Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Disinviting Deficit Ideologies: Beyond "That's Standard," "That's Racist," and "That's Your Mother Tongue"

Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Disinviting Deficit Ideologies: Beyond "That's Standard," "That's Racist," and "That's Your Mother Tongue"

Article excerpt

Ultimately, both black and white students must be prepared for life in a multilinguistic, transnational world.

-Smitherman, 1986, p. 219

The big deal is that for White people, [code-meshing]'s okay. But when minorities do it . . . we judge them negatively. We tell them that, in order for them to be successful, they have to turn off and deny a large part of themselves. . . . At school, they're required to park their informal, undervalued, 'home' language at the door, in exchange for the unequivocally better, formal, 'White' standard. Then we weigh them down with the burden of conforming to this standard that, as you've witnessed lately, no one consistently upholds.

-Young, Barrett, Young-Rivera, & Lovejoy, 2014, p. 89

Four decades after publication of "Students' Right to Their Own Language" (Conference on College Composition and Communication, 1974), persistent deficit ideologies casting language variation as sloppy and criminal create specific challenges for teachers seeking to promote equity and narrow achievement gaps. Due to scholars' realization of important links between equity and language, everincreasing resources are available for educators seeking to affirm student language variation and support critical learning (e.g., Ball & Lardner, 2005; Charity Hudley & Mallinson, 2013; Denham & Lobeck, 2005; Smitherman & Villanueva, 2003) and to prepare linguistically responsive teachers (Lucas, 2011). Yet, public discourses about word crimes and online language disintegration compete with calls to invite students' mother tongues and literacies into classrooms (Elbow, 1999; Nieto, 2002).

Past scholarship documents that teachers' language attitudes are often racialized and affect student learning, particularly in relation to African American students' language use (Blake & Cutler, 2003; Kynard, 2013). Even with course work in language variation, deficit ideologies may be entrenched and practices remain unchanged, thus leading to calls for a trifecta of linguistic knowledge about African American language variation, self-reflection, and personal/professional change in writing instruction (Ball & Lardner, 2005; Ball & Muhammad, 2003).

In English language arts (ELA), ideologies of race and language often intersect, especially as deficit discourses abound (Fecho, 2004; Shapiro, 2014), and teachers promote standard English(es) as preferable to students' diverse language resources (Godley, Carpenter, & Werner, 2007). Although enactment of language appreciation principles has been demonstrated to offer affordances for ELA teachers (Sweetland, 2006), teachers who take up linguistically responsive positions may still struggle with dilemmas in moments of enactment due to expectations that they serve as gatekeepers for "standard English" (Hill, 2009). These challenges leave preservice teachers at the intersection of multiple positions related to language, including their desires to champion students' "home" language as well as navigate ELA disciplinary expectations.

In response to these challenges, teacher education has offered approaches related to language variation that have often focused on code-switching (e.g., Wheeler & Swords, 2006) in reference to situational shifts between the language students use at home and language required in schools. Young and Martinez (2011) have noted that this type of situational code-switching may be problematic and even counterproductive. By asking students to draw contrasts between "standard" and "home" language, this approach reflects a "transitional" rather than "additive" approach to language learning that has been critiqued as a deficit model. For instance, contrastive analysis approaches have led to students' avoidance of undervalued language varieties at school and/or internalization of negative views, even when instructors were attempting to affirm multiple language varieties (e.g., Kirkland & Jackson, 2009).

Responding to limits of situational code-switching, recent scholarship (Michael-Luna & Canagarajah, 2007; Young et al. …

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