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The Real Ebonics Debate.

Theresa Perry & Lisa Delpit, Editors. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998. 192 pp. $12.00.

On December 18, 1996, the Oakland (California) School Board passed a resolution stating that teachers who better understand the structure and history of the home language spoken by many African American children will be better equipped to help them use standard English. Unfortunately, the press and many people of good will distorted the true intention of this resolution (which was not clearly worded, and since has been revised).

The 17 contributors to this book correct the misinformation surrounding the debate. The Real Ebonics Debate is a sober and caring look at what happens in the lives of young African Americans in school. It looks squarely at how children's confidence is affected when they are made to feel ashamed of their home language. It gives examples of the great beauty of Black English (or Ebonics), and shows the strengths of those who can switch back and forth between different linguistic codes.

Never in any of the essays in this collection does anyone say that African American children do not need to learn standard English. Instead, this book speaks for the value of each child having two languages - the language of his or her community and the language of the marketplace. It strongly opposes extinguishing a language that has proved to be such comfort to a people still struggling from the effects of slavery.

There is a notion in the United States that we are so powerful and self-sufficient that we don't need foreign languages. Yet, people all over the world speak two or more languages well and these people will tell you they are the richer for it. The Real Ebonics Debate, written by linguists, educators, teachers, and students, and edited by two powerful writers, shows that respect for a home language is essential if African American children are to be allowed a level playing field.

The shameful distortions of and "jokes" about the Oakland School Board's intentions and its resolution have been costly. Finding ways to talk with each other, as many ways as possible, is what will save us.

Reviewed by Sydney Gurewitz Clemens, Consultant and workshop facilitator, San Francisco, CA
COPYRIGHT 1999 Association for Childhood Education International
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Gurewitz, Sydney
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1999
Words:365
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