A session on educational issues was held at the Summer Conference of the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i in Honolulu August 14-17, 2003. Here are the abstracts of the relevant papers.

Pidgin and creole educational policies in
the wake of the Ebonics controversy
John Baugh

This paper evaluates a combination of federal and state laws and corresponding educational policies for students who are speakers of pidgin and Creole languages throughout the United States, including Hawaii. Linguists such as Lippi-Green (1997) and Sato (1989) have raised important educational consider-ations regarding students who are not native speakers of mainstream varieties of English, and their work informs the present evaluation of recent and on-going changes in federal and state laws that seek to modify or mandate programs for students who are not readily classified as English language learners (see Cummins 1980, Hakuta 1986, Valdés 2000).

The educational controversy that began in Oakland, California in 1996 with a resolution declaring Ebonics to be the native language of African American students within that school district exposed additional legal gaps in educational language policies. Studies by Perry and Delpit (1997), Rickford and Rickford (2000), Adger et al (2000), Baugh (2000) and Smitherman (2000) call specific attention to the educational plight of African American students. In so doing their efforts raise important educational questions that are directly or indirectly relevant to students who speak pidgin and Creole languages, especially for those varieties that were formulated in contact with English. Former secretary of Education, Richard Riley, concluded that Oakland’s educators were seeking bilingual education funding, and he denied access to such funding. The legality of his assertions is called into question here.

After a brief survey of legal issues regarding Title I (for students in poverty), Title VII (for English Language Learners) and the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA, for deaf students or others with pathological linguistic handicaps), we survey LeMoine’s innovative efforts in the Los Angeles Unified School District, beginning with the “Language Development Program for African American students,” and its evolution into the “Academic English Mastery Program.” Briefly, the latter effort, which is intended to serve students from diverse linguistic backgrounds, grows directly from bilingual education policies developed by Krashen (1984) and Cummins (1980), albeit with modifications that are intended to meet the literacy needs of traditional English language learners as well as students who are native speakers of African American vernacular English (i.e., AAVE, or Ebonics).

LeMoine’s efforts, supported by a combination of federal, state, and local funds, provide a basis upon which to consider expansion to other communities that serve pidgin and Creole students (e.g., such as students who speak Haitian Creole). However promising, we conclude with caution based of the efforts of Ron Unz, who has sponsored voter initiatives under the banner of “English for the Children.” His efforts have severely constrained bilingual education, and could easily restrict programs like those developed by LeMoine in Los Angeles.

The paper concludes with precise suggestions that can circumvent Unz’s efforts, and are tailored to comply with federal laws in pursuit of developing comprehensive educational language policies that are based upon the home language(s) of individual students; that is, regardless of their linguistic heritage.

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AAVE and HCE: Comparative history of educational debates with policy implications
Eileen H. Tamura

Like African American Vernacular English (AAVE), Hawai‘i Creole English (HCE) has long been a topic of educational concern. Why? Both have been prevalent and noticeable within their communities. Both have raised questions about their role in hindering the learning of standard English (SE). Both have stymied educators and been at the center of controversial policies. A comparative history of the debates generated by these two nonstandard forms of English can be instructive. The similar myths about them and the attendant issues they raise point to policy implications.

Considerable research on dialects and creoles appeared in the 1960s and 70s (Labov 1965; Jacobson 1971; Landau 1979; Wolfram & Fasold 1974). An enlightened view of nonstandard forms of English emerged, one that recognized them to have legitimate grammatical and pronunciation patterns. Efforts were made to teach teachers about ways to help students who spoke nonstandard English (e.g., Burling 1974; DeStefano 1973; Fasold 1971; Shores 1972). Despite considerable publication on stigmatized languages, however, public understanding did not follow. Two school board controversies in Hawai‘i and Oakland attest to this lack of knowledge and to the politics of language. I provide highlights of the school board controversies and discuss reasons why stigmatized dialects persist: a critical mass of like speakers; the desire to maintain fluency; in-group identity (Giles, Bourhis & Taylor 1997; Rickford 1998; Ogbu 2000); resistance to “acting White” (Fordham & Ogbu 1996); and issues of class (White et al 1998).

Implications for Policymakers: Academic Achievement. Scholars note the fallacy of making a linear connection between speaking and writing (Da Pidgin Coup 1999). Writing requires skills that are different from speaking (Shaughnessy 1977). But even if scholars were to establish indisputably that nonstandard forms of English are not barriers to writing, schools have the responsibility of teaching SE so that students can code-switch. Students should be given the tools to enter mainstream society should they want to do so. In this light, what is the best way to teach SE while at the same time respecting native dialects? The pedagogical literature (e.g., Harper, Braithwaite & LaGrange 1998; Hoover 1998; Perry & Delpit 1998; Taylor 1998) argues that teachers should understand the causes of student resistance, teachers should start from where the student is, teachers and students should understand the grammatical structure of the nonstandard dialect, and teachers should understand the sociological causes of low student achievement.

Politics of Language. The way people attach prestige to different language varieties, and the connection between marginal dialects and lower socioeconomic classes, make nonstandard forms of English ripe for educational controversy. In Oakland and Hawai‘i, native speakers were strong critics of AAVE and HCE—an illustration of cultural hegemony (Hall, 1997; Reyes 1987; Lippi-Green 1997; Corson 1991). Despite more than three decades of sociolinguistic research, scholars have made little headway in eliminating public ignorance about language diversity. The uproars in Hawai‘i and Oak-land demonstrate the need for educators to anticipate controversy. Moreover, linguists must continually spend considerable effort in educating each new generation.

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The FELIKS Approach to teaching
Standard English
Joyce Hudson & Rosalind Berry

There are many literacy programs in Australia which have been developed with the aim of improving the educational outcomes of Indigenous students whose first language is a creole or a nonstandard variety of English. Since the early 90s, linguist Joyce Hudson and ESL consultant Rosalind Berry have worked with teachers and students in northern Australia developing a bidialectal program known as The FELIKS (Fostering English Language In Kimberley Schools) Approach. This includes Professional Development packages, a resource book for teachers and a video.

As creoles and non-standard dialects become prominent in education programs around the world, the need to actively teach students to develop their code-switching skills has been increasingly recognised. In 1991 Elizabeth Coelho wrote in Caribbean Students in Canadian Schools, Book 2: “Effective language learning takes place when students are conscious of their need to learn the new language… this means that there must be a positive awareness of language variety and of the need to select appropriate language for specific purposes.” (p.90) The FELIKS Approach focusses on this need for awareness and control of language varieties. Its central feature is the use of a Code-switching Stairway which was developed to help teachers understand the needs of students and plan activities for the classroom.

The Stairway begins at the bottom with the Awareness step. Teachers and students must first become aware of the reality of the two varieties and have a positive attitude toward the creole/nonstandard variety of English (nsE). Only then can students learn to separate the creole from the standard language (the Separation Step). Here teaching of English as a second language/dialect is emphasised. The third step is Code-switching where there is focus on developing the crucial skill of switching, competently and with confidence, between creole/nsE and the standard variety. Finally, the top step of Control is one that continues past the classroom years and into real life. During the presentation each of the four steps will be explained and illustrated by video clips.

Australia’s Indigenous people who have gained control over the standard language frequently feel that they have done so at the expense of their creole/nsE. Students who are taught using The FELIKS Approach will be encouraged to increase their skills in both the creole/nsE and the standard language, thus providing greater opportunities in the mainstream society without losing their identity.

Opportunities for rigorous testing have not been available to the developers because of the enthusiastic acceptance of the approach by both indigenous creole speakers and the teachers of English who demanded more support and resources. Energies were always directed at the practical issues of preparing more professional development and classroom resources. The presentation will include anecdotal evidence from teachers of the effectiveness of The FELIKS Approach.

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Creole trilingual education –
San Andres Island, Caribbean
Ronald C. Morren

This paper presents an “applied linguistic issue”. Its primary focus is education, though historical, social, linguistic, and ortho-graphical features are intertwined and are acknowledged and dealt with. Research in the past 50 years supports UNESCO’s position that: “It is axiomatic that the best medium for teaching a child is his mother tongue… Educationally, he learns more quickly through it than through an unfamiliar linguistic medium” (UNESCO 1953: 11).

This presentation reports on a trilingual education project on the Colombian owned Caribbean Island of San Andres. On San Andres, an English lexifier Creole language is spoken known as Islander English. The main inhabitants of San Andres are of African descent. In the mid 1800s a school was established for the Islanders using standard English as the medium of instruction. “By the end of the 19th century more than 90% of these [Islanders] were able to read and write in English” (Vollmer, 1997: 56). In 1953 Colombia declared San Andres Island a free port. Many Hispanic Colombians moved to San Andres to establish duty free businesses precipitating a demographic, economic, and linguistic change. Before long, government services were being conducted in Spanish, including public education.

Islander English-speakers became alarmed that their mother tongue, values, and cultural mores were being eroded. They recognized the importance of knowing Spanish, but did not want to lose their identity as Islander English-speakers. Therefore, some form of bilingual education utilizing both English and Spanish that simultaneously passed on their cultural heritage was favored.

After discussing various instructive possibilities with Islander English-speaking leaders a trilingual education approach was agreed upon. This begins schooling with Islander English, proceeds to standard English, and then Spanish. The goal at the end of primary schooling is age appropriate language proficiency in these three languages.

It is hypothesized that San Andres Island children who, during their pre-first and first grade of school are taught in their mother tongue and are given mother tongue support in subsequent grades, will do better academically in the content areas such as mathematics, social science, and natural science. Further, upon completion of primary school these children will be able to speak a second and third language (i.e. English and Spanish) as well as or better than other Island children who did not receive instruction in the mother tongue.

The presentation will describe the model in detail, the procedures for standardizing the orthography, the development of curriculum materials to date, and reactions of Islander English-speakers.

Forthcoming conference

SPCL will meet jointly with the Society for Caribbean Linguistics (SCL) in August 2004 in Curaçao.

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