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June 29, 1979 - Image 8

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1979-06-29

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Page 8-Friday, June 29, 1979-The Michigan Daily
Expert: Black English impeded learning

By ELEONORA DI LISCIA
An expert testified yesterday that one
of the children in the Black English
case may have followed a downhill pat-
tern in his learning skills because of
language difficulties resulting from
speaking Black English.
Dr. Gary Simpkins said the schools
needed to reassess why some children
were not responding to learning
situations. "We should look at his (the
child's) dialect and experien-
ces . .. and be flexible enough to use
other prescriptions. What has been
done across time simply has not
worked,' Simpkins said.
SIMPKINS TESTIFIED on behalf of
11 black children from the Green Road
Housing Project who attend Martin
Luther King Elementary School in Ann
Arbor. Lawyers for the 11 children have
charged the school with failing to con-
sider the children's language differen-
ces and instead labelling them as slow
learners or emotionally impaired.

Simpkins maintained concern for the
damage to children's self-concept that
could be caused by being labelled
emotionally impaired. Simpkins said
the child "appears to be relating to his
black linguistic system. Probably he's
having dialect interference. It would
have a great deal of impact on his
ability to read standard English."
Last week, Geneva Smitherman,
director of Wayne State University's
Center of Black Studies and a professor
of speech and communication, testified
that when children become conscious
that their language is wrong, they feel
inadequate and withdraw into a non-
verbal state.
SIMPKINS CONCLUDED in court
that one child had fallen behind
academically due to limited skills, had
self-concept problems, and felt isolated
from the mainstream. "There is a ten-
dency that teachers consider the lear-
ning a child brings to school as in-
correct learning that must be

programmed out of him in order to
learn correctly. A result is children who
are non-verbal but in their natural en-
vironment are highly verbal."
Simpkins recommended that the
child be sent to a speech therapist with
some linguistic background in Black
English. The program should "start out
with some type of successful experien-
ces," Simpkins said. An intervention
program should be centered around the
child but also should be an integral part
of the school, he added.
A "bridge" program was started in
one school district two years ago to help
children switch from Black English to
standard English. "One of the objec-
tives of the bridge program is to teach
code-switching. The children start out
in Black English and the all end up in
standard English," Simpkins said.
THE CONCEPTS OF the bridge
program could be beneficial to schools,
he added. "The concept will start where
the kid is by using the language the kid
brings to school to plug into standard
English. I'm advocating that black
dialect be used as a vehicle to teaching
standard English."
"It would be beneficial for black as
well as white kids to learn something
about the language, both black and
standard English. For instance, it is
perfectly all right to study old English.
I think the same thing should happen
with black English," Simpkins said.
Simpkins criticized King School's
labeling of another child as emotionally

impaired. "The committee was shop-
ping around. They were looking under
various categories they could put him
under without ethical regard for the
child."
THE ATTORNEY for the Ann Arbor
Board of Education, John Weaver,
maintained that the committee had
followed the legal procedure required
by the state.
University English Prof. Richard
Bailey testified briefly. He noted that a
lecture on Black English had been
made at King School and that "none of
the teachers recalled anything par-
ticular of the lecture. It is remarkable
that they didn't notice any linguistic
differences between the children."
Bailey's testimony was based on
taped depositions of the teachers. The
use of information in the tapes was
dismissed formally as inadmissable by
Federal District Court Judge Charles
Joiner. The attorneys for the 11
children have to finda use for the tapes
that does not violate the judge's order,
in Bailey's testimony, which is con-
sidered critical.
Bailey also suggested ways for the
school system to cope with Black
English speaking students. "First,
teacher preparation. Second,
dissemination of professional articles
or books and third, in-service
workshops. One should have linguistic
knowledge to the extent of knowing the
features of Black English."

"What we have here is
a total lack of respect
for the law!"
Burt Reynolds
"SmOkey ANTHE Bandit"
Sally Field 'Jerry Reed
Jackie Gleason 9 --
ScreenpIay Tby JAMES LEE BARRE TT rnd CHARLES SHYER
& AL AN MANDEL -Story by HAL NEEDHAM & ROBER T L LEVY
Musi b BILL JUJSI rs rn JERRY REED - Drectedl By HAL NEEDHAM
Produce'r byMORT ENGELBERG -
A RASTAR Pr orucrron -A UNIVERSAL Prcture Technrcolore
603asliery STARtTS TODAY!
MKHIGANMON.-TUE.-THUR.-FRI. 7:30-9:30
Theare Pone665-290 1:303 :30-5 30-7:30-9:30

ENERGY.
We can't afford to waste it.

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