FW: ADS visibility

Michael Newman mnewman at QC.EDU
Thu Sep 27 13:29:16 UTC 2001

Here are six several interrelated reasons for general absence of
linguistic issues in k-12 schools in the US including :

1. Most language arts curricula emphasize literary analysis and basic
literacy skills, such as reading and writing.

2.  Most state tests by which student progress is measured reflect
these and only these goals. For example the neither the NYS English
Language Arts (ELA) regents exam nor the 4th and 8th grade tests
leading up to it have a single question on metalinguistic knowledge.
It is possible to get 100% on these tests and not know what a noun is
or what a definition is, for that matter. This is a "new wave" or
progressive test which assumes a genre-based definition of literacy,
meaning it's not all decontextualized skills.

3. It is generally believed (rightly or wrongly) that declarative
knowledge of language, including but not limited to dictionary skills
and the types of issues addressed by ADS, is irrelevant to
development of writing and reading skills.

4. There is no time in the language arts class for anything extra
that cannot be justified on the basis of helping kids pass the tests,
which is on reason point 3 is important. When Walt Wolfram developed
his dialect diversity program in North Carolina, he cleverly put it
in Social Studies, not ELA, and in a grade with no test at the end
and curriculum focused on North Carolina History. In other words, he
snuck it in the back door.

5. Most ELA teachers are former English majors, trained in
departments that emphasize literature or teach literature as English.
They are also attracted to those programs and fear anything vaguely
formal in nature.

6. People who work in English Education tend to be former ELA
teachers, who research these areas and emphasize them in their
teacher education classes. Most that I am aware of have one class on
language, something like "pedagogical grammar." I managed to insert a
sociolinguistics class in one prominent program I used to work in,
but it had never occurred to them until I mentioned it. I got it in
because it addressed diversity!

The only way out I can see is to create a scandal on the lines of
"Kids today can graduate without knowing what a noun is!" "Kids today
can graduate without knowing how to use a dictionary!" for public
consumption and talk about "dialect diversity" among academics. And
then look to the research literature that shows how that language
ignorance can despite what some educators may think does impact
Standard English production.
Michael Newman
Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics
Dept. of Linguistics and Communication Disorders
Queens College/CUNY
Flushing, NY 11367

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