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Oakland Board Revises Policy On Ebonics

Thu., Jan. 16, 1997

A month after igniting a national debate by declaring black English a second language, school officials hoped to quench the flames by making it clear they will teach standard English.

Policy revisions would drop any suggestion that ebonics - a combination of “ebony” and “phonics” - is genetically based, and cut wording that implies students would be taught in both ebonics and standard English.

The changes were expected to win a majority vote of the seven-member board Wednesday night.

The policy had been sharply criticized in Oakland and across the country by critics who said the board was legitimizing slang and lowering standards for black students.

However, Oakland officials insisted they were not backing down from their original intention to train teachers to recognize black English so they can help students make the transition to standard English.

At the heart of the debate over the school board’s original resolution, passed Dec. 18, has been its assertion that black English is a separate language. The proposed revisions do not abandon that idea.

The new version also retains a commitment of “respecting and embracing the legitimacy and richness of the language patterns.



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