Re: goody, writing, consciousness etc

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 13:30:56 -0400

In message <>
"N.R.M. Bethel" writes:

> it [a ban on use of Creole English on radio and TV] was a knee-jerk reaction
> on the part of the
> government, i seem to remember that, with regard to criticisms about
> education standards and schoolchildren failing english. if that was what
> prompted the ban, then there is an awful kind of 'logic' in the banning of
> Creole from the airwaves!

Well, their ideology probably didn't include the possibility that Creole is a
language at all, and they mistakenly thought that filling up the airwaves with
"proper" English would solve the problem. All those language-less people would
listen and absorb. Problem is, people in positions to create and enact language
policy in the West Indies usually aren't linguists, and most of the time they
simply don't have a clue.

> at that time, too, there were several newspaper
> columns in Creole, which don't exist anymore - the result of another kind
> of politics.

I have a book of cartoons of social and political commentary, with most of the
dialogue in Creole. I think the series was called "sideburns" or something like
that, and it was quite good. Is it still running?

> what is very interesting about the "falling" standards of
> English in the Bahamas, though, is that many of the same students who
> struggle with the standard (whose grammar and construction is sufficiently
> familar to them, and yet so crucially different, that they are often
> totally lost as to what is 'correct' in the standard and what is not) are
> highly articulate in the Creole. that point first struck me while i was a
> teacher of English in high scools, and it was one of the things that
> inspired my research.

You discovered that people don't have to be speakers / writers of Metropolitan
English to be creative, articulate, yes, even intelligent. I had a somewhat
similar realization as a Peace Corps Volunteer on Carriacou, teaching Spanish to
middle school children. I used the "direct" method because the Grenada gov't
gave us no textbooks, etc., so my primary communication with the kids was thru
Spanish. They were learning Spanish just as well as hyper-privileged kids I had
taught in the US did. But, their other subject teachers, who had to teach them
thru English, constantly referred to them as "dunce." It was this dissonance
between my perception of them (they seemed perfectly "normal" to me) and that of
the other teachers that led, eventually, to my advocacy of initial literacy thru
Creole English for them. My dissertation was a description of what happened
when we tried it out.

One of the biggest obstacles to acquisition of ME, I think, for people who speak
Creole English is precisely that, because there is so much that "seems familiar"
it's easy to for people to be fooled into thinking they know more about ME than
they actually do. The general educational policy of playing down the
differences between ME and Creole only increases this difficulty, in my opinion.
That's why I used a phonemically based spelling system with the Carriacou kids,
rather than spelling things in mutilated standard spelling. I wanted the Creole
to look like the different language that, in so many crucial ways, it is. And,
it seemed to work. People looked at their Creole and were able to read it on
sight, with no instruction, and afterwards they would say "this looking like we
language, ent? it (dis lukin layk wi langwij, ent it?).

Keep me posted on what you discover, please!

Ron Kephart
University of North Florida