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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. 

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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Business

Work-life Balance: The Enduring Quest

Organizations today recognize the importance of supporting employees’ well-being while maintaining productivity

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Thank goodness that organizations today increasingly recognize the importance of supporting employees’ well-being while maintaining productivity. As such, the corporate quest for work-life balance, harmony, and integration has gained great prominence.

Key Aspects

Here are 12 key aspects of this pursuit gleaned from a variety of programs:

1. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements: Offering flexible work schedules, remote work options, and part-time opportunities allows employees to better balance their professional and personal lives.

2. Have Clear Policies: Establishing clear policies and guidelines regarding work hours, overtime, and expectations helps employees manage their time effectively.

3. Support Mental Health: Providing access to mental health resources, counseling, and stress management programs can address employees’ emotional well-being.

4. Give Leave: Offering generous paid time off, including vacation, sick leave, and parental leave, allows employees to address personal and family needs without fear of repercussions.

5. Prevent Burnout: Encouraging employees to disconnect from work-related technology after hours helps prevent burnout and supports work-life separation.

6. Support Workload Management: Ensuring that employees have manageable workloads and realistic deadlines prevents excessive stress and long working hours.

7. Provide Wellness Programs: Implementing wellness initiatives, such as fitness facilities, nutrition programs, and health screenings, promotes a healthier work-life balance.

8. Enable Employee Assistance Programs: Such programs provide confidential counseling and support services for employees facing personal challenges.

9. Promote a Culture of Balance: Company culture plays a significant role in work-life balance. Leaders should model a balanced lifestyle, and the organization should celebrate accomplishments beyond work.

10. Maintain Continuous Communication: Engaging in open dialogues with employees about their needs and concerns regarding work-life balance fosters a supportive and responsive corporate culture.

11. Empower Workers with Training and Education: Providing training on time management, stress reduction, and resilience equips employees with the skills to better balance their lives.

12. Leverage Remote Work Policies: Crafting clear remote work policies and expectations ensures that remote employees have a structured work-life balance.

Bringing in the Hired Gun

As the world’s only holder of the title, “The Work-Life Balance Expert®,” as issued by the USPTO,  I am often summoned by organizations to enhance work-life balance for their troops. In all, I’ve delivered programs and spoken to 960 groups. Below depicts an encounter with a company who shall remain nameless for reasons of confidentiality. See if this squares up with your experience in your organization.

The following responses were derived as a result of my sending a questionnaire to the conference meeting planner where I was to be their keynote speaker. I requested the names of 10 people who would be in the audience. I called each of them to discuss their current challenges. Here are their actual replies to three of my questions:

1) If you could magically resolve a work-life balance issue, what would it be?

* Have more breathing room between high-level projects.
* Accomplish more during the workday and leave mentally free.
* Hire more staff!
* Take vacations and time off with no big pile ups when returning.

* Be allowed to take some Fridays off and catch up on much needed appointments.
* Reduce the number of pop-up requests and questions flying at me all day long so that I could ACTUALLY do what I need to do each day.
* Be approved to work from home or adjust my hours. My personal time isn’t respected.

2) What do you seek to derive from attending a session such as mine?

* Manage my time more effectively.
* Gain tools to embrace life while living it
* Develop stronger skills.
* Make work-life balance a reality in our company’s work-first culture.

* Acquire strategies, tips, or ideas to re-think my approach.
* Learn to change my focus, to be more productive, balanced, and focused.
* Be able to balance the few things that I do control during my day.
* Discover tips for keeping my staff in balance.

* Gain a realistic expectation of what we can achieve or experience.
* Develop a more positive outlook for the group.

3) Are there any observations you could offer?

* Work-life balance is a huge topic organization-wide. We are high performers who want to do a good job. We compromise our personal lives to meet work demands. We have to keep pace with the leaders and teams we support. If we don’t, we’ll be deemed unresponsive.

* A frenetic pace seems to be inherent in this company. Our team does a good job of emphasizing work-life balance; the problem lies with the surrounding divisions that thrive on working all the time, for no good reason. Yes, we are in a global space, working in different time zones, but some of these people are beyond the pale.

* What I love about this organization are the people. They are dedicated to the cause and truly want to deliver reliable, affordable, dynamic, and versatile solutions to our customers. However, our frenetic pace isn’t necessary. Not every project is the most vital. Not every problem is an emergency. Not every request has to be filled now.

* If in charge, I’d implement a more efficient, logical pace organization-wide. If we all took a breath and reevaluated how we work, in a more focused environment, we might find that we could produce better results with less stress.

Resonates Strongly

As you can see, the topic of work-life balance resonates strongly among today’s career professionals. Going forward, may more organization recognize and acknowledge the critical role that employee wellness and work-life balance has on the organization’s overall effectiveness.

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Education

HPU, Harvard Plagiarist University

To be fair, Harvard ought to be inclusive and welcome all plagiarists with open arms

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Peter, from Milton, MA, just outside of Boston and Cambridge, posed the following dilemma:

In keeping Claudine Gay on the faculty at nearly $1m per year, and lauding her, Harvard appears to be announcing to future students and faculty, as well as the world, that every category of plagiarism which she committed is acceptable.

I will defer to others who have so comprehensively catalogued her forms of plagiarism that Harvard deems acceptable.  I am more interested in the application of the Harvard’s plagiarism ideal.

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

To be helpful, I would ask these questions in order to better assure that the guidelines are clear: Is plagiarism good for everybody or only good for blacks, or is it female blacks?

What about the other near endless permutations of sex, sexual preference, race, and ethnicity?  Or is it good for everybody but whites? What is white, however? Are Israelis whiter than Arabs or Persians?  Israelis come from all sorts of races while Arabs do not. Elizabeth Warren self-identified as a native American; could she self-identify as a black and attain plagiarism protection?

Non Malevolent Plagiarism

Are certain whites exempt? President Joe Biden says that his plagiarism in college was okay because it wasn’t malevolent. My bad. I did not know there was a “not malevolent exception.” Is that for all whites, or only progressive whites, or only for progressive whites who become president decades later?

How would we know he would become a progressive white president decades later, particularly when he was a notable southern bigot much of his time in the senate?

The High Achieving Minority

What about Asians?  They are a minority in the U.S. As a group, they consistently achieve on merit, undermining the notion of oppressed minorities. Are they allowed to plagiarize but only in lesser forms, or not nearly as much? Or do they get no pass at all because they have the temerity to achieve?

What about the quality of plagiarism? Should some plagiarism be more appreciated than others? To employ the Boston vernacular, my brain is starting to hurt wicked bad.

Oh hell, Harvard simply ought to be inclusive and welcome all plagiarists with open arms regardless of their background or plagiarist skill set, and maybe make a name change. I suggest Harvard Plagiarist University.

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