Ebonics Funding Debated on Hill: Academics Argue Whether New Approaches Are Needed
Innerst, Carol, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The debate on Ebonics came to Capitol Hill yesterday, with millions of dollars in federal funding hanging in the balance.
Academics argued before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that it is sound educational policy to use the language a child speaks at home as a bridge to teaching standard English. Critics countered that classroom use of a nonstandard dialect demeans blacks and that teacher attitude, not language, is the real issue.
"The focus on Ebonics is a red herring distracting us from the hard question of how can these youngsters excel," said the Rev. Amos C. Brown, chairman of the Civil Rights Commission of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc. and member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
The church, with 8.2 million members, does "not support the concept of Ebonics as it is presently constituted," he said. "Low achievement does not reside in their genes. It is in their conditioning, their immediate culture."
Mr. Brown's advice to young people: Turn the television off three hours a night to study and get involved in church work after school.
He also lashed out at white teachers. "The issue is not per se Ebonics," Mr. Brown said. "The reason many of our children do not excel is because their [white] teachers will have attitudes, they're not a part of the community and therefore they do not earn the right to discipline and challenge these youngsters to excel."
Education Secretary Richard W. Riley squelched the idea of federal bilingual funding for Ebonics. But Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the subcommittee that held the hearing, suggested that he might be interested in targeting some federal money to Ebonics programs.