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Ignoronics: Critical Race Theory’s ancestors

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In 1997 there was a massive push to get a newly created “language” made official so it could be required in education and accepted everywhere. They called it “Ebonics”, the combination of Ebony (black) and Phonics (sound or language). In reality, it was an effort to gain funding for a huge government infrastructure to not only “make it OK” but actually make it important to  learn and understand the language of the streets. The uneducated misuse of English, primarily in majority black communities.

Here’s an article I wrote about it at the time. This was submitted as a “letter to the Editor” for the Opinion page of the Los Angeles Times. I don’t think they ever printed it.

My satirical tone should be evident, but, though tongue-in-cheek, I was quite serious about the faulty thinking behind this attempt to alter our society by lowering our standards for language and education. 

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The reason I’m publishing it today is to draw your attention to the strategies, tactics and actions of those who are pushing yet another idea that cannot be documented with facts: Critical Race Theory. Likewise this applies to the racist concept called “The 1619 Project.”

Letter to the Editor – In other words, “to whom it may concern.”

Subject: Ignoronics Education

Date: First written in 1997, revised in 2021

From: Business author & speaker, Jim Cathcart

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Author’s note: “Ebonics” is not a language. Treating it as such is an insult to the uneducated and an ineffective attempt to legitimize their ignorance. Taken seriously, and considering its broader implications, the following is worth your consideration.

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In light of the recent flap over the so-called “Ebonics”, I feel it is imperative that someone speak up for the other neglected minorities. Several million citizens of this country are educationally handicapped by the fact that they grew up in an American subculture that has its own “language.”

Their access to the American Dream is limited by the fact that their teachers often don’t look like them and don’t speak the same language that they do. In fact, their teachers haven’t even been trained in how to relate “standard” English to the English variation spoken within their subculture. This causes feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

We can’t continue to disenfranchise these citizens. They and their families work, vote and pay taxes in the United States and deserve equal access to a good public education. It is only right that we dedicate some of the public resources, money, to the creation of specialized training materials, teacher training seminars, teaching tools and increased public awareness of their problem. In this way they will feel more a part of the classes and be more likely to understand “standard” English.

Granted, only through the understanding and use of “standard” English will they be able to succeed. After all, the entire business community and media networks upon which our nation relies use “standard” English as their primary and, in most cases, only language. For that matter, the business community worldwide considers “standard” English the dominant language. Those who are not knowledgeable and skilled in the use of this language are indeed limited in their ability to get jobs, vote wisely, make sales, earn promotions, capture opportunities, solve problems, or just basically get by. We must correct this situation.

The disenfranchised groups to which I refer above are:

Rednecks, Foul Mouths, Hicks, Hillbillies, Street people (formerly known as “Hoboes”), Women (girl talk), Men (guy talk), Spanglish-speakers and possibly even more.

These folks deserve a break. Really. Each of them meets the basic criteria for consideration as a genuine subculture with its own language. Not slang mind you, but real languages.

  •          They have an identifiable culture. These cultures have endured for many generations. Their language is a matter of wide awareness and public record. Movies, books, How-to-speak-it manuals and tapes, famous figures (icons) and more have validated their worthiness for being considered a language.

For example: The Rednecks- Their look, behavior patterns, regional habitats, social strata, and language are widely acknowledged. They have worldwide roots and parallel subcultures. Comedian and actor Jeff Foxworthy has brought this to light most recently, but their roots go back to earlier years. Their language is called “Good Ole Bonics”, a combination of “good old boy” and “phonics”.

  •          Foul Mouths have the biggest problem of these groups. Their language, “Profanics”, (a combination of “profanity” and “phonics”) is widely known and in popular use. This is the longest lived of all the subcultures. Yet none of the existing education is geared to reaching them. They use words like “sh*t”, which has multiple meanings.

If used as “No Sh*t”, it either means, “I am not kidding you.” or “do you really mean that?” “Get your sh*t together” means “control yourself” or “get organized.”

Their word “D*mn” could mean, “Wow!”, or “Oops”, or “That makes me mad” or half a dozen other things depending upon context.

  •          The Hicks can be recognized by their dress, grooming, areas of residence and by their language. Their roots can be traced to rural locales worldwide. “Hayseedonics” contains such words and phrases as: “Dad burn!” meaning “I’m surprised or disappointed.” “It ain’t, dun it!” which means “No that is not so. I’m emphatic about that.” Perhaps the greatest lie being perpetrated today is that “ain’t” isn’t a real word. Ask anyone who was ever exposed to “Hayseedonics” if they are aware of this word. I’ll bet 100% of the population will say “Yes I know ‘Ain’t’ and even use it occasionally.”

As you can easily see, we can’t afford to overlook the individual needs and unique cultural differences of any group.

So let’s see what we can agree on. How about this:

  • All citizens deserve access to a good education. If they or their families are contributing to our society or economy then they deserve a shot at success. If they are not members of our society, then they should be educated by that country or society to which they belong. Those who don’t yet “belong” anywhere must then make a commitment to someplace before they can expect it to make a commitment to them.
  • The general population should not be deprived of resources by requiring them to accommodate exceptional requests made by those from each subculture. (Paid for through extra taxes and fees.)
  • This is not about race, religion or subculture. It is about learning the American language, the one self-advancement skill that transcends all others in the world today.
  • There is no such language as “Ebonics” and there never was. It is merely a word recently coined to describe the vernacular used by ignorant (read “not aware”) people primarily in the black community in the United States. In fact it is defined as “black English.” Well if it is Black English, then call it that. But don’t try to sophisticate it by the creation of a new word accompanied by a request for special funding or training to help teachers learn it. That is de-education.

If you want to make a case for Black English, then first establish the criteria which it must meet in order to be considered a language. Once those criteria are agreed upon, then they must also be applied to Rednecks, Foul Mouths, and You-name-its too.

After all, we are talking about public money here. Mine and yours. If our money is to be spent on it, then it must be fair to all races and subcultures. Money must also be set aside to teach the new language to all students. To be fair, surely Yiddish (a genuine language by all standards) qualifies much more fully than any of the languages currently under consideration. Its roots are deeper, the number who speak it greater and its culture more strongly established. And what about the several dozen Native American languages which predate English in this country? Many other “sub” cultures would qualify as well.

Let’s all just grow up and realize that we can’t attend to every person and group as much as we would like to. No society has the resources to support every non-mainstream aspect of its culture. And if it did, then the citizens would have no incentive to distinguish themselves through achievement. Besides, if the individual has no personal responsibility to make adjustments, then there is no pride in the adjustment and any learning that takes place is only of token value.

         Surely we don’t need to train teachers in “baby talk” so that they can meet infants on their own level and help them transition into speaking actual words.

There is no reasonable way on earth to dilute the public resources so thoroughly that all subcultures are accommodated fairly, except by requiring them to meet certain basic criteria on their own.

These are things such as:

Willingness to attend school during normal school hours.

Desire to learn and consistent action to prove it.

Appreciation of the fact that this education is being provided for them by the taxes paid by their neighbors and fellow citizens, you and me.

Willingness to let the teachers teach and not interfere with them by demanding special attention beyond the teacher’s job description.

Realizing that all people are self-made, but, as Earl Nightingale once said, “only the successful will admit it.”

In other words, we are all personally responsible for how we turn out.

Adults can make the world more accessible to children only to a point. That point is where the public resources, money and time, run out. From that point on, it is the individual’s responsibility to do what it takes.

Ask any well adjusted person from a limited or deprived background what it took for them to do so well. Without exception they will tell you that they took what they had, did their best with it and from there on, created their own opportunities through dedication, determination and hard work.

         So let’s take all the “languages” which grew out of ignorance of English and call them collectively, “Ignoronics.” Instead of dealing with them individually, treat them as a group. In this group of “languages” the common denominator is all of them are based on ignorance of English grammar. We can then offer a balanced menu of training which all can benefit from. Then every subgroup can still relate to it. That allows us to reach out to all subgroups without unfairly accommodating some while depriving others of such specialized attention. If we single out Black English for special attention, we ignore larger and possibly more deserving groups in the process. Let’s convert all who speak these many tongues into productive well adjusted citizens by showing them a better way to communicate and not by training our teachers to speak their “Ignoronics.”

 

 

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Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE is an Executive MBA Professor, Author of 21 books, Hall of Fame Professional Speaker, Top 1% TEDx video (2.4 million views), US Army veteran, Singer/Songwriter, and Lifelong Motorcyclist. He is known as "Your Virtual VP" for his Advisory/Mentor work with organizations worldwide. Based in Texas...and proud of it!



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Education

Academic Underachievement As a Permanent Condition

Academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above

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On the state and local level, as decisions are made about how and in what form we will educate the nation’s children, an age-old issue remains. The underlying causes of income inequality and civil unrest likely has less to do with media-inflamed coverage and more to do with a lingering issue that few people want to earnestly discuss: educational disparity.

In virtually every U.S. school system, the disparity year after year, decade after decade, and even longer, in mathematics competency, reading proficiency, test scores, honor roll status, and graduation rates, between African American students and other students is disturbing.

A Disturbing Reality

Here in the third decade of the third millennium, with a male African American high school dropout rate at 40% across the U.S., can anyone view the situation optimistically? Any responsible American would understandably be concerned.

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As Eric Hanushek, who is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, as well as a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, exclaimed “It’s remarkable.” Following his extensive analysis of the situation, he remarked, “I knew that the gap hadn’t been closing too much, but when I actually looked at the data I was myself surprised.”

In one community after another, and one school system after another, when strenuous efforts to bridge the gap do not bear fruit, invariably someone yells “foul,” as if some grand conspiracy is occurring and a magic wand, yet to be waved, could suddenly redress all. And, as if hard-working, dedicated teachers are not attempting their utmost for each of their students.

An Undesired Path

Consider the school system in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, North Carolina. This locale, deemed, “The southern part of heaven,” by a variety of writers, is among the most progressive in the United States. The teachers and educators here have a vested interest in demonstrating that their school system, beyond all others, can succeed in the vital area of closing achievement gaps between whites and minorities.

Nevertheless, year in and year out the gap remains. So, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education becomes primed to try anything! Another in an endless line of supposed “fixes” was to eliminate the advanced math classes in the middle schools and to lump all non-pre-algebra students together, with similar plans to eliminate other advanced classes such as in language arts.

Just as you cannot easily erect a sound building on quicksand, and you cannot expect to solve a decades-old problem by starting with a shaky foundation. Taking a lowest common denominator approach to developing school curriculum has never consistently worked, anywhere. It frustrates the students and dramatically increases a teacher’s burden – all such students must then be taught at individual learning speeds. Do you know any superhuman teachers? If so, could you afford them?

Face the Real Issues

Permanently closing the academic gap between underachieving students and the rest of the student population requires addressing reality – airing the truth about the disparity – not resorting to politically “correct” psychobabble and curricula finagling for another ten years, and then another ten, and then another.

This disparity encompasses such issues as the number of hours the television is on in given households, family or parental encouragement for completing homework assignments, a regular workspace, and established hours for studying in a quiet environment, among other factors.

Until solid analysis, exploration, and programs that address these issues are undertaken, no amount of wrangling with classes will prove to be the “winning formula.” And, school boards will have no chance of effectively addressing the continuing problem of poor academic performance among student groups.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Sign of Four, detective Sherlock Holmes says, “…When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The schools in U.S. communities routinely exhaust talented teachers with a task that cannot be solved by them, nor is it theirs to solve.

Students Eager to Learn

However improbable to those who wish to pretend otherwise, academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above and cracking the books, then coming to class as serious students, eager to learn, and primed to excel. Such achievement is not likely to occur any other way.

Otherwise, expect that income inequality and civil unrest will continue for decades into the 21st century.

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Education

When America Loses THIS, It Loses Everything

We are in a battle for the soul of our country. And that battle is over truth.

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We are in a battle for the soul of our country. And that battle is over truth. Truth must be the foundation of everything that we believe, honor, value, and esteem. If we don’t know what truth is, how can we stand for America? The left is at war with the truth and tries to reposition what it is that we believe to be true so that they can change society. We must stand for truth. PolitiCrosssing founder Chris Widener expands on the need to fight for truth in the short video below.

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