‘fraught’

examination of stigmatized language varieties is complex stuff, especially in the context of dominant language ideologies, minority oppression, and the well justified – if sometimes too theoretical – debate about standard English. it’s not my practice to introduce highly controversial topics here, in a class, or in my research without representing more than one perspective. and i don’t find contrastive analysis and codeswitching, on the one hand, and interrogation of deeply entrenched dominant language ideologies, on the other hand, to be mutually exclusive topics. in my field, they’re intimately linked, and this means cross-examination of writings by rebecca wheeler with writings by sonja lanehart, for example, is not only necessary but essential to study of the past, present, and future of language ‘standards’, language variation, and institutionalized linguistic prejudice, perhaps most especially when these are examined in the context of educator responsibilities.

lanehart, after all, writing in 2002, summons Sledd (1969) to aid in her dismantling of the ideologies of opportunity, progress, and emancipation and to remind readers that even

“compassionate, liberal educators, knowing the ways of society, will change the color of a student’s vowels because they cannot change the color of their students’ skins” (p. 325).”

even now, a decade later (…over four decades later) — haunting words.

but perhaps cross-examination conveys the wrong intention, because i would argue that the two are allied. questioning what’s standard and why is commensurate with developing methods to address linguistic prejudice in the classroom. and the goal of each? a shared one: systemic change.

as i think ahead toward spending a month in post-colonial Cameroon or toward my History of English mid-term which will ask students to examine parallels between Jamaican Creole and AAVE in the context of debate about translation of the bible into the former, it’s impossible to escape how global and pressing these issues are.