I am torn.

I understand that students need to know EAE. It is imperative for anyone who wants to succeed in the dominant culture to know the dominant culture’s language. However, I also understand the importance of maintaining one’s identity; without an identity, students’ writings have no voice, and it flat and unauthentic. Without a voice, the writing is mimicry and torturous to write and to read.

When I enforce the rules of the establishment, then I am representing a system that is trying to keep them from succeeding on a personal level because they are in a constant state of frustration. If I allow them to express themselves without constraint, then I am risking my profession and my paycheck. My job, as an English teacher in a secondary school, is to prepare my students to pass a standardized test. If I do not enforce the rules, then they will not be successful in the Spring when a booklet asks them questions about stories and requests an essay.

When I read in "Students Right to Their Own Language," that "...human beings use language in a wide variety of ways, but employers demand a single variety," I thought of a lady I met in Florida. She worked in the evening cleaning the high school. She is from a Middle Eastern country with an extremely heavy accent. In her home country, she is a registered nurse. In America, because of the lanugage barrier, and other reasons I am sure she did not share with me, she is a custodian.

When I read "Nobody Mean More to Me Than You" and about the mistaken sense of inferiortity, I thought about an African American student from several years ago. In his compositions, his English was EAE. When he spoke in the hallway with his friends, his English was Black English. He was ashamed to talk to me in Black English and embarrassed to talk to his friends in EAE. When I told him he was bilingual, he thougt I was being sarcastic. When I explained to him that one of his languages would get him academic credit and the other street credit, he was proud of the dichotomy. I felt guilty that he had to code switch in order to survive.

Jaffe's article shed light on a problem I have with my students. My students' culture is one of family. I appreciated her 'familia' approach. They are surrounded by many generations of their families, and, as disfunctional as some of their family members are, each member is important. I think my students are strong on the 'itnerdependence' front because of this but are lacking 'personal accountability.' I am not sure if the weakness is out of fear of failure or if they have not been shown how to be independently successful or if they have the apathy that is running through our country like kudzu. I use collaboration a lot in everything from research papers, close readings, compositions, etc. I might try the familia approach and see what response I get.

As Jaffe and Anzaldua both discuss, we have to appreciate the diversity of students' backgrounds and recognize what they are bringing to the table. What they are bringing to the table is a colorful culture that can be used to strengthen their compositions.