English 101 Higgins
“Words and Blood” Embracing minority dialects and languages while teaching standard American English could serve not only to prevent alienating students but also to encourage them to merge their private and public identities without sacrificing the benefits of either. Educators today need to value the individuality of each students discourse. By showing this appreciation, they make students feel like they are building upon their foundation as opposed to laying a new one. In addition to showing regard, it has to be acknowledged that languages both English and others are always in evolutionary state. By accepting, joining, and celebrating this evolution, educators can ease some of the sadness and other negative emotions involved with the loss that occurs when discourse is changed and certain pieces are phased out.
Often times in school we encounter students who either are bilingual or just have a way of speaking that is very different from our own. Society is more culturally enriched by the fact that everyone has their own beginning to how and why they speak the way they do. White states that while, “conventions of standard English” should be taught, “we should also acknowledge and even celebrate the unique and highly effective forms of discourse that students bring with them into the classroom”. (44) SAE needs to be treated more as icing on the cake of students existing speech. By itself, neither the cake nor the frosting is as gratifying as they are put together. Everyone uses a specific vocabulary passed down from parents and family that is unique. For example, In Earley’s case he spoke with an Appalachian dialect and speaks specifically about a word “quare” that his grandmother used in reference to him. Many do not hold value to this word primarily because they have never heard it, and so have no idea what it means. Earley speaks to the value of individual discourse when he states in reference to it, “If language is the mechanism through which we inherit history and culture, then each individual word functions as a type of gene; bearing with it a small piece of the specific information that makes us who we are, and tells us where we have been." (332) There is great worth in variety in English, White agrees by saying, “to highlight the inherent value in numerous forms of English communications.” (44) His was moved to teach his students a way to comprehend and hold dear other ways of speaking than just the standard. Our use of language is significant to our heritage that Earley writes, “words and blood are the double helix that connect us to our past.” (333) He articulates so well how many English scholars feel about the parallel between language and soul.
Many agree the most fascinating thing about any language or discourse is that it is in an ever changing state. Some disagree with White and feel that language should be kept the same over time and that it shouldn’t change. But with all the change in our cultural melting pot that taken place especially over the last 100 years, evolution is inevitable. This has been the case for a long time if not always. Earley so beautifully agrees, “Of course no language is a static property: the life cycles of words mirror the life cycles of the individuals who speak them.” (333) This is another example as to why we should “celebrate” diversity in discourse. Language is representative of our sense of being, right down to our hearts. Still language progresses much like technology and as White explains, “we use and re-create language to meet our social and cultural needs.” (45) As part of the evolutionary process certain pieces don’t survive, Earley states, “-a sure sign of a words practical death.” (333) White agrees and also uses the term death in stating, “ we add new words constantly while words whose contexts are no longer valid die a quiet death.” (45)
Positioning the evolution of language in a positive light may be able to minimize