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The Real Ebonics Debate: Power, Language, and the Education of African-American Children Paperback – June 17, 1998

ISBN-13: 004-6442031455 ISBN-10: 0807031453 Edition: First Printing

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The term "Ebonics" exploded onto the mainstream media in 1996 due to a controversial resolution by the Oakland school board recognizing Vernacular Black English in their efforts to teach their inner-city youth. This book offers some well-needed definitions and defenses of Ebonics as a legitimate language and grammar system of West African origin that should be understood by teachers. As Lisa Delpit writes, "The teacher's job is to provide access to the national 'standard' as well as to understand the language the children speak sufficiently to celebrate its beauty."

The Real Ebonics Debate details the history of Ebonics (a name combining the words "ebony" and "phonics") since 1973, including the Eurocentric bias in determining what language is and the American racism and coded media phrases that mark the debate. The book will be crucial to the understanding of this controversial issue for years to come. Along with famous essays and poetry by Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Paul Laurence Dunbar, the most important documents in this collection are copies of the actual Oakland Ebonics Resolution and the Ebonics Resolution Revision, which stated, "The superintendent ... shall immediately devise and implement the best possible academic program for the combining purposes of facilitating the acquisition and mastery of English language while respecting and embracing the legitimacy and the richness of the language patterns." --Eugene Holley Jr.

From School Library Journal

YA-Perry and Delpit invited a dozen scholars and practicing classroom teachers to contribute essays on the topic of "Power, Language, and the Education of African-American Children." In addition to these contributors, the editors include pieces by James Baldwin and Paul Laurence Dunbar; relevant full-text resolutions and policies from the Oakland, CA, school board, whose Ebonics Resolution in 1996 opened a national debate; and interviews. After setting the scene, the book is divided into sections that examine the role language plays in a developing student's life and in the power structure of the society; how teachers have used their own language skills (which include listening and understanding as well as speaking and correcting) to enfranchise their students; the ways white America has interpreted the use of Ebonics among African-American children and in adult culture; and when, where, how, and perhaps why journalists across the country misrepresented the Oakland Ebonics Resolution. This is a powerful, accessible and valuable volume not only for teachers and those who hold themselves to the duty of providing educational opportunity for all American children, but also for teens who are looking to understand their own language experiences and those of their classmates.
Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; First Printing edition (June 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807031453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807031452
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #848,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

MacArthur "genius" award winner Lisa Delpit's article on "Other People's Children" for Harvard Magazine in the 1990s was the single most requested reprint in the magazine's history; Harvard School of Education gave her its award for Outstanding Contribution to Education. She is now the Felton G. Clark Professor of Education at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she lives.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By AfroAmericanHeritage on January 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
... As one who has actually read the book, ... I highly recommend it.
Contrary to media frenzy and popular belief, the Oakland school board did not pass a resolution in 1996 requiring that Ebonics, or Black English, be taught in place of Standard English. It did, however, pass a resolution recognizing what linguists had known for years: that Ebonics, like Spanish or German, is not defective English but a valid linguistic system following precise rules of grammar.
It also recognized that while students speaking Ebonics need to learn Standard English to attain success in mainstream American society, to do so they must be treated with the same respect as any student who enters the classroom speaking a different language or dialect. (English as a Second Language) Instead, they are often dismissed as lazy or stupid.
This collection is a common-sense look at the the issue, and a must-read for anyone who loves language.
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By Aly Holmes on January 4, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had to read this book for a class I took. The book was intriguing and very informative. Gave a interesting point of view on the topic but did not tell both sides of the story at all. Was extremely biased and seemed to be almost degrading at times.
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14 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Scott M. Rex on March 25, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am writing this review for two reasons. The first is to praise this book for approaching the question of Ebonics and education from so many different perspectives. The second is to refute the racist diatribe in one of the previous reviews in which the reviewer criticizes Ebonics as being substandard. As a Ph.D. in linguistics, I can assure you that Ebonics is as rich and creative as any other language on earth. It is a language with a structure and a history going back centuries. The reviewer who criticized Ebonics does not understand how human language functions. It is not a question for debate. Ebonics is a language that is not inherently better or worse than any other human language. To allow speakers of Ebonics to discover this fact and to take pride in the rich history of their language can only be seen in a positive light, as far as I can tell. This book allows the reader to hear from teachers, linguists, and administrators who are experts in their fields. It should be required reading for everyone, but sadly it alone cannot overcome the prejudices held by some less enlightened members of society, as shown by one of the previous reviews.
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