Tuesday, December 24, 1996

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  • Ebonics: A Bridge to Learning or the Ghettoization of Education?

    Last week, the Oakland, CA board of education passed a resolution recognizing Ebonics as a second language. Carol Tolbert, a trustee with the board, explains the goal is to change the generally held perception toward African American students with limited Standard English skills as deficient. Instead, new programs are intended to enable teachers to help students distinguish between and transition from home language to Standard English. John Rickford, Stanford University linguist and author of a book on Ebonics, cites studies that show the longer African American kids stay in school the more they fall behind in reading and writing skills, using traditional English teaching methods. Conversely, he also cites a study that has shown a contrast analysis approach to studying Standard English and Ebonics improved reading and writing skills dramatically. He suggests critics of the program, who refer to Ebonics as inner-city slang, are uninformed about the linguistic properties of Ebonics. Rickford thus fully supports the Oakland initiative because, he claims, recognizing and analyzing Ebonics as a language in its own right, is crucial in helping students transition to Standard English.

  • Straight News: A History of the Media’s Coverage of Gays and Lesbians

    Former CNN reporter, Edward Alwood, looked into the issue and concluded the media often acts as a mere conduit for a subculture’s image. He reminds us that when reporters do not have personal knowledge or experience with an issue, they rely on outside sources that are sometimes intrisically biased. In the case of gays and lesbians, a huge portion of the information came from psychiatrists and police and not from the community itself. He retraces the history of early gay and lesbian activists’ efforts to help the media understand there was more to be said about the subculture and that the coverage thus far had not been objective as was believed. Alwood also discusses the media’s coverage of AIDS from its beginnings and how it wasn’t until journalists started being personally affected by AIDS, that the coverage changed to reflect the true dimensions of the epidemic.

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