I am currently conducting research on the topic of African American English in education (or the “African American English Vernacular”, or “Ebonics”, or whatever term you prefer) to gain a better insight into the linguistic experiences of African American students in different educational settings. Since the teachers’ lack of understanding of English vernaculars and the disadvantaging treatment (whether it be done consciously or unconsciously) of African American English speakers can have numerous other negative consequences (e.g. denial of challenging academic instruction, labeling as learning disabled, denial of funding etc.) it remains an extremely important topic up to this day. Yet, it often continues to be overlooked. I wanted to use this discussion to find out what you guys and girls think about it. In order to have a basis of discussion, I would suggest filling out the survey I prepared, so that I can share the overall outcome and average with you afterwards, which might make discussions more interesting. So I would really appreciate if you could spare about 5 minutes to quickly reminisce about your childhood and tell me about your own linguistic experiences at school (no matter your current age; and you do not necessarily need to be an African American English speaker yourself, you just need to have an opinion on the topic, that’s all) by answering the nine short questions of my survey:
(By the way, since this is a public survey of mine for which I decided to give away a $25 Amazon gift card as a thank you and a little reimbursement for the trouble, you’d have also the chance to enter the raffle – entering for the gift card is optional though.)
If you absolutely don’t feel like answering anonymously and confidentially as you would by replying within the actual wufoo.com version of the survey and you don't want to wait for the final results to get a better sense of the overall average, you are, of course also welcome to openly reply to the questions right here, if that’s what you prefer. Here’s what I would like to know:
#1) Basic information: Age, gender and where did you attend school (elementary, middle, and high school)?
#2) Do you speak African American English?
a) No, not at all (I don’t know how to speak it)
b) No, but I know how to speak it
c) Only in certain situations / in a certain environment / with certain people
d) Yes, most of the time
e) Yes, (almost) all the time
#3) In what setting (e.g. home, circle of friends, school) did you learn African American English and how did you acquire the English “standard”? Briefly explain.
#4) At school [elementary/middle/high school], did you or someone else ever feel that your African American English form of speech posed a language barrier for you in one way or another?
b) Yes (Briefly explain)
#5) At school [elementary/middle/high school], did you ever feel discriminated or at disadvantage as a result of your African American English form of speech? If so, did you ever voice this problem?
a) No, I never felt discriminated or at disadvantage as a result of AAE
b) Yes, I felt discriminated or at disadvantage as a result of AAE. (Briefly explain)
#6) As an African American English speaker: How was your language treated at school? (By teachers, African American students, non-African American students, the school administration or other employees.) Please explain.
#7) Do you think that African American English should be taught at school [elementary/middle/high school]? If so, why?
a) No, absolutely not
b) Yes, just like Standard English is taught to/expected of African Americans, African American English should be taught to non-African American students
c) African American English should be explicitly covered in one form or another as an official topic in order to improve students' cultural knowledge
#8) Are you aware of programs specifically designed for African American English speakers offered by your former school (e.g. to acquire Standard English), or have you maybe even benefited from one yourself?
a) No, my school did not offer any, at least none that I’m aware of. Also, I don’t think there is any need
b) No, my school did not offer any, at least none that I’m aware of; but I think they should
c) Yes, my school offered programs designed to help African American English speakers and I took part in one
d) Yes, my school offered programs designed to help African American English speakers but I did not take part in any
#9) Final thoughts: In your opinion, what does the ideal classroom look like (in regards to how African American English is handled by students, teachers, etc.)? What might be the benefits of programs designed specifically for African American English speakers? From what age and until what age do you think they could be beneficial? Last but not least, are there any other thoughts you would like to add on this topic as a whole?