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The Real Ebonics Debate

Table of Contents

"The Real Ebonics Debate: Power, Language, and the Education of African-American Children," is edited by Theresa Perry and Lisa Delpit. Based on a special issue of Rethinking Schools (Fall, 1997), it is published in collaboration with Beacon Press of Boston.

The Real Ebonics Debate: Power, Language, and the Education of African-American Children

A forward to the book, by the editors of Rethinking Schools.

An Introduction from the editors
Editors Theresa Perry and Lisa Delpit provide a brief history of the Ebonics controversy in Oakland and explain what they hope this collection of articles will accomplish.

SECTION 1: FROM THE EDITORS

"I 'on Know Why They Be Trippin'"
By Theresa Perry
An essay on the political furor that greeted the Oakland School Board's resolution on Ebonics, and some of the issues that were glossed over during the noisy national debate that followed.

Ebonics and Culturally Responsive Instruction
By Lisa Delpit
A closer look at some of the connections between language, teaching and cultural identity.

SECTION 2: WHAT IS EBONICS?

Black English/Ebonics: What It Be Like?
By Geneva Smitherman
Some of the history and technical specifics that define Ebonics.

If Ebonics Isn't a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?
By Wayne O'Neil
A linguist addresses some of the more common questions about Ebonics and the Oakland School Board resolution, and some of the misconceptions about the resolution spread by the mainstream media.

Holding On To A Language of Our Own
An Interview with John Rickford
The noted scholar, who has studied the relation between language and culture for the past 25 years, answers questions about the development of African-American language and its connections to contemporary U.S. society.

What is Black English? What is Ebonics?
By Ernie Smith
Observations and reflections by one of the consultants to the Oakland School District's Standard English Proficiency program.

If Black English Isn't a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?
By James Baldwin
The acclaimed writer speaks his mind on language, politics and power in this article, originally published as a letter to the editor of The New York Times in 1979.

Ebonics: Myths and Realities
By Mary Rhodes Hoover
A point-by-point rebuttal to some of the prevailing myths about Ebonics, literacy among African-American children and education.

SECTION 3: CLASSROOM IMPLICATIONS

Embracing Ebonics and Teaching Standard English: An Interview with Oakland Teacher Carrie Secret
This 31-year veteran of Oakland classrooms explains the effects of the Standard English Proficiency program, which recognizes the systematic, rule-governed nature of "Black English" while helping students learn Standard English, and how respect and cultural awareness can help teachers reach their students.

Literature from Children's Roots
By Terry Meier
Why books written by African-American authors are important to children's literacy development.

Using "Flossie and the Fox"
Some ways that teachers can use this spirited book, which features several characters who speak in "the rich and colorful dialect of the rural South," to increase the linguistic awareness of children.

Teaching Teachers About Black Communications
By Terry Meier
How teachers can prepare themselves to help African-American students embrace Standard English as well as — not instead of — their own dialect.

Removing the Mask: Roots of Oppression Through Omission
By Monique Brinson
An African-American teacher reflects on how to help children embrace Standard English without letting go of their own cultural identity, her own struggle to rebuild her self-image, and why this matters.

Ebonics Speakers and Cultural, Linguistic, and Political Test Bias
by Mary Rhodes Hoover

"Listen to Your Students"
An interview with Oakland High School English Teacher Hafeezah AdamaDavia Dalji

SECTION 4: THE OAKLAND RESOLUTION

The Oakland Ebonics Resolution
The full text of the controversial resolution passed by the Oakland School Board on Dec. 18, 1996, including revisions made to the original version and a "policy statement" by the board which accompanied the resolution.

Recommendations of the Task Force on Educating African-American Students
The recommendations on cultural-linguistic literacy approved by the Oakland School Board on Jan. 21, 1997.

What is the Standard English Proficiency Program?
Explanations by the Oakland school district of this important program.

Oakland Superintendent Responds to Critics of the Ebonics Policy
By Carolyn Getridge
A defense and explanation of the Oakland school district's actions by the woman who was running the Oakland school district when the Ebonics furor erupted.

Linguistic Society of America's Resolution on Ebonics
The text of a resolution passed by the society on Jan. 3, 1997, which concludes that the Oakland resolution was "linguistically and pedagogically sound."

Opening Pandora's Box
An Interview with Oakland School Board member Toni Cook.

An Oakland Student Speaks Out
By Michael Lampkins
The testimony before Congress by the student member of the Oakland School Board.

Ebonics and the Role of Community
An interview with activist Isaac Taggert

SECTION 5: PERSONAL ESSAYS

Official Language; Unofficial Reality
By Joyce Hope Scott
One woman's experiences acquiring bilingual and bicultural fluency in a segregated Southern community.

Black English: Steppin Up? Lookin Back
By Beverly Jean Smith
Thoughts on the cultural disrespect inherent in much of the criticism of the Ebonics resolution in Oakland, and the struggles of African Americans to cope with such hostility.