Authorities argue that Ebonics, African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), is not a hodgepodge, but is as valid as any other variant of our language. Though AAVE is still heavily criticized by some, formal recognition has been given to it since as far back as 1979, when Martin Luther King Junior Elementary School Children et al., v. Ann Arbor School District held that classes in reading must be adapted to the needs of African Americans to prevent them from failing (http://bit.ly/cKbgYl).
But although many people understand how legitimate the language is, some educators and African Americans have looked down upon it. For example, to avoid low status, some upwardly mobile blacks speak AAVE only when they think it is appropriate for a given social setting (http://bit.ly/cKbgYl).
Conversely, peer-group pressure leads some students to contrive to use AAVE all the time. Such groups may hold mainstream culture in contempt, and so use AAVE as the “official” language in their own countercultural environments (http://bit.ly/9E3mnp).
For instance, at least one young male in Columbus, Ohio, was interviewed and found to be pronouncing some words in AAVE, and other words in Standard American English, a fact indicating he had learned the characteristic speech for this area, but was still “going out of his way” to use AAVE. That made his decision a conscious one, when choosing to speak like white middle-Americans (http://bit.ly/cC55Lr).
In either situation, whether upwardly mobile or countercultural, there seems to be a conscious decision to use AAVE when speaking. This awareness of how the language works in a social context allows speakers including students the option to use the variant as a “bridge” in learning, rather than to abandon it.
It is no surprise that the assimilation of AAVE into mainstream education continues to gain momentum. An abstract of one recent scholarly article maintains that urban youth culture is a “fund of knowledge” that may help both teaching and learning in the education of urban youth of color (http://bit.ly/9x5CwT).
For just one of many recent examples, read Culture, Literacy, and Learning: Taking Bloom in the Midst of the Whirlwind. In it Carol D. Lee examines what youth know from their lives outside school to support learning in school, so that they and their teachers can work out cultural and language differences, and apply what they know from the “real world” in the classroom. (http://bit.ly/bltcyp).