The purpose of this paper is to examine and discuss two articles which explore the current controversy regarding the confusion of approaching Ebonics in the Oakland school district. It will discuss the four key terms, pidgin, creole, dialect, and language, which were misunderstood and misused by the Oakland School Board. The paper will also suggest what the school board could have done differently which would have reduced the negative publicity that surrounded the controversy.
This paper will summarize findings from two articles that examine the current conversation addressing the controversy regarding the Ebonics controversy in the Oakland school district created by the Oakland School Board. The first article by Lakoff, titled Ebonics –It’s Chronic, examines the issues surrounding the Ebonics controversy of 1996 in Oakland, CA. The second article is a forward to a book written by Orr, E. W. and provides important detail regarding African Americans success in learning to read and write, as well as learn mathematics in a schooling system which only teaches Stand English. Together, both articles help shed light on who was defining the issue and how it was approached by teachers, board members, and the perspective of the surrounding communities.
To first understand the issues being addressed in by the Oakland School Board, we must first understand four key terms which were in some cases misused by the school board members when referring to Ebonics. The first of these terms is pidgin which refers to a grammatically simplified form of a language, used for communication between people not sharing a common language (Pinker, 1994). The next is the term creole, which refers to a mother tongue formed from the contact of two languages through an earlier pidgin stage (Pinker, 1994). The third important term is dialect which we define as a particular form of a language that is peculiar to a specific region or...
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