Chelsea Perez Dr. Susan Wolff-Murphy English 5361.201 25 October 2011
I found this weeks readings particularly enriching and highly relevant to Del Mar’s students. Part of CCCC’s resolution on language reads, “The claim that any one dialect is unacceptable amounts to an attempt of once social group to exert its dominance over another… We affirm strongly that teachers must have the experiences and training that will enable them to respect diversity and uphold the right of students to their own language.” Anzaldúa and Jordan make cases for the necessity of students and their rights to their own language. While Anzaldúa takes a perspective that doesn’t explicitly include, but obviously applies to Hispanic/Mexican/Chicano/a students, Jordan is an educator who created and taught a course on Black English.
I’ve always loved Anzaldúa and how passionate and excited she makes me feel about language. Every time I read her work, I can hardly resist the urge to code-switch in my writing. “We speak a patois, a forked tongue, a variation of two languages” (303). Anzaldúa is reflecting on the rich diversity of the Spanish language and how there is hardly any agreeing on it within the Spanish-speaking community. This doesn’t come as any surprise to me given my family’s Spanish-speaking roots. My grandmother speaks fluent Panamanian Spanish, which is quite different from the Tex-Mex that’s often spoken in Corpus Christi. This supports CCCC’s claim that “most linguists agree that there is no single, homogenous American ‘standard’”, and I ask, why would there be one? The thought is ridiculous. Given how much Spanish variation there is in south Texas alone fully extinguishes that possibility.
CCCC also writes that “These designations of prestige are not inherent in the dialect itself, but are extremely imposed, and the prestige of a dialect shifts as the power of relationships of the speakers shift.” Jordan is acutely aware of the imposed cultural capital of “edited Standard English” and consequently aware of just how little cultural and linguistic capital Black English has (Black English, arguably, is the equivalent of negative cultural / linguistic capital). This is a reality her and her students must painfully face when they must consider whether to write a letter Black English or Standard English when submitting a letter to Newsday about the death of their classmate’s brother. They ultimately decide to write it in Black English so as to not write “in the language of the oppressor” (322) but their choice seals the letter’s fate: it was never published/publicized. Here is a group of people trying to break down borders… and still, they are unsuccessful. I’m sure CCCC’s attempt at breaking down the same borders will remain just as futile—not that I want it to be! But I think that’s the reality we live in.
I’m glad the Jaffe article was included in this mix of readings because she studies something rarely looked at in BW: how the teachers adapt their teaching styles to accommodate their BW students. I particular enjoyed how she mapped out teacher adaptation to the familia model… I have more to say about this but my thoughts are scattered and all over the place….