Short Saturday: Schoolkids and Slang

I’ve long followed editor Stan Carey’s Twitter feed and blog (“Sentence first”), though I admit to a bit of jealousy: where does he find the time to work (i.e., earn a living) and write such intelligent blog posts? He’s a smart and gracious guy, and I love his laid-back attitude about just about everything word-related.

Earlier this month, Carey wrote an article for the Guardian about the problem with stigmatizing slang and dialect in schools. “Language is one of the last places where prejudice remains socially acceptable,” he says.

Standard English is a prestige dialect of huge social value. It’s important that students learn it. But the common belief that nonstandard means substandard is not just false but damaging, because it fosters prejudice and hostility. Young people can be taught formal English, and understand its great cultural utility, without being led to believe there’s something inferior or shameful about other varieties.

People feel strongly about correctness in language, but this strength of feeling isn’t always matched by knowledge and tolerance. And because children are sensitive to how they’re perceived, stigmatising their everyday speech can be harmful. By educating them about linguistic diversity instead of proscribing it, we can empower students and deter misguided pedantry.

It’s an interesting article, and I think you’ll enjoy it. (I’m also touched that Stan is bugged by the fact that the Guardian must have edited out his hyphen: “Pretend there’s a hyphen in broke-ass,” he says at his own blog.)

Tweet: Should schools ban slang from the classroom?
Tweet: “Banning words is not a sound educational strategy.”

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One Comment

  1. Jamie, I chuckled about the Guardian’s edit. They’d despise my hyphen-slinging blog.
    Blessings ~ Wendy