Re: Mumia, Ebonics & Pedagogy

Charles J. Reid (
Thu, 16 Jan 1997 11:48:20 -0800 (PST)


Please investigate the linguistic principles of Ferdinand de Saussure, a linguist who distinguished between the study of the actual use of language as opposed to the evaluative study of how some people think language ought to be used. Big difference.

-- Charlie Reid "Salus populi suprema est lex" (Cicero) The welfare of the people is the highest law. ---------------------------------------------

On Thu, 16 Jan 1997, Harvey Wheeler wrote:

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> AA
> AAAA The A-Infos News Service
> Subject: Ebonics
> I agree with Mumia. The Ebonics issue is politics rather than pedagogy.
> There have been many anthropological and linguistic studies of street and
> Black English. I do not know of any on Ebonics as such. It would be a great
> service if you could find and distribute texts about the language.
> The C-MODE System was developed to deal with language problems like those at
> issue in Oakland.
> Working with the Chair of a high school English Department C-MODE developed a
> computer-mediated pedagogy for dealing with two language arts problems:
> 1. Pseudo-Literacy: Students of all backgrounds arrive at school with
> impaired literacy. There are many causes and I have a document on
> "PseudoLiteracy" that explains our diagnosis and treatment in the C-MODE
> System. Such students may have large oral vocabularies and their spoken
> grammar may seem to be recognizable English but their literacy, literature and
> compositional foundations are gravely deficient.
> 2. Non-Literacy. Students of several linguistic backgrounds arrive at school
> as non-literates. They may have fine brains and good minds and sometimes
> though not often may have memorized hundreds of tunes. But their acculturate
> has been through oral, not optical media.
> This is not an ESL problem as such. An ESL student is assumed to have some
> literacy - even though impaired, as above - in a natal language.
> Not so with non-literates. They are not literate in their natal languages. In
> our region this is true primarily of Latinos; less so of inner city
> Afro-Americans and Asian-Americans.
> The C-MODE System developed separate, though related pedagogies for each. The
> systen was compulsory during one year, as part of the regular English
> requirement, for all entering 9th graders. Both programs were sucessful
> during the trial year.
> Our approach to non-literates was essentially to adapt a simplified version of
> the literation approach of Plato, using the (then) recently introduced quill
> and scroll. Plato introduced literacy education in the First Academy,
> following death of Socrates. The First Academy (named after an athletic
> facility) amounted to the invention of Greek formal education.
> Remember though that Plato's students were already fluent in classical
> Greek, even in rhetoric, and had memorized the classics of Homer and Hesiod.
> Peter Fairweather (of IBM) and Richard Mammen of Change Inc.- Minneapolis -
> observed and can provide assessments of the C-MODE approach.
> Ours was a computer-mediated approach and involved the students in six
> reiterative stages, employing four separate kinds of computer programs. The
> students literally constructed the English language for themselves.
> Had we been able to continue we would have incorporated into our
> computer-mediated approach the model of Basic English (developed by Ogden and
> Richards during World War II for non-literates - the then famous "English
> Through Pictures" series.
> Ebonics could be used creatively. Classes could record Ebonics speech
> patterns and use them to compile dictionaries and grammars. Folk and street
> tales could be recorded and transliterated. Students could write beginning
> English exercises by translating their Ebonics speech-ways into English words.
> Plays and skits could be written and performed in Ebonics. There are many
> ingenious ways Ebonics could be used to teach English.
> H
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