Gary Probst wrote:

The following story is an example of what Pat  is telling us.

> Pat Shultz wrote:
> >   I often wonder what will be the long term result of a national
> >tolerance for, and encouragement of, extreme dialectical differences in the
> >speaking and writing of American English.  Hypothetically at least, one
> >possible outcome might be that people from one American state might
> >eventually be unable to communicate with people from another.

In a small Southern town there was a nativity scene that indicated great skill
and talent in its creation. One small feature bothered me though. The three wise
men were wearing firemen's helmets.

Totally unable to come up with a reason or explanation, I left.
At a "Quik Stop" on the edge of town, I asked the lady behind the counter
about the helmets. She exploded into a rage, yelling at me, "You darn
Yankees never do read the Bible!"

I assured her that I did, but simply couldn't recall anything about firemen
in the Bible. She jerked her Bible from behind the counter and ruffled
through some pages, and finally jabbed her finger at a particular

Sticking it in my face she said, "See, it says right here, 'The
three wise men came from afar.'"

> Or, the
> >divided-city syndrome, reminiscent of the Ellis Island immigration era
> >might be another result.  How will we communicate with one another?  Sign
> >language?  Esperanto?  Quien sabe?
> Pat & Don and others,
> My point is not that Standard English shouldn't be taught. Of course it
> should be taught! But it should be taught in the spirit of offering a tool
> with which to succeed in an intolerant world, not in the spirit of calling a
> person's regional accent "incorrect."
> Please stop perpetuating the myth of the degradation of American English.
> There was no golden era of "correct" pronunciation and adherence to rules of
> grammar and usage. Rules of grammar for English were only codified in the
> late 1800's, and many mistakes of mis-applying Latin grammar to English were
> made in the process. Many of these rules(rules against split infinitives and
> using a preposition at the end of a sentence, for instance) are still with
> us, in spite of having nothing to do with the Queen's English, then, now, or
> ever.
> Right now in this country there is both a wider use of a "standard" dialect
> and less dialectical variation than there has ever been. If anything,
> American English is homogenizing faster than it is fracturing.
> Again, Teach Standard English, Teach Standard English! It's unfair to
> students if you don't. But don't call a person's dialect "incorrect;" in
> what sense could it be? Is it the word of God? (Thou shalt speak the
> language of thy superiors.) No: it is only the in perceptions of intolerant
> people. There are many of these people. There will always be many of these
> people. Therefore, we need to help students learn the dialect of the path to
> power.
> What could possibly be the pedagogical advantage of calling any student's
> background incorrect, or a "lack of knowledge." People don't speak a dialect
> out of a "lack of knowledge." They speak a dialect because of the presence
> of knowlege: the knowledge of their own mother-tongue. That knowledge may
> not be the knowledge of privilege, but it is knowledge nonetheless. If you
> found yourself in the middle of Bombay, and someone said to you, "Aap to
> kahaa jaane chahiye?" Would you decide that the language you know was
> "incorrect?" No. You would probably hope you could find a patient English
> speaker. Extend the same courtesy to people who don't speak your dialect.
> (Incidentally, India has 17 officially sanctioned languages, and hundreds
> more dialects that vary much more extremely than those in America. India has
> many problems, but you will find very few people in India who blame them on
> language differences.)
> Steve Runge
> Academic Skills Coordinator
> St. Lawrence U.
> Canton, NY 13617
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