Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Black Conservative Group Blasts Ebonics Plan for California Schools

By Melanie Hunter Senior Editor

( - A black conservative group is criticizing a controversial pilot program in San Bernardino, Calif., schools that would inject "Ebonics" slang into the schools' curriculum.

The project, known as SANKOFA or Students Accumulating New Knowledge Optimizing Future Accomplishment Initiative, is designed to improve the academic performance of black students by keeping them interested in their studies.

But black conservative group Project 21 said the program will do more harm than good.

"Teaching Ebonics, which is nothing more than urban slang, will not provide a means for an individual to acquire a job," said Project 21 member Michael King in a statement.

"It will not help someone maintain a living. It will not provide an individual with the skills necessary to compete in an academic setting, let alone a professional setting. It does absolutely nothing positive for those to whom it is taught. I don't see professors trying to justify hacker geek-speak or online shorthand as their own separate language!" King said.

Sankofa, an African word from the Akan language currently spoken in Ghana is translated as "We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today."

But that has nothing to do, Project 21 said, with Ebonics. The group called it the "legitimization of modern urban American slang" and warned that it would "harm the professional development of black children if it is put on the same level as Standard English."

"There are some who would prefer the San Bernardino school system and other schools throughout the United States take the easy way out by sending our children into the world without a grasp of basic English skills," Kevin Martin, a member of the group, said in a statement.

"This is a disservice to the black community that will severely limit our children's skills in the job market," said Martin. "This is a prime example of what people call 'the soft bigotry of low expectations.'"

But San Bernardino School District official Len Cooper doesn't see it that way. He said while he understands that there is a "negative stigma" attached to Ebonics, the program the school district will be using is "affirming."

California State University sociology professor Mary Texeira, a supporter of the use of Ebonics, said the school district's program does not go far enough and Ebonics "should be considered a foreign language." She said the students "should be taught like other students who speak a foreign language."