Is non-standard English linguistic prejudice?

As a former high school English teacher, I was particularly interested in the argument that African American English deserves greater attention in the classroom (“Bias against African American English speakers is a pillar of systemic racism,” Los Angeles Times, July 14).  The claim was reminiscent of Ebonics, which a group of Black scholars created in 1973.  Advocates say that although AAE is derided as ungrammatical, it is worthy of respect.

The same can be said, of course, of other local dialects in this country.  I’m thinking now of those that exist in the Deep South among white speakers.  Nevertheless, I think English teachers still have a duty to continue to teach standard English. That in no way disparages AAE or other dialects that reflect cultural differences.

Let’s not forget that preparing students for life after graduation and improving their chances for upward mobility depend to a large degree on their ability to communicate.  Dialects of all kinds serve as a barrier.  Employers tend to judge applicants by how they speak and dress. We shortchange students by failing to impress upon students that reality.

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