Learning English is hard, especially learning it the right way.
Not saying “like” every other word, or using “my nigga” when greeting a professor; those are all forbidden in “Standard American English,” Professor A.W. Strouse writes. And that is “linguistic racism.”
So, effectively, Professor Strouse wants to support “greater linguistic diversity,” and “embrace” language differences among students, including slang and ebonics, officially called “African American Vernacular English.”
Calling out students who can’t speak properly can be “discouraging” to a student, he writes in an op-ed for Inside Higher Ed. These kinds of negative comments can make students feel “bewildrered, hurt or angry.”
“Already, scholars of rhetoric believe, as the consensus view, that instructors should not try to change their students’ speech patterns,” Strouse writes. “In the classroom, students shut down in the face of pedantry because they hate when bossy teachers tell them how to talk, especially in cases in which bourgeois white teachers dictate ex cathedra about what speech is ‘correct.’”
Of course, Professor Strouse is coming from a certain perspective. “Much queer, feminist, and anti-racist scholarship has given voice to marginalized communities—precisely because, without those voices, mainstream academia does not possess a vocabulary for understanding diverse social realities.”
Requiring rigorous English standards should be considered possibly suspect and racist because they can justify the “people’s intelligence based on dubious standards.”
Despite his limited influence over the realities of the job market, Strouse held fast to his belief that professors shouldn’t correct their students’ language, saying that doing so would only contribute to “linguistic racism” in society.
“[Students] do not need educators to perpetuate that injustice by promoting dubious standards,” he said. “They need to equip themselves with a knowledge of historical linguistics so that they can battle against linguistic racism.
“It is racist to discriminate against someone on the basis that they speak Ebonics,” he elaborated, saying, “I am trying to propose that the celebration of linguistic diversity might be one small way to dismantle that linguistic racism.”
In cultures, we have certain goals. Mastering your native tongue is one of them. If you are able to master English in the U.S. or Spanish in Mexico in the proper manner, than you have accomplished that goal. Lowering the bar for that “goal” only makes for a cruder, crasser, and more confusing society.
Rules were meant to be broken, yes. There are fantastic works of literature that break from conventional norms and rules of English. But if those rules and norms don’t exist, or if they’re minimized, then where does it end?