This course deals with the controversy concerning Ebonics (African American Vernacular English). It is a controversy that has several different aspects and interacts with social, educational, and linguistic issues. The class takes an academic perspective on the topic in which we examine and try to understand the different aspects of the controversy. There is the basic question of just what is Ebonics. Is it a separate language, a dialect, slang, bad grammar, or really not a distinct entity? There is also the matter of its origins and history. Are its origins traceable to the language systems of Africa or is it a variant of Southern English? Further, there is the question of how different people in society view Ebonics and why they might have those views?
Finally, there is a practical question of how to approach the education of African American children whose home speech is Ebonics. Should a goal in the education of these children be the purging of Ebonics so that it does not interfere with the mastery of mainstream English, or should Ebonics be used as a vehicle for learning mainstream English? This course will deal with these and other issues through readings, films, group discussions, writing assignments, and lectures. The course grade will be based on homework assignments, discussion participation, and three exams.