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AAE in the news

April 28, 2009

GoUpstate.com recently published this article about an educational program being developed by s professor and his student research assistant at the University of South Carolina that addresses dialect differences.  Specifically, the program would develop a comprehensive curriculum  to be taught in South Carolina schools that would educate middle-school students on different dialects spoken by their peers   as well as teach the speakers of those dialects how to appreciate their native tongues while integrating standard American English into their lives. Additionally, the researchers professor David Marlow and student George Reed wished to dispel negative attitudes about these regional dialects.

By the end of the program, Marlow would like students to be able to ‘code switch,’ or transition between proper standard English and whatever dialect they were born with. Marlow’s team thinks that will enhance students’ chances for success in future academic and career goals while ‘still feeling comfortable within their own skin when they’re in their own community.’

The article goes on to mention that:

African-American dialect seems to draw the most prejudice. After a recent presentation he gave about dialect diversity to a group of college education majors from around the state, Marlow said one black student approached him and thanked him for his message.

It is clear that Marlow and Reed’s work is appreciated in the community, and is helping to foster positive attitudes about both language and identity. This article brings several key issues to the forefront of discussion. It is both exciting and rare that such an important program focused on linguistics and dialect awareness gains funding in today’s educational environment. Opportunities like this are a key to the educational success of America’s bi-dialectal youth, which include a large and often academically neglected African American population.

A widespread implementation of dialect programs that raise awareness as well as teach Standard American English code-switching (switching between two languages) tools would dramatically affect the success of many African American students whose first language is AAE. One of the main issues standing in the way of these educational reforms is of course, funding. The question of whether these issues deserve public funding, and from what sector, continues to be a subject of widespread debate.

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Another scholarly and straightforward look at the issue of vernacular dialect education in public schools can be found here.

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