Calling speech dialect ‘ignorant’ blocks Black learning


IssuessquareBlack children are harmed in first through seventh grades when language formed by listening to loved ones and community and their identity is said to be wrong by teachers. Black children develop this cognitive monitoring of speech. This makes Black children unwilling to speak and causes learning problems, including criminal acts into their teen years.

Teachers often fail to let Black students teach them vernacular language. If Black students can teach the teacher, students may translate lessons into their own dialect, thus allowing an understanding between cultural groups.

Too often Black dialect learned in home is said to be ignorant. Some teachers want students to fit into one standard, causing ”cognitive monitoring.” Black students may shut down and not learn because of over-thinking what they are about to say for fear of being taunted and/or corrected.

Being a social studies teacher, I understood that when learning new concepts the task is making learning authentic. Black students ran to my class to learn politics and history because the subject was not decontextualized. Challenge your child’s teacher.

Should your child find the subject a drag, ask his/her teacher how are you making the subject matter apply to his/her world? I taught macroeconomics, making concepts relate to rap music and videos games. Students broke down my classroom door getting in before the tardy bell, ready to learn.

Editorial-Lucky-child-poutI am telling you that willfully, or unwillingly, teachers block Black learning in grade school using this rule-based modality of correcting ”Black talk” learned at home. These teachers have had little (if any) exposure to our so-called Black home, community dialect. Teachers’ over-correction of “I got no mo’, to what is you sayin’” prevents the process of keeping and learning a new dialect.

Parents must understand how this early practice can lead into special education classes because cognitive monitoring and reading skills are blocked and never developed — not because your child cannot learn, but because he/she is shut down from learning due to over-correction of what was once his/her normal dialect.

Black parents must not dismiss what I am writing in this column. It’s up to you to be the power to stop learning prevention that leads to poor school attendance, skipping classes, and time in juvenile lockup to juvenile court. Once this starts, the process has begun of failure and doom.

Tell your child’s teacher at every conference that while teaching English is appropriate, how is this being done without putting down home-learned language? Demand that your sons’ and daughters’ language not be seen as a problem. Tell the teacher that the diversity is a challenge for both you and the teacher to shift between cultures, their home and their dialect.

At the conferences, ask how the teachers are working within their classroom’s diversity. If no real plan is offered, I would pull my kid out of that class because the learning-Black block starts in the first through seventh grades.

If you want to talk, Black parents, email and/or contact me at the number below.


Lucky Rosenbloom welcomes reader’s responses to 651-917-1720, or email him at


5 Comments on “Calling speech dialect ‘ignorant’ blocks Black learning”

  1. I agree with this for the most part. I am bi-racial and capable of “code-switching” (speaking proper English, as well as the vernacular with friends and family). But at what point is (what is termed by some of my friends as “the money language”) “proper” English learned, or mastered? It is an unfortunate reality that job prospects are grim for those who cannot speak as we are expected to. I choose my battles with little ones. While I don’t pick everything apart that they say, I might choose to correct just one thing and work on that. For instance, I have a little one in my realm who says, “Do it go like this, or do it go like that?” Or, “How do it work?” This is one of the things we work on. I gently remind her (because I have corrected her, never interrupting her, in the past) by asking her, “How DO it work, or how DOES it work?”. She will giggle and say, “Oh yeah, how DOES it work!”. Most of the time she corrects herself. I feel that one should be free to speak, without being self-conscience, because as Lucky points out, it blocks learning. But again, at what point do we start to correct them? Or are you suggesting, not all?

  2. My father — born in the 1920s- was a real stickler for using mainstream ‘proper’ grammar, and that’s the way we learned to speak. However, we also had family members who weren’t so grammatically correct, and, because they were adults and we knew better than to correct them or ‘put on airs,’ we learned to speak as they did. So, in essence, we became bi-lingual. We learned that there was ‘down home’ talk and there was ‘going downtown’ talk, and we learned at an early age where and when to use either one. I like Brandi’s way of handling things. But another thought occured to me: Perhaps if we encouraged children by saying they were learning two different ways of saying the same thing, rather than treating their way of speaking as something to be corrected, they wouldn’t feel intimidated and put-down. In essence, we would be teaching them a second language, and we, in turn, could learn a thing or two. Children are very bright, and telling them the truth — that there are places where you might talk one way to heard and taken seriously, and places where you might need to talk another way to be heard and taken seriously — respects their innate intelligence and curiosity without criticizing their language skills. The reality is that most Black folks are bi-lingual to some extent.

  3. This is a sound argument if we want to prepare our children to never grow, mature and become citizens of a global society. While it does make sense to use examples they can relate to, if that is all they are exposed to at home and at school then they will never be equipped with the necessary skills to interact with people from different backgrounds, who speak different dialects, languages, etc. This lowered-expectation thinking is handicapping our children not helping them. I

  4. Because of the diversity of human thought, language, action, culture and speech I gave up on thinking on way is better a long time ago. My feeling is “who cares how you speak as long as you are able to get your point across”. America preaches dignity and equality but certainly has a problem practicing it. We are taught high philosophies like equality but in school are taught that children are to be seen and not heard. When a child, perhaps with exuberance blurts out (with respect) what is on his mind or questions something another adult hollers out “don’t ever let me hear you speak to your mother that way” by maybe a loose canon aunt with high blood pressure who has not thought things out enough to know what she is talking about. Churches teach us that being assertive is somehow out of alignment with feeling good about yourself and feeling equal to others. Perhaps this is why some have come to rely so heavily on alcohol or other chemicals to lubricate relationships socially when they are adults. Another thing we do is spend a whole lot of time looking to please the demands of institutions like the family, school and the church but don’t spend anywhere near enough time finding out who we are as individuals at our core especially at an early age so we can know how best to please society as well as ourselves.
    You make a super valid point about the subtle messages teachers send to students at an early age.
    One last point, when I was about to finish college I was offered slots in dental, psychology and law schools by the department heads themselves. Later while standing in the bursars office where you pay for your tuition there was another African-American female standing in line who I found out got all A’s in all her classes, something I didn’t. But to hear her speak you would have thought she was backward, country or ghetto only.

Comments are closed.