How Black children in England’s schools are made to feel like the way they speak is wrong


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Ian Cushing, The Conversation UK

“If a gap does exist, it exists in the way that people perceive language, rather than how they use it.”

English is taught in a wat that posits the language of white middle classes as the norm. (Parker Photography/Alamy)

“Whiteness is an invention of the modern, colonial age. It refers to the racialization of white people and the disproportionate privilege – social, linguistic, economic, political – that comes with this. Crucially, as an invention, whiteness is not innate – it is taught. As an educational project, whiteness is designed to maintain racial hierarchies. Whether or not that intention remains or is recognized in modern schools, the racism underpinning that educational project continues to shape education in England.

Black children are more likely to face disproportionate disciplinary procedures and be excluded. They face discriminatory hair policies, and, when their speech is deemed to differ from “standard” or “academic” English, they face anti-black linguistic racism. … As a result, black children simply kept quiet or produced minimal answers, which they were further criticized for. Being made to internalize the ideology that their language was deficient resulted in their identity being eroded, an impact which research bears out.

To counter this, the teachers I collaborated with in my research designed new classroom materials that would, instead, affirm students’ voices. We worked with the black British writer Benjamin Zephaniah, using his 2020 novel Windrush Child and interviews he has given in which he talks about his experiences of having his language and racial identity policed. … Children were encouraged to interrogate the intersections of power, class and race which sees their own language stigmatized. Their discussions were also, crucially, joyful and full of love for black language and culture.”

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Annotated Bibliography Whiteness: Framed, De-Framed And Counter-Framed

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