Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Standard American English

Question: What do three books on French education in the written language suggest about the existence of standard American English?

Answer/Quote: “For the contemporary world of teaching, we choose with Chartier, to follow the ‘invention of everyday life’…as the logic of school practice, over the abstract myth of a rational and scriptal culture of schooling. In this sense, before proposing new guidelines for literacy instruction to teachers, it seems prudent to understand how, at ground level, they devise effective practices that allow students to learn what they are expected to know. By adopting the spirit of occupying the common ground of the written record admitted into classrooms, many teachers, in their various ways, may yet be turning schools into spaces of inclusion and growth for all children..” p; 340.

Comment: My including this quote from a review of three histories of French writing instruction might seem to be a stretch. But I have noticed in the teaching of writing in the United States that more and more writing instruction encourages the use of informal English as opposed to formal, standard American English. I describe informal written English as using many of the characteristics of spoken English—needless repetition, beginning sentences with “there,” the use of imprecise verbs, such as “get,” “getting,” “gotten,” and nouns, “things.” I also include passive constructions, ignoring parallel structure and dangling and misplaced modifiers, among other transgressions against formal, standard American English. I think this tendency is inevitable in light of Facebook, Twittering, e-mail, etc.

The point of the quote is that this tendency toward the democratization of language flies in the face of a hierarchical society that privileges such differentiating characteristics as formal, standard American English as it opposes the elite language of the remnants of aristocracy in France. Therefore, the French classrooms are now more inclusive and democratic. Et too, Anglais? RayS.

Title: “Paradoxes in French-Language Instruction: Recent Social and Historical Research on Literacy I France.”  Elsie Rockwell and Ana Maria Galvao. Reading Research Quarterly (July/ August/ September 2012), 3288-341.

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