This message surprised me. I did not construe the preceding posts to
claim that an instructor should not point out instances of non-standard
usage; indeed, in several different ways they have made the point that
students need to know and use standard edited English accurately to
suuceed academically and professionally. None of us would be in
positions to join this list if we had not mastered that variety of
English in one way or another.

What the earlier writers have implied, justly, is that there is every
historical, linguistic, and pedagogical reason NOT to couch instruction
so as to imply that anyone's way of speaking is inferior. There is no
need to. Students are intelligent enough to understand relationships
between language, power, and affiliation. I think they can comprehend
perfectly well why 'yuns' fits one situation and 'you' another.

The truth is that the notion of "correct usage" is at best soft around
the edges. For example, is a split infinitive such as "To not point that
out is unacceptable" unacceptable? Generations of students were taught
that it was incorrect to end sentences with prepositions. In the space
of just one soliloquy, Shakespeare's Hamlet ends no fewer than three of
his sentences with prepositions. Evidently his composition professors at
Wittenberg were squeamish about pointing out errors; they could see how
depressed he was already. I once argued in vain that it was illogical
for a student publications manual to include statements using he/his to
refer to 'editor' and 'manager' when those positions had nearly always
been held by women. I had historical reality and logic on my side;
combined, they were no match for an ossified notion of correctness.
I wanted to finish without pointing out that the correct form is "our
students' [plural possessive] mistakes," but I don't want to be thought
unprofessional. Think of it as a teachable moment. Aren't they all,

-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Robert Ciervo
Sent: Tuesday, February 20, 2007 9:40 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Language, status and discrimination

Unfortunately I must chime in here and wholeheartedly disagree. There is
a correct form of English and though it is extremely difficult to learn
and master at times, to say that there is not a correct form of written
and spoken English is false.  We must remove the emotions from the
conversation when conversing about a topic such as grammar.  It is not
demeaning to point out when an individual submits written work with
incorrect English, whether it be vocabulary, grammar, or punctuation.  
It is in fact a teachable moment.

If we are afraid to hurt one's feelings by pointing out our students
mistakes, then I submit that we are all in the wrong business.  Again we
do our students a supreme disservice by postulating a position that
demonstrating when a student uses an incorrect usage of written or
spoken English, is well "not acceptable."  To not point that out is
unacceptable in my opinion and unprofessional as well.  


Robert L. Ciervo, Ph.D., Director
Rutgers-Camden Learning Center
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-Camden
231 Armitage Hall
311 N. Fifth Street
Camden, NJ 08102
(856) 225-2722
(856) 225-6443 fax
[log in to unmask]

Jessica Nettles wrote:
> I also agree with Nic. While society designates some language
varieties as "low-status," there is no true "correct" or "incorrect"
English. I find it to be much more productive to spend time explaining
how students can use "standardized" English to their advantage, and how
"standardization" can help them be understood by a larger audience. I
find this to be an ah-ha moment for many of my students that do speak
and write in a "low status" form of English. I also like to emphasize
that none of us really speak "standardized" English, but we speak (and
often write) the language we're most often exposed to. To tell them that
the language they learned from birth is "incorrect" is demeaning, and
defeats the purpose of teaching standardized English. As native
Georgian, I know that there are infinite versions of English that are
spoken, and even the pidgeon languages such as our own Geechee and
Gullah languages add spice and variety to the symphony of language that
we hear every single day. To say it's incorrect is not acceptable. 
> Of course, everyone else has probably said this before...
> Jess
> Jessica Nettles
> Instructor of Developmental English and Reading Chattahoochee 
> Technical College, Main Campus Room B-152
> (770) 528-4544
> [log in to unmask]
> "Nature is a haunted house--but Art--is a house that tries to be
> Emily Dickinson
> ________________________________
> From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals on behalf of 
> beth kupper-herr
> Sent: Tue 2/13/2007 8:21 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Language, status and discrimination
> Similar to Black English, Hawaiian Creole English (HCE -- popularly 
> known as "Hawaiian pidgin") is also a low-status language.  (It is, in

> fact, linguistically distinct from English and has its own grammatical

> structure and intonation pattern.)  Generations of native speakers of 
> HCE have referred to their language as "broken English", and it is 
> regarded by many
> -- including many employers -- as less desirable or acceptable than 
> standard American English.  For many native HCE speakers, the adaptive

> solution has been to learn standard English and to "code-switch" 
> between the two languages as appropriate to the situation.  I believe 
> it's possible for people to do this as a practical strategy without 
> feeling like they are inferior.  I also agree with Nic that a 
> dualistic view of language is not productive.
>    beth
> )))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((
> (((((
> Beth Kupper-Herr
> Professor
> Coordinator, Learning Resource Center
> Leeward Community College
> 96-045 Ala Ike
> Pearl City, HI  96782
> e-mail:  [log in to unmask]
> phone/voice mail:  (808) 455-0413
> )))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((
> (((((
>> Rae,
>> Thanks for picking this thread back up.
>> When thinking of language variety or dialect (not "accent"), I think 
>> it is important to make a distinction between the rule-governed 
>> nature  of a variety of language and its social, political and 
>> economic status. This distinction is suggested by the quote from 
>> McClendon below. He points out that "Black English" (note that not 
>> all Black people speak this variety, and persons who would not be 
>> considered black do, in fact, speak this variety) has features he 
>> likes, but that speaking it can lead to being discriminated against.
>> That is, because the language is low status, those who speak it may 
>> be treated as low status, denied access to full participation in our 
>> society, and judged inferior in some way. So, while so-called Black 
>> English is as legitimate a variety of  language as any other in terms

>> syntax, phonology, morphology, etc. it is not considered legitimate 
>> by most in dominate positions in our society. This is a social 
>> judgement, not a linguistic one. Few, if any, linguists would say 
>> that Standard American English is "better" linguistically than Black 
>> English. Why, indeed, should we even use dualisms of "better and 
>> worse", "correct and incorrect" when thinking about language? Is 
>> green "better" than orange? Is a chicken an incorrect variety of bird

>> because it does not fly?
>> So, I would ask Mr McClendon, "better" for what? Better 
>> grammatically? Linguistic evidence doesn't support that claim. Better

>> in terms of having access to power? I would agree. But at what price 
>> to these speakers do we seek to change their ways of speaking to be 
>> like the standard?
>> So, when we as educators attempt to  "improve" our students'
>> dialects, we need to be aware that we are not teaching "correct"
>> English, but rather, "conventional" and "codified" English that 
>> reflects the ways of speaking of those who do the codifying.
>> Nic
>>> Our College recently invited writer, diversity trainer and talk show

>>> host Garrard McClendon to speak on his new book "Ax or Ask? The 
>>> African American Guide to Better English."  Our student newspaper 
>>> ran an article on McClendon.  He is quoted as saying, "I love Black 
>>> English, it's comfortable, rhythmic, but use it all the time and you

>>> can be discriminated against. Sometimes we blame things on color, 
>>> when it could be dialect."  He reminded the audience that there is 
>>> no such word as "squoze" or "irregardless."  In addition to his 
>>> book, McClendon has created a website to further 
>>> educate African Americans.
>>> I, myself, have not reviewed his book; and I have briefly visited 
>>> his website.  You may find one or both helpful.
>>> Rae M. Maslana, M.Ed., NCC, LPC
>>> Certified Learning Center Leadership Professional - Level 4 College 
>>> of DuPage Coordinator, Tutoring Services Academic Support Center, IC

>>> 3040
>>> (630) 942-3681
>>> and
>>> C.O.D. Counselor
>>> (630) 942-4804 - Westmont Center
>>> (630)942-4603 - Addison Center
>>> Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that 
>>> matter.
>>> -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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