by the Conference on College Composition and Communication, May 1998
The Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), composed of 9,000 scholars who teach at colleges and universities across the nation, is deeply committed to the development of literacy for all students.
News media reports and commentaries regarding the recent Ebonics controversy have been, for the most part, incomplete, uninformed, and in some cases, purposefully distorted. The public deserves a statement reflective of the viewpoints of language and literacy scholars.
Ebonics—also known as “Black English Vernacular,” “African American Language,” and by other names—is a distinctive language system that many African American students use in daily conversation and in the performance of academic tasks. Like every other linguistic system, Ebonics is systematic and rule-governed. It is not an obstacle to learning. The obstacle lies in negative attitudes towards the language, lack of information about the language, inefficient techniques for teaching language and literacy skills, and an unwillingness to adapt teaching styles to the needs of Ebonics speakers.
Teachers, administrators, counselors, supervisors, and curriculum developers must undergo training to provide them with adequate knowledge about Ebonics and help them overcome the prevailing stereotypes about the language and learning potential of African American students and others who speak Ebonics. Teachers in particular must be equipped with the fundamental training and knowledge that will enable them to be effective in teaching language and literacy skills to Ebonics speakers.
We strongly support the call for additional research on how educators can best build on existing knowledge about Ebonics to help students to expand their command of the Language of Wider Communication (“standard English”) and master the essential skills of reading and writing.
This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.