The readings for this week stress the significance of linguistic diversity as a term that writing teachers must understand in order to improve their instruction and foster student success. While Klein recognizes the reality in which individuals who use nondominant systems must adjust their language to accommodate Mainstream U.S. English (MUSE), Charity-Hudley and Mallinson take an actively anti-assimilationist stance on the topic. They demonstrate how teachers can adopt a more additive attitude toward linguistic diversity in their classrooms, offering creative opportunities to celebrate difference instead of trying to change it. In agreement with their pluralist perspective, I argue that an authentic approach to multicultural pedagogy must aim to modify the societal structures that define language differences as drawbacks - not the students who pose a threat to those in positions of linguistic privilege.
Although Klein does not support such structures, she seems to resign to - rather than challenge - the concept of linguistic privilege in her chapter. She summarizes this trend toward survival by assimilation when she calls language “a club” in which “Mainstream U.S. English (MUSE) speakers have the advantage of not being required to learn AAE, Spanglish, Chicana/o English or any other non-MUSE systems” (Klein 367). In turn, speakers who use non-MUSE systems confront barriers that complicate their access to various aspects of their communities, including education. Standardized tests required for college admission, as Klein asserts, limit linguistically-diverse learners and prevent them from reaching (and exceeding) their potential. As a result, teaching writing turns into teaching students how to “align style and contexts” (Klein 381). This mentality, as realistic as it may be to the real world, still sends a message to students who use nondominant dialects that their differences demonstrate flaws they need to fix in order to fit into their communities. For multicultural writing instruction to work, English educators must therefore embrace a balance between teaching the conventions of MUSE and encouraging an appreciation for linguistic diversity among their students.
Charity-Hudley and Mallinson remedy the lack of applicable approaches to acknowledging linguistic diversity in the contemporary composition classroom through their research. The third truth they provide - “language differences are not language deficits” - fights the subtractive mentality that sees variations from MUSE as flaws by reimagining them as “resource[s]” (Charity-Hudley and Mallinson 34-35). In addition, the authors highlight the importance of “building [students’] understanding of nonstandardized varieties of English” (Charity-Hudley and Mallinson 36). The focus thus shifts from what linguistically-diverse learners must lose to what ALL learners can gain from each others’ language experiences. Charity-Hudley and Mallinson’s suggestion about analyzing the words of William Shakespeare speaks to this goal. When I teach Their Eyes Were Watching God in my English 11 College classes, there are always some students who say they do not like the book because of the way the characters talk to each other. We have a direct discussion about African-American English (AAE), as does Klein, during which we consider the cultural context of Hurston’s novel, review the responsibilities the reader has to treat her dialogue with respect, and reflect on the power her form of linguistic representation possesses. In this way, Charity-Hudley and Mallinson’s essay reinforces my belief that the content we teach in our classrooms can be a constructive catalyst for conversations that could make language differences more well-known and welcome in the world.
You and (Melissa and Shawna--the three I've read so far), point to something that also connects to Cultural Studies: colonialism. There is a real difference in the positionality of the authors of our two texts. Kein really does speak for a colonial position, as Shawna will point out, she spends half the chapter talking about SWE and then proceeds to talk about other dialects. Just that very organization is colonizing. It's positioning the dominant culture first and then "others" varieties of language that don't fit within the dominant culture. I don't think she is maligning these varieties, I'm saying her organization does the work for her. It's a kind of unconscious bias. It reminds me of some of what we talked about last week--who do students imagine when they imagine their teacher as their audience? It's someone who Klein's work embodies.
Yes, Ashley! This takes me back to when I taught that novel (love it!) and heard similar reactions. Interestingly, I used those conversations specifically to prepare us for our venture into Shakespeare, then poetry -- where again, what we wonder about language is part of what builds our understanding of the perspective overall.
This is also important in teaching students not only the responsibility of the reader, but also of the writer to do more than simply display their own vernacular, but to use it as communicative and purposeful.
Charity-Hudley and Malinson’s “We Do Language,” resonates with me as someone learning about language, with the hope of one day teaching language. If as the article argues, there is diversity within one language, then how can students ever achieve a level playing field when it comes to academic writing –– especially those outside the colonial cultural context. The text asserts that students gain a cultural competence which serves to teach them how to accomplish tasks within the English language while expressing, interpreting, and understanding the intentions that English linguistically puts forth in a functional capacity. This may be especially challenging for students whose social spheres fall outside the “normative” White ideal (which is the basis of our current educational system). As a class, we continue to learn that America’s educational system holds bias, whether implicit or explicit, against populations who historically and presently suffer from marginalization, mainly students of color and those from lower socio-economic classes. Therefore, the suggestions for an equitable educational pedagogy in “We Do Language,” seems moot from the beginning. How do educators employ models of writing in classrooms that intrinsically ignore multicultural equity?
The authors state that language 1) is innate and learned, 2) constantly changing or evolving, and 3) that educators cannot equate language differences with language deficits. However, the authors central ideology expresses the importance of standardized English –– essentially, it is a “do as I say not as I do” moment. One cannot argue in support of a multicultural pedagogy, whilst simultaneously asserting a version of Standard American English as the norm. The SPEAKING model serves as another function of colonialism in the classroom; students outside of the White dominant sphere may not even use models within their knowledge systems, holding them in a space which forces them to learn from the White process and not products naturally discursive within their own cultures. Charity-Hudley and Malinson state that educator’s should respect their student’s unique language patterns as they are representative of cultural identity and background; however, their multicultural approach posits that the two most important concepts are a student’s understanding of standardized English and learning the norms and conventions of standardized English. Once again, students suffering from academic disenfranchisement, become linguistic “Others,” subjects of a dominant sphere eradicating their language skills and knowledge systems.
“We Do Language” infers that multiculturalism in the classroom is solvable if educators do two things: 1) learn about their student’s cultural and linguistic backgrounds and 2) keep a positive attitude about their student’s different language styles –– isn’t that the same thing as “Othering” students by placing them in a space where an educator must “understand” how their student uses language that differentiates from institutional standardized English. I argue that this article is paradoxical; presenting itself as a proponent for affective positive change, asserting that educators remove linguistic stigmas surrounding students outside the dominant sphere, when really it is affirming the colonial belief that the English language is superior, and students must develop a mastery of it to succeed academically. Let’s just call a spade a spade, standardized English is Standard English and it is not multiculturally progressive; instead, it affirms the colonial educational model that America propagates as linguistically proper and best in classrooms around the country.
This week’s readings focused on the different types of English spoken and written. It also was geared towards the changing of the English language. In college and in the K-12 schools, teachers and students mostly aim to speak and write according to Standard Edited American English (SEAE). That has been the standard for proper or correct English in education. However, it is unclear as to exactly what SEAE entails. According to Charity Hudley & Mallinson in “We Do Language,” “There is no single agreed upon and canonized standard variety of English”(20). Therefore, “proper” English is somewhat subjective, mainly due to the many changes to the language over the years.
As new cultures bring their backgrounds and experiences with them to the United States, new forms of English emerge, oftentimes referred to as a dialect. English is also spoken uniquely in different regions of the country. As we know very well, the Boston accent is famous for the “r” drop, which can make it difficult for the listener to comprehend the message. There is also a stigma attached to those who have a strong regional accent or dialect. Outsiders may consider it a lack of intelligence to sound like you’re from a specific region.I witnessed this personally when I went to a concert/festival in Delaware a few years ago. My friends and I were among thousands of people squeezed closely together in tents in a giant field. When I had conversations with people from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, etc. I made sure to try to “smooth out” my “r” drop. When I did not remember, I could see the puzzled looks on their faces.
Although the regional differences in English are not new, the addition of technology is. With texting being a prominent method of communication, language looks different than speech. For instance, if someone were to ask me in person, “What are you doing tonight?” that may look like, “wyd tn” in text. There is a certain code that we have adopted in order to understand the shorthand or abbreviated versions of English. According to Charity Hudley & Mallinson, that way of shorthand communication stems back much further than twenty years ago, “In fact, the first recorded use of OMG was in a typed letter sent during World War 1 by a British Navy admiral to Winston Churchill” (28).
Even though students and even most adults text on their phones every day, we have not noticed a strong correlation in increased academic writing. However, some would argue that, “Educators can harness students’ willingness to engage in texting, tweeting, blogging and the like to engage them in writing as a multifaceted, variable, and flexible practice” (Hudley & Mallinson, P. 29). In theory, using tools that students interact with everyday sounds like a great gateway to access deeper learning. However, in my experience, typically when technology is used, students use it to access entertainment or other ways of ignoring academics. For example, most of the materials for my lessons are on Google Classroom. Students were all supplied laptops so they could access those materials. Oftentimes during the lesson, students are playing games, going on social media, or emailing each other. Despite them knowing the expectations surrounding this technology and constant redirecting, they continue to avoid reading and writing in the classroom
Two things: the article Megan just put in the chat connects to this idea of white people monitoring, or having an opinion about, black and brown people's behavior. Also, there is a real connection here to what we talked about earlier: language is a product of culture. As C-H & M discuss, teachers are on the front line of language ideology. So to create a classroom that makes transparent this fact, that language is a product of culture, is a deep dive into cultural studies--for us and for our students.
Sharon Klein discusses the ever present assumption that students should speak and write using only Standard English and attempts to cover the varying complexities of the argument in her writing (362). She then goes on to discuss linguistic diversity and variability in pidgins, creoles, dialects, and even in AAVE (the newer and more accepted term). Klein then goes in depth with the grammar and syntax associated with AAVE and what she refers to as MUSE “Mainstream U.S. English.”
We then have a chapter from Anne Charity Hudley and Christine Mallinson’s We Do Language which outlines the various linguistic truths, because— as the title of the chapter would suggest— “Language Varies.” The first of the linguistic truths is that communication occurs in social contexts, and this is an obvious but important thing for us all to remember and keep in mind as we teach composition and rhetoric to students. They also attempt to answer the question: “Is there such a thing as Standard English?” And of course the answer is … kind of. This leads into the second linguistic truth: language is always changing. We have seen this every year since the dawn of the tech era and it feels like it has been more true in our lifetimes than ever before. The third and final linguistic truth they present is that language differences are not language deficits. They conclude that linguistically and culturally diverse students must be supported in their language use and that, while ultimately academic writing and ability is the goal, we cannot and should not dampen students' linguistic differences.
Obviously this is near and dear to my heart while on my mission to diversify the classroom, create equity, and develop anti-racist pedagogy. It reminds me of a semi-off topic discourse I encountered recently when white administrators at my school became hyper-vigilant in their policing of black/brown students use of the “n-word.” My boss, a white woman, intervened and informed them that it is not for us to decide or determine a students relationship with that word; some may find it offensive and harmful while others have it ingrained in their everyday language. Just because that word makes white people uncomfortable does not necessarily mean we are allowed to police it as such. Sure, we could suggest that students make an attempt to use more professional language while in the classroom, but to punish on the use is misguided practice (especially when factoring in the linguistic truths from We Do Language).
In Clark's chapter on language diversity, I found myself going back to the ideas discussed on students at the college level and their admissions into programs as well as how they think about the language systems they must adhere to while in the constraints of that institution. Clark writes that "Admission and recognition require some level of control over the means of exchange-- language" (p.382). I though this was interesting because I remembered very similar wording from my own experiences in school especially with state testing. The rubrics we were graded on for our writing, for instance, was on our ability to control our writing or whether it took on a life of its own and ran away from us. Likely not without good reason, that is a super colonizing mindset; in order to be successful, you have to control something.
In Charity-Hudley and Malinson, I found this idea of the communication occurring in social contexts to be an echo of sorts to Inoue's conception of ecosystems, where no one person is without influence of or influence on the others around them. There is this interconnectedness of identity and the overlaps come from different corners and labels of identity that one person and one experience may have. No one story, for example, is the story of the black man. No one story is about the trials of the white woman. No one story is of the nonbinary person. Each of those people have different races, ethnicities, origins, backgrounds, economical status, careers, hobbies, interests, and ways of viewing the world that come into play any and every time they share even just one piece of their story in their language.
As somebody who has to look at rubrics, the control of writing and grammar thing triggers me. It's hard to define what control of writing and grammar is. Particularly when we're dealing with students of different cultural backgrounds. I feel like it's hard to standardize that as much as teachers try.
It's one of those things that no matter how much we like to pretend or believe that it is completely and inarguably objective, is so subjective. What I think is good and proper may not be what someone else does, and they could dock points off for something I would leave as it is. Crazy too that this wording that ignores subjectivity is so rampant in our testing world, too. That affects the abilities of writers that do not write the very same way that the MCAS (or insert other state testing here) want them to.
Nice Connection to Inoue.
What I appreciated most about both of these articles is the approach to language that acknowledges that every language is different and that there is really no "proper" way to speak it. Take English, for example. There are different dialects and forms of English that it makes the idea of a "proper" English almost laughable.
In Clark's article we see that there are many different forms and dialects of English and Clark makes an attempt to define many of them. African American English, for example, is a form of the language that is often considered less than what many consider to be "proper" english. This line of thinking is racist and colonizing. If we upheld the value of african american english in our classrooms, we would go a long way toward decolonizing English education.
This doesn't just apply to African American English. It is the duty of ENglish teachers to bring in texts from varied cultural backgrounds so that students can experience their own form of English being elevated to the same status as that of the more traditional and canonical white texts.
Matt, I also appreciated how both articles discuss the fact that it's so unrealistic to attempt to identify a "proper" way to speak a language when not only are there so many varieties within a language, but languages are constantly changing as well. I agree that because of this it's so crucial to bring in a variety of voices and texts within our classrooms to try to help students see this as well and acknowledge their own language varieties. This would also help to give students some skills for navigating diverse language situations in the real-world as Hudley and Mallinson discuss on page 36.
Hi everyone! Similar to Sarah I only have some bullet points/notes for today, I will include them below.
I particularly enjoyed learning about the 3 linguistic truths in "We Do Language" by Hulley and Mallinson.
1: Communication Occurs in Social Contexts.
- Communicative competence reminds me of emotional intelligence. I think that it is actually necessary to acquire this competence before moving on to emotional intelligence as it requires the ability to "express and interpret intentions" (13).
2: Language is Always Changing
-There will always be new variations in language due to cultural shifts, historical events, technology, and more. I think there is currently a big generational difference in language due to the rapid growth of technology in recent years. How a 70 year old speaks English and the most common words they use are likely very different than a 14 year old.
3: Language Differences are Not Language Deficits
- I believe this truth to be one of the most vital components to the composition classroom. It should be embedded in each lesson, understanding that two students may express themselves very differently yet still both bring value in their writing. Whether it is seen as correct academically is not always important. Especially in the earlier years, it is essential to show students that all ways of expressing language are valued. They can learn along the way that certain contexts demand certain types of language expression but also find ways to incorporate their voice in to their writing,
When I say that writing is hard instead of saying that students are bad writers, C-H & M's comment that language difference is not deficit is at the forefront of my thinking. I think that this very much shifts how I teach and mostly assess student writing.
The arguments presented in the readings this week stress the importance of acknowledging language diversity and make arguments as to how this will benefit teachers of writing especially. These articles are in line with Inoue’s thinking about valuing students’ local diversities and the varieties of languages they speak. I also noticed a connection to Inoue when Hudley and Mallinson when they broke down the definitions of standard English vs. standardized English. Hudley and Mallinson avoid the term “standard English, because it implies homogeneity and oversimplifies linguistic realities” (20) which is in line with Inoue’s discussion of the white racial habitus. I think Inoue would appreciate their discussion as to how power and privilege dictate what’s valued since “political, social, and cultural privilege has often been determined which language varieties of English were deemed to be more prestigious, socially acceptable, or “standard” than others” (Hudley and Mallinson 20).
Although “language is always changing” (Hudley and Mallinson 21), it seems that the expectations of colleges as well as K-12 teachers has stayed relatively the same since it isn’t as accepting of diverse languages. SEAE or standardized English is viewed as the preferred, expected language for all students to use despite their own language diversities even though this “standardized” language is also always changing. It’s also inauthentic, as Hudley and Mallinson note, to expect students to strive to speak a standardized language because “wholesale assimilation and homogeneity is not a goal of multicultural education” (33). If multicultural education is the goal, then students’ languages need to be accepted and they also need to be taught the skills to navigate diverse and multicultural language situations. The reality in both the real-world and more specific academic or professional contexts is that these settings “bring together speakers of different languages and language varieties” (Hudley and Mallinson 36), and to expect everyone to speak a “standardized” version of English is unrealistic and inauthentic. It’s also dangerous to force a student to speak a standardized language and critique the language they are using because language is a significant part of our identities. A student’s language reflects their background and where they come from, so “the ways that educators interpret and respond to students’ language use may directly and deeply affect that [student]” (Hudley and Mallinson 33).
I did also find the discussion around language and technology to be interesting. Language is becoming an increasingly important part of everyday life as technology makes it easier to both communicate text through texts, emails, Tweets, etc., and consume text through reading texts, posts, articles, etc. Technology is often villainized when it should be used as a tool to harness and hone students’ literacy skills. Students “do not know how to transfer their everyday writing skills to academic contexts” (27), but teachers can help students connect these skills and still offer ways in which they can incorporate their own languages.
I think technology in the classroom is a double-edged sword. As I was doing my ethnography, I was amazed by the amount of students completely ignoring the educator because they were texting, scrolling on their laptop, etc. I believe technology is a great asset, but I admit I am uncertain on how to incorporate it into the classroom –– I want to avoid students abusing the right to access it in class.
I want to bring us back to the idea about technology and connected it to two points: what C-H & M say about language is always changing is best demonstrated in how we write in electronic spaces like text. My students make fun of me for using periods in texts. But, also, I hate exclamation points, but I use them in texts a lot so that people get my tone--that I'm not mad or bored or whatever. That I'm happy and excited. The use of emojis too, that's a language. And so, to connect that to our work in cultural studies, we need to see language shifts due to technology as another product of culture. How do we make that useful in the classroom? That's something I think about. How do make it possible for students to learn to write school English while not devaluing the texts they produce in non-school settings?
I agree with Melissa that in theory technology is a very useful tool in learning. However, from my observations the last two school years, too many students are using the technology for purposes other than academics. I hope one day there will be better methods in place for technology to be more effective in the classroom. For now, my school has a program where the teacher can monitor school issued devices. That is a helpful tool, but still not effective enough. Are there ways you have been able to make it work in the classroom? If so, I'd like to hear about them!
Maura, I completely agree with your statement that the linguistic expectations for education at all levels has (for the most part) stayed the same. It's a trend I can see from both an individual and sociological perspective - while there are teachers who try to incorporate activities that raise awareness and appreciation for linguistic diversity, they often face systemic barriers to such change (e.g. standardized tests, district policies, etc.) that prevent them from decentralizing SEAE as the dominant discourse and, in turn, decolonizing the composition classroom.
Throughout the articles, there is noticeably more comfort with linguistic diversity when spoken than when written. Perhaps this is because "no student's language corresponds completely to the language of writing" (Klein 359), so even the "greatest" of compositionists allow for a deviation from the academic norm.
Klein's discussion of dialect is interesting, especially since dialects persist in the world of social media. We have a widening shared language -- both verbal and visual -- as well as a continued connection to where we're "from". I talked to my students about this last week, particularly the notion of code-switching. They could each identify with how we use speech to adapt to new settings and how that can be both empowering and disabling. (If you're curious, a comparative study of two Latino poems made this concept super accessible to my students). I also noticed in our discussion that students are, for the most part, comfortable with the need to switch "voices" or "codes" for various needs. This is difficult to reconcile with the needs of students in lower-income communities for whom such a switch has greater obstacles. The bit about standardized testing in the middle of Klein's article highlights this gap, as some students have limited access to the language of the test, let alone their own anticipate the desired response.
Final thought -- the emergence of ELL into the K12 curriculum, as much as people begrudge the necessary licensure, has changed my own perspective on embracing multi-lingual students in my classroom. I couldn't find a date on Matsuda's article, but I was struck that the ELL programming works hard to break down the myth that our Language Learners are SPED students who are academically needy. This came up in the Hudley/Mallinson article as well, 2014.
Code-switching is such a hot topic in higher education right now; many advocating that students should be able to do it verbally and in written word as to not suppress their voices. The other camp argues that allowing students to code-switch sets them up to fail academically and in the "real" world. I'm not sure there is a right answer, but it's always interesting for me to hear people's thoughts on it.
The term “Standard English” is one that the articles we read this week seek to examine and challenge. When we hear about standard English it is often referring to the type of language that is considered to be “proper” or “formal”, but it at its core “implies homogeneity and oversimplifies linguistic realities” (p. 20) as Anne H. Charity Hudley and Christine Mallinson explain in their article We Do Language. Every year, when students enter the classroom, they bring with them a vast array of experiences and skills, to believe that all students will have the same level of familiarity and experience with the “Standard English” is shortsighted. Instead we as teachers need to expect and embrace that our students will be coming to us with a variety of linguistic differences. As Matsuda says, “teachers need to reimagine the composition classroom as a multilingual space… where the presence of language differences is the default” (p. 649).
While reading I also found myself making connections between the articles and Asao Inoue’s seven ecological elements that constitute antiracist classroom ecologies, particularly his discussion of ecological people. In that element, Inoue advocates for there to be frank discussions and articulation of the diversity in the classroom, from both the teachers and the students. I saw this echoed in Hudley and Mallinson’s conclusion that to be truly effective, teachers must “learn about students’ linguistic backgrounds and communication styles” (p. 38).
In "Language & Diversity", Sharon Klein says that the relationship and awareness of how language, thought, and writing interact, help teachers to understand "linguistic diversity" and work with students more effectively. The interesting thing is that we relate writing and speaking. The way we speak with our body movements and facial expressions is part of this relation. Written language has a different way of expression. When Klein discusses the understanding of "grammar", it interests me that most never think of it as a linguistic mental system. I never would have.
One of the most interesting aspects of language to me is that it varies from culture to location. In "We Do Language", they give a few examples like "soda" vs. "pop" and "isn't" vs. "ain't" (p 12). When I lived in Michigan for a while, we always compared the differences in things and words we used. I always wondered how it started and how some words spread to other locations or don't. Either way, language varies. I would argue that the Common Core English Language Arts Standards do not prepare or help students become "communicatively competent" in multiple varieties of language (p 13). I do not think they are recognized enough. If anything, the teachers must implement their own activities and readings in order to familiarize students with other types of English.
Another interesting piece of language and communication is the way that it varies depending on who you talk to and that mode of communication. I usually have my student complete writing activities based on this prompt. I ask them which modes of communication they use, with who, and how it varies. They like writing about this because it really does change from person to person. Along this idea, word choice is another interesting aspect of language. Although there are more sophisticated words, we don't really use them in our every-day conversations. This is another thing we teach our students. Hudley and Mallinson give a few examples of what goes into the types of discussions we have. Some of those are setting and scene, participants, tone, manner, and forms of speech. Thinking about the way we communicate every day, these all play a role in that. This also makes me wonder how we can properly teacher students to understand a person's body language or tone/mood. They do mention that the speaking model can be used in the secondary English classroom to help students understand how to change their own styles of communication and how to recognize others' styles and tones in spoken language.
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