”

By contrast, federal appeals courts routinely rule against institutions that fire or harass white employees, recognizing that whites can indeed be victims of racism. See, e.g., Bowen v. Missouri Department of Social Services (2002) (racial harassment of white employee by black co-worker); Taxman v. Board of Education (1996) (termination of white teacher instead of black teacher). And the Supreme Court held that racial discrimination against whites by local governments is generally illegal in City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. (1989).

Affirmative action can’t be used to justify terminating or harassing an employee, although it can sometimes be used to a limited extent in hiring, promotions, and admissions.
5.19.2006 1:00pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
statfan writes:


For some reason (I would not be so presumptuous as to claim it's racism), everyone picks on AAVE here -- rarely are British immigrants chided for their accents. Perhaps you have some idea as to why this is.
Because most British immigrants speak a form of English that is sufficiently intelligible to not be a problem. Scots are another matter. When traveling in Britain a few years back, there were places around Loch Lomond where it took a couple of tries for me to understand what the locals were saying.

Also, there is nothing about AAVE which prevents its use in aeronautical engineering.
Except that the textbooks, the professors, and the other students speak standard English. But I suppose, if it makes you happy, we could set up AAVE schools of engineering, using AAVE textbooks, AAVE-speaking professors, and AAVE-speaking students. And we would be right back to the bad old days of separate but distinctly unequal schools.

If you want to be treated like the majority, it helps a lot to speak like the majority, write like the majority, and share the majority's values. Racism persists--why add additional factors to the problem?

Perhaps it will be difficult for speakers of a more common dialect to understand you -- but this is true of many dialects. It might also be hard for you to understand speakers of a more common dialect. I'm not sure why being in the minority here obligates one to change. Shouldn't we all work to understand more people?
Shouldn't we all work to make ourselves more understandable to more people? If someone doesn't understand what I have written, it may be that they aren't trying hard enough to understand me--but if it is important to me to be understood, I need to work a bit harder on clarifying my writing. If it isn't important for me to be understood, then fine. But then I am in no position to complain that no one understands what I am saying.
5.19.2006 1:13pm
statfan (mail):
There are a zillion cases of linguistic minorities choosing to keep their language even in the face of practical inconveniences. That people choose to do this says something about how individuals value the language they speak. People who think that AAVE speakers should just abandon their dialect are ignoring fundamental facts about how people actually behave. They are as silly as the people who support Kelo v. New London on the grounds that Kelo could just buy a new house somewhere else.

At any rate, I guess I'm not opposed to teaching more populous dialects (as dialects, rather than as the One True Language, as A.C. notes above), although I also think AAVE should be taught both out of a concern for equality and because it is useful in understanding a large percentage of our population. I guess white people are learning AAVE anyway, since I recall hearing some years ago that more white people listened to rap than black people (in absolute numbers, of course).

But I agree with Seattle that the claim that there is some "standard English", and that AAVE is inferior is, well, if not precisely racist, certainly prejudiced against minority social groups (I think a lot of people use racist as a shorthand for this). It's also linguistically ignorant. On everything else Seattle is saying, see above.
5.19.2006 2:04pm
Shangui (mail):
If a particular dialect or language doesn't have sufficient, specific words and constructs to effectively communicate about technical matters in accurate and specific manner than it is what I meant by grammatically inferior.

An Engineer can only refer to some many parts as "that thing-a-majig" and that other "thing-a-majig" so many times before effective communication is lost.


You seem to be talking about vocabulary, not grammar. In terms of the vocabulary, dialects can and do absorb and use all sorts of terms from either a base language or others. The numerous different dialects of English don't need different terms for "catalytic converter."

Chinese does not mark tense by changing the structure of words themselves. It also lacked most technical industrial vocabular at the end of the 19th century. But Chinese people manage to be clear about when things happened or will happen all the time. As necessity has dictated, they've adopted new vocabulary as well (note that even Latin has done the same in the Vatican). Do you think the English you speak is grammatically inferior to Navajo, as the latter has far more detailed and precise verbal structures? More importantly in this case, as Ebonics (if we want to call it that) is a dialect (if we want to call it that, and I'm not even sure I would) that is mutually comprehensible with other dialects of English, almost all of its grammatic structures are shared with English, including the infamous double-negatives that have a long history in English before African slaves were brought to the US. So I'm not buying your argument.

But again, this is a totally different question from where or not it should be taught or even tolerated in schools.
5.19.2006 2:29pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
SLS 1L, the original meaning of creole (in French but adopted into English) was a descendant of pure European lineage in a European colony; or items closely associated with that sector of colonial society.

My French Creole great-grandmother in New Orleans was that kind of creole.

Although there is a homonym, Kriol, that is the name of a pidgen spoken in West Africa, the appropriation of 'creole' by the linguists for the opposite of what creole used to mean leaves the language bereft. There is no word for the concept 'creole' any more, although perhaps that concept is achieving merely historical interest, and maybe that's a good thing, too.

Nevertheless, as a professional writer I'm wary of using words to mean the opposite of what they used to mean. Seems unproductive to me.
5.19.2006 3:19pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
statfan writes:


People who think that AAVE speakers should just abandon their dialect are ignoring fundamental facts about how people actually behave.
Who said that they need to "abandon their dialect"? It doesn't much matter what you speak at home, or with your friends, but if you don't learn or use standard English in the appropriate contexts, you are going to spend a lot of time listening to hip-hop and shooting hoops on the schoolyard--and very little time making any money.


I also think AAVE should be taught both out of a concern for equality and because it is useful in understanding a large percentage of our population.
Should we be teaching Gullah as well? Should we be teaching the Scots dialect of English? You can find a fair number of people in the U.S. who speak either dialect, but I certainly don't see either as being very useful for interacting with the rest of the country.

Oh yes, "a large percentage of our population"? Give me a break. America's population is about 11% black, and it is clear that many black Americans--I'll go out on a limb and say most black Americans--don't speak AAVE. I work with black people who speak completely standard English--with no "black" accent. One of the DJs on KTSY (a Boise radio station) is black--but I only know that because he made a passing reference to it with respect to not getting a tan at some recent outdoor event. I certainly can't hear what color he is when he speaks.

Most blacks in America are not ghetto dwellers. There is not only a large black middle class, but there has been for decades. Watch documentaries about the 1950s, and you will see Northern blacks speaking standard English, with the same regional accents as the whites of that region. This AAVE is largely a characteristic of the ghetto--and I'm pretty sure that not all poor urban blacks speak it.
5.19.2006 3:20pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

SLS 1L, the original meaning of creole (in French but adopted into English) was a descendant of pure European lineage in a European colony; or items closely associated with that sector of colonial society.
The Spanish word "criollo" also meant a person of pure Spanish blood who was born and raised in the New World. "Peninsulares" were those from Spain, with mestizo and zambo used to refer to those of mixed white and Indian ancestry, or mixed Indian and black ancestry.
5.19.2006 3:24pm
garrickw:
Other than one or two posters, I doubt anyone here is arguing that Ebonics (apparently AAVE these days), Southern, Hillbilly, Yooper, Brooklyn, or any of a hundred other regional slang vernaculars (calling them dialects is probably something of a stretch since they are at least mostly mutually comprehensible) is 'inferior'in the sense that a person who uses them is 'inferior' on face value. I also doubt that, as statfan mentioned at one point, anyone seeks to 'eradicate' AAVE or any other local vernacular.

I would imagine most people speak differently to their family and friends than they would to a professional acquaintance. I know that certainly I use words, slang, and sentence structures in friendly banter that I would assiduously avoid in any sort of communication to say, a potential employer.

The benefit of teaching 'standard English' is that it allows the student to rise to the level of professional discourse that is expected in today's workplace. This professional discourse is not a construct of 'racism', but rather is a necessity to allow polite and unambiguous discussion between professionals. It is in this sense that 'standard' English is 'superior' to regional or ethnic vernaculars: all of these vernaculars are modifications of standard English, not the other way around. Since all the vernaculars have 'standard' English as their common root, it makes sense that standard English would be the default means of communication for mass consumption or in the professional realm. 'Standard' English is the commonality we can all fall back on (and should be expected to be conversant in).

Of course there is a social component to the concept of sounding 'professional' or 'educated'. However, this is hardly a racist construction- 'Hillbilly' would be no more acceptable than 'Hip-Hop' in a corporate memo. Besides this, 'professionalism' extends beyond language to clothing and other mannerisms- is it 'racist' to insist that your employees wear ties instead of jeans and old t-shirts? Like it or not, professional society requires a good grasp of standard English forms (in France it requires a good grasp of standard French forms), and refusing to teach students standard English to avoid hurting their feelings is simply going to relgate them to dead-end jobs where clear communication is not important.

I think the most important facet of the debate was hit upon much earlier in the thread, namely that 'standard' or 'proper' English is necessary to convey thought in serious writing. Vernaculars are certainly workable, even superior, for everyday conversation, but in the written word where there is no benefit of spoken inflection or body language, structure is key to conveying thought clearly. I don't think it's racist to teach kids the importance of good writing.

While we're on the topic of good writing, the Seattle code is clearly an example of 'Bad Writing' - it's an incomprehensible spew of PC socio-babble. Frankly, writing spattered with "youse guys", "hizzle", or "cheerio jolly good and bloody 'ell" would be more intelligible. The writing of social science academics continues to sound more and more like Doublespeak.
5.19.2006 3:25pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Frankly, writing spattered with "youse guys", "hizzle", or "cheerio jolly good and bloody 'ell" would be more intelligible. The writing of social science academics continues to sound more and more like Doublespeak.
Actually, more and more like Doubleunplusgoodspeak.
5.19.2006 3:32pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
garrickw said:

The writing of social science academics continues to sound more and more like Doublespeak.

If they didn't use doublespeak, they would have to get a real education and a real job because its the doublespeak that helps keep the profits rolling in from the race baiting they generate.

Says the "Dog"
5.19.2006 3:34pm
digoweli:
Seattle said:
Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as "other", different, less than, or render them invisible.

digoweli
I personally have no trouble with this definition although rather than cultural racism I would define such attitudes as chauvinism or provincial. What is often devalued in both cases is the genius of each group. No one has been sitting around for a million years twittling their thumbs as Picasso found when he examined the sculptures of African "Primitives" and then stole their work and took credit for it himself.

Where is the magnificent Aztec Art that Durer commented on when it came to Holland? Well, it was melted down of course and now we call one of the greatest of all civilizations, primitive and barbaric. Not even the missionaries made that mistake but you can call anyone anything when you destroy their history. Native Americans were the greatest agricultural technologists on the planet. 70% of the food you stuff in your mouth came from them as well as the long fibre cotton (rather than India and Egypt which had short and hard to use fibres). But Native Americans are now "hunter-gatherers" in the minds of provincial chauvinists. In today's world people who have been traveling for thousands of years north and south are now termed "illegal aliens" in their own land.

Seattle also said:
Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored,

digoweli
How about if I call it the color of a grub worm? Would that be racist?

Seattle said:
having a future time orientation,

Digoweli
Suppose I ignored the present in the service of an orgasm in the future called the Rapture or just didn't take care of the earth in favor of destroying cultures for a place in a future time called "heaven"?

Seattle said:
emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology,

Digoweli
Europeans are born in a group and struggle to separate and individuate all of their lives. Other cultures emphasize being born alone and having to learn to live together. Life's purpose becomes to think as a team or ensemble as a way of achieving a greater synergy. That is a cultural difference and to equate superiority to either is stupid and ignorant. IMHO


Seattle said:
defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.


Digoweli
English is tough but it does have many versions and each has their place. The "polite" didn't serve Bill Clinton well we as he admitted in the "polite" form to remorse. The Republican demanded either a "common" or even "vulgar" response for it to be "real".

Ignorance of English and Englishes is rampant and ignorance of semiotics is terminal. Unfortunately those who are the most ignorant are usually native English speakers and not the ones who bring other systems to bear in understanding its meanings. Ignorance is the enemy and it has no cultural boundaries.

"Complexity is a state of mind." John N. Warfield

As for composers? Well old Art is just that and people who have no song in the present are people without a heart and soul. Today's complex music is being sung by Russian singers at the Met and composed by Chinese Communist composers. That is the voice that will represent America in the future.
If you really care about the future here on earth and for your Grandchildren, then find your own voice, song, literature and dance. Stop imitating the past but never forget to respect and enjoy it as someone else's art, not your own.

As for the lawyer/professor. Well, he isn't an artist and so his discussion of culture is about as proficient as my trying to argue a point of law. Debussy said upon being told that John Philip Sousa was America's greatest composer "Sousa's cakewalks are to music as military justice is to justice."

We all have to admit our complexity and help each other lower our incompetence through dialogue.

Digoweli
Cherokee Performing Artist, New York City
5.19.2006 4:57pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Digoweli writes:


Where is the magnificent Aztec Art that Durer commented on when it came to Holland? Well, it was melted down of course and now we call one of the greatest of all civilizations, primitive and barbaric.
Yeah, it was kind of difficult to appreciate it when it was built on industrial scale human sacrifice and cannibalism. That's part of why a lot of the surrounding tribes were so willing to help Cortez end "one of the greatest of all civilizations...."


Native Americans were the greatest agricultural technologists on the planet. 70% of the food you stuff in your mouth came from them as well as the long fibre cotton (rather than India and Egypt which had short and hard to use fibres). But Native Americans are now "hunter-gatherers" in the minds of provincial chauvinists.
Only to people that read simplistic books. Every American history text that I have used as either student or professor points out that some Indian tribes were settled farmers, while others were indeed "hunter-gatherers" and even then, for the Plains Indians, the hunter-gatherer existence was the result of introduction of the horse.

Your claim about "70%" really doesn't fly. Corn is Indian, as are potatoes, but that's not 70% of most people's diet. Wheat and rice both came from the Old World, as did cattle and pigs. Most of our vegetables are Old World, largely European, some Africa.
5.19.2006 5:28pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

In today's world people who have been traveling for thousands of years north and south are now termed "illegal aliens" in their own land.
I don't know anyone who has been traveling for thousands of years. Oh, you mean that people today who are descended from peoples that have been traveling for thousands of years. But that's not quite the same thing, is it? Of course, a lot of those "people" are actually descended from a mixture of Indians, Spaniards, blacks, and a few other European nations. Somehow, your racial pride argument starts to evaporate.
5.19.2006 5:32pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Statfan,

>Speaking AAVE is a disadvantage because people discriminate against someone who speaks AAVE. <

No, many additional reasons have been mentioned which you have not countered.

1. Yes, people discriminate against those who speak non-standard English, particularly the upper class people who hand out the upper class jobs. You can say we should change that, but we both know that it's not going to change. One reason it's not going to change is that it makes a whole lot of sense for employers to discriminate on this basis, because the ability to communicate well is important in many jobs, and an ability to speak standard English, as shown by speaking standard English, is quite clearly going to correlate with the effective communication skills that employers need. Which gets to point two, which is

2. People who speak standard English are going to be better at standard English, and standard English is what the business world, as well as most Americans, use. An ability to communicate well in standard English is an important skill, which is only learned by actually communicating in standard English. This isn't even about discrimination; it's about you either have the skills or you don't. If you speak a language other than standard English, you don't. Unless it's just a secret. In reality, though, you probably don't.

Really, what would happen if I started interviewing for new jobs, and I come in speaking in a thick Russian accent, using Russian words for about 10% of my vocabulary? Could I blame my failure to get a job on discrimination? Of course, this hybrid language may work extremely well with my family, and may even provide a greater vocabulary than English or Russian alone. As far as languages go, however, there is obviously a problem here. Now, I wouldn't use the word "inferior," because it's a loaded and ambiguous term and gives the wrong impression. But I wouldn't make something sacred out of it either.

As far as helping the racists, I think you're being ridiculous. In my view, your position "helps the racists" by encouraging minorities to resist speaking in standard English. Not only does your position help the racists, thus, but it hurts minorities. I'm sure you're trying to be nice, but in reality, I don't think you're trying any harder than anybody else here.
5.19.2006 8:09pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
So does Digoweli think that indians did genetic research and breeding experiments to create corn and potatos? Or did they just try to grow some of the stuff they found growing in the wild?

Digoweli gives no credit to the WHITE people who through application of individual future oriented practices took that corn and those potatos and built large scale farming techniques/operations involving many things that the indians never developed. Things like tools made of steel and various other metals, large ships to export the excess produce, the benefits of future orientation found in having a watch or other time keeping devices that allow greater granularity in decision making than just counting moon phases. The development of various fertilizers more effective than a dead fish. The species development and manipulation to produce more productive and disease resistent plants, etc.

Says the "Dog"
5.19.2006 8:11pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Ah, oneupmanship. Digowell's ancestors were hipper than my ancestors.

What if the best answer is, neither of the above?

Certainly nobody has ever before nominated Native Americans as the world's greatest farmers. There's more than one contender for that title, but some anthropologists give it to the Melanesians.

But his entrance does demonstrate just exactly what is behind and wrong with the Seattle approach. Seattle is not unique. In the California public schools, the kiddies are taught that the 'Chinese' built the railroads of the American West.

Lord knows what the analytically minded children will think when they grow up to discover that the Chinese weren't building any railroads in China back then.

What was going on?

Well, a competent syllabus would teach that building a railroad requires variety of accomplishments, including metallurgy, surveying, finance, corporate organization, real property law and earthmoving. To send the kiddies out of school imagining that all it takes to build a railroad is a gang of coolies swinging picks is idiotic.

To teach them that it doesn't matter if they grow up unilingual in a language that has next to no value (unless you are going to be a hiphop DJ) in the world of practical affairs is worse than idiotic.
5.19.2006 8:24pm
digoweli:
Eagar, lawdog and Cramer. You should do your homework or your teachers are suffering from American provincial ed.

There were a couple of hundred developed potatoes in Inca labs including one lab picture on google. Google is so simple. Barbara Kafka's new book on vegetables has a pretty fair reference to many of the foods. There are more than a few books that make the same statement from 60 to 70%. I would give you a bibliography but why steal your learning. The fact is you are wrong and I have more than enough footnotes to back up my statements.

As for the Chinese, are you one of the ones who still insists that the Germans invented printing? It is embarrassing how simple minded Americans are about the history of other peoples. Europe was a small minded place that robbed the world and took credit for their discoveries.

Oh yes, as for the Aztecs, I understand that on one temple on one day of the year they sacrificed 10,000 souls. Well, I'm a stage director and even I could figure out how many that would have to be sacrificed a minute to complete that in 24 hours and what about those steep steps and all of that blood? Cortez murdered six thousand men women and children with smallpox in one afternoon but that was on a plaza and the blood ran inches deep. Where is the vaunted critical analysis or analytic thinking? The only thing we know for sure is that they did sacrifice at least one soul a day to get the sun up. How many souls does America sacrifice to the God of transportation with a 70 mile per hour speed limit? Same result and the story smells the same as well. The Aztecs had the first universal public schools and rose from poverty to success in a very short time. They were also fundamentalists in religion but you should study their agriculture and then you could go to Titicaca and Cuzco and then check out Terra Preta in the Amazon. Cornell U. says that could be the real gold and saviour of the world.

Digoweli
5.19.2006 11:12pm
Hans Bader (mail):
Even in blogs in liberal Seattle, the Seattle schools' racist definitions have provoked controversy, over their stereotyping hard work and thrift (which the Seattle schools pejoratively call "future time orientation") as a negative white characteristic, and over their claims that only whites can be racist and that minorities cannot be victims of racism by other minorities.

But although most commenters view the definitions as stupid and kooky, those commenters who are self-identified academics mostly defend the definitions, calling them "progressive" and claiming they "foster discussion."

But there is nothing "progressive" about the racism embodied in Seattle's definitions.

For a government agency, such as a school system, to tell people that they are racist (and thus potentially subject to discipline under school anti-racism policies) because they advocate sacrificing for the future or prize individual initiative or individual rights (as civil libertarians and entrepreneurs do) chills discussion by branding would-be speakers as racist, rather than "fostering discussion."

The fact that people use the conclusory label "progressive" to defend these bullying, slanderous definitions, without providing any logical explanation for them, says much about the misuse of the word "progressive" in our society, and the intellectual bankruptcy of many who call themselves "progressives."

Seattle's definitions are also at odds with federal law.

Under federal law, whites can be victims of racism and discrimination, whether it is racial harassment by minorities in the workplace (Bowen v. Missouri (8th Cir. 2002), or race-based termination (Taxman v. Board of Education (3d Cir. 1996), or the denial of a contract pursuant to an affirmative action plan. (Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. (Supreme Court, 1989)).

Moreover, school districts have repeatedly been held liable under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for allowing blacks to subject Asian students to racist mistreatment and harassment.

That shows that the Seattle school district is wrong when it claims that only whites can be racists and that minorities cannot be racist.

They are wrong on the law. They are also ignorant of history, which is replete with examples of whites being subjected to racism by other whites (the Holocaust), or minorities being subjected to racism by other minorities (Rwanda, Darfur, Southern Sudan, the Rape of Nanking).
5.20.2006 12:33pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
>Even in blogs in liberal Seattle, the Seattle schools' racist definitions have provoked controversy, over their stereotyping hard work and thrift (which the Seattle schools pejoratively call "future time orientation") as a negative white characteristic, and over their claims that only whites can be racist and that minorities cannot be victims of racism by other minorities.<

It's interesting, I guess that by this view Kiwi Camara would have to be defended for his racial epithet, being that he is apparently Philippino.

Clayton Cramer,

Don't the Inquisition, Crusades, Witch Trials, Holocaust or any number of other things suggest that the West has done some unsavory things too? Of course, not all Westerners, but if it could happen in Germany...

I guess I don't see why you'd object to his praise of another culture. I'm happy to praise any culture; I just think that if you live in America you're smart to speak English.
5.20.2006 3:30pm
Michael B (mail):
Future Time Orientation: bad

Past Time Orientation: good
5.20.2006 6:50pm