African-Centered Schooling in Theory and Practice

By Diane S. Pollard; Cheryl S. Ajirotutu | Go to book overview

concern. For example, in spite of some movement toward equalizing education expenditures in schools and districts heavily populated by African Americans in the 1970s, the final decades of the twentieth century show declines ( Irvine, 1990). These schools fall behind most prominently in quality of teacher credentials, experience, and educational background. Facilities, materials, and environmental surroundings similarly do not begin to match those available in the majority of districts that are predominantly white. Such persistent inequities in formal schooling must remain central to actions, rhetoric, and scholarship of those linked to any form of Afrocentric education.

Similarly, these educators--regardless of their location of teaching--must reflect language structures and uses of African Americans fairly. Although it is unrealistic to expect teachers to be trained in linguistics and the history of language structures and uses represented among African Americans, it is imperative that materials and teaching approaches not perpetuate stereotypes or universals associated with particular varieties, such as those of African American Vernacular English. It is also critical that historical representations of communication among African Americans not slip into essentializing and overarching features such as "oral" or styles such as "jiving" or "preaching." These need to be situated within the spectrum of competencies and performances of African Americans, male and female, young and old, southern and northern, eastern and western. The strong tendency to celebrate particular genres, such as playing the dozens, rapping, jiving, or even sermonizing, perpetuates narrow views of interpersonal relations and occupational roles that African Americans choose.

A return to poet Meredith's admonitions is in order here--and, ideally, for perceived insiders and outsiders. Considerable work, as well as extensive discussion of standards and norms of judgment of what is, can be, and has been African within the American context, remains to be done. This call extends to all who see themselves as Afrocentric educators, as well as to others of us whose primary research has been to elucidate specific historical and contemporary niches within language and culture not only among but also about African Americans. Moreover, responsible scholars, journalists, and educators must never let up on the task of historicizing race and its attendant meanings and contexts within the United States. Any effort termed "Afrocentric," whether political, educational, or aesthetic, merits combined and joint work in the spirit of "critical negation, wise preservation and insurgent transformation" ( West, 1993, 85). Many islands of belief, entrenched values, and hidden information remain to be informed, negotiated, and traversed.


NOTES
1.
Within the first few years after the Ebonics Resolution in Oakland, several volumes appeared. Some address primarily education issues (see especially Perry & Delpit, 1999), whereas others provide a solid grounding in varieties of African American English (e.g., Mufwene, Rickford, Bailey, & Baugh, 1998; Baugh, 1999; Rickford, 1999). An important element of the renewed interest in language issues since the Ebonics Resolution has been attention to avant-garde poets such as Amiri Baraka ( Nielsen, 1997). Rickford and Rickford

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