Essay on All American Students Must Learn Standard English

1854 Words 8 Pages
All American Students Must Learn Standard English


What are words? A simple question such as this would in theory demand only a simple answer. Words, however, take such an abundance of forms that creating a truly inclusive definition for the notion of “words” is daunting. In its physical manifestation, a word is little more than air passing over taut tendons, forming sounds which are accented by flicks of the tongue against the teeth and roof of the mouth. These sounds are arranged in patterns that come to be recognized and accepted as words. But are these sounds all that words represent?—certainly not. Words command power. Although the defiant playground motto states that “sticks and stones may break bones, but words can never hurt,”
…show more content…
According to Geneva Smitherman, in her book Talkin and Testifyin, standard English as we know it today flourished in the eighteenth century to fill the void left by the decline of Latin (186). African American Vernacular English, or Ebonics, also formed to meet a specific need. Contrary to popular belief, Ebonics rose out of 19th Century southern slave culture, not out of repeated use of “sloppy” speech. Slaves who were strictly oppressed by their masters were not allowed to peaceably assemble or meet with each other for any purpose. Such freedom, slave owners feared, could foster coercive ideas amongst their slaves. Slaves, therefore, needed a language that would allow them to communicate with each other in a clandestine manner. Ebonics rose to meet this need (Smitherman 19). Using Ebonics, slaves were able to communicate behind their masters’ backs and form a unity that was instrumental in the perseverance of African American culture through the unspeakable trials of slavery.

Almost one hundred and forty years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery, the need which Ebonics originally rose to meet is no longer present. In its place, a new need has arisen—the need for increased social mobility. Statistics show that a cycle of poverty has formed in which a disadvantaged African American child has little chance in his lifetime of ever advancing appreciably beyond the social…