• Sarah Madsen Hardy

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  • Christina Michaud

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  • Karen Guendel

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    Karen Guendel is a College of General Studies lecturer in rhetoric; she can be reached at kareng@bu.edu.

Comments & Discussion

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There are 11 comments on Why Linguistic Diversity Matters on College Campuses

  1. I’m glad to see these issues getting some wider discussion in the university! I teach a class called CAS LX 110 Say What? Accents, Dialects, and Society where I try to get my students to think about this, so it’s often on my mind.

  2. Using “simple, everyday language”, to me, sounds like loosening academic rigor for no tangible benefit. You can, of course, reflect on English being a product of colonialism or whatever, but we teach proper English because it is widely used in the professional and academic world. People really do judge poor english writing, so why do we not encourage it harder?

    If you are paying 50k a year to get educated in an english speaking countries main academic hub (boston/cambridge area), presumably so that you can get a job in an english speaking country, then your 50k is being pissed down the drain if you are not actively learning skills and becoming smarter. Academic journals will not accept articles that are written sloppily and with grammatical mistakes, because the quality of the writing matters.

    This article, to me, highlights how weak US education is getting. This would be a good memo to pass around a highschool, maybe. Asking university professors to turn their classes into daycare where we all get in a circle and pat eachother on the back bemoaning how the oxford comma is elitist won’t change the fact that being able to convey meaning through writing is a fundamental skill that is expected of graduates.

    Eventually, college will have finalized it’s transformation to being an extension of highschool and the social capital professors enjoy and use to produce articles like this will transform accordingly. With its transformation complete, we’ll be wondering why 22 year olds can’t solve algebraic equations or write a sentence without their phones autocorrect helping them. We’ll ask what they learned in school and they’ll say they learned that everything is awful and an arbitrary construct made by someone else. They’ll be right, of course, but we won’t know it because the letter they send us will be incomprehensible and illegible.

    1. There are a surprising number of grammatical errors in this post for someone who believes that grammatical and syntactical correctness are the primary values of higher education.

      This article is focused primarily on undergraduate education; particularly underclassmen. Most undergraduates will not publish articles in peer-reviewed journals. Those few who continue their training at higher levels will learn the academic standards of their fields as their education progresses. Some of those fields will demand high proficiency with standard English, and others will not.

  3. While I agree that there is an unfair linguistic hierarchy where English comes on top, I wouldn’t advise some of the strategies outlined here. I think because this disparity is so engrained in academic systems, we should be preparing students to the world they will encounter when they graduate. Most research papers are borderline unreadable, language is embellished in company presentations to make you sound smarter, and job interviews expect the utmost level of professionalism. As an international student, we all chose to move here in search of a good education, and that comes with learning how to properly communicate in English. It doesn’t mean that “proper” English is better than our native language, but is rather something that we simply must conquer if we want to thrive in the world post-college, especially those of us who want to stay in the US. Making courses “more accessible” won’t help here.

    Still, as a Writing consultant for the Writing Center, I agree on restraining the “red pen.” Most international students are already too self aware and scared of grammar mistakes — there’s no need to mark all of them. I notice that most students are fearful of getting something wrong the first time, which takes away from their ability to maintain their train of thought. We must encourage students to write confidently before worrying about grammar — we can focus on it later, when an idea is fully developed.

    To me, the most significant change that can be done in college is to understand and encourage linguistic variety in writing. This doesn’t mean poor English — it means not penalizing students for skewing from what is considered “proper sentence structure.” Of course, we must always strive for a well-communicated idea, but there are stylistic choices that do not influence understanding that are still frowned upon. Instead, let’s celebrate the way different languages form our way of thinking.

  4. I’m a woman of color. My first language is not English. I’m begging white people to stop this because this isn’t doing what you think it is. If I’m studying at a university in an English-speaking country it’s okay to expect me to speak English. I feel like the authors patted themselves on the back for thinking they were helping POC but instead you’re just making us look like we’re not as smart as white people. The funny thing is, in my home country you would absolutely be expected to speak/write our language properly if you were an international student. So, if that’s a bad thing then I guess we’re bad!

    1. In America POC were at a disadvantage if they spoke properly or tried to be understood by the masses that were oppressing them. In a country where slavery existed why would the descendants of those people be expected to speak “proper English” when it could have gotten them killed. Being intelligent was frowned upon. so they created a way to communicate that was less intimidating to white people and could cover up their intelligence. Its actually quite genius to do this in the face of oppression while risking your own life and your families. This article is the definition of diversity and Inclusion English was created to communicate, not for hierarchy in society. The people that were over seeing the slaves introduced the broken version of English to the slaves. The Elite and highly educated were not in the fields tending to slaves.

  5. American Democracy, as messy as it is, is a conversation and that conversation needs a common language. American Democracy is also based on reasonableness, and our strength comes from both cultural expansion and assimilation. Or, to borrow from another language, E Pluribus Unum. Teach proper english.

  6. Wouldn’t it just be easier and no one would be offended or have to deal with “linguicism” (the new “ism” apparently), if BU just did away with the use of grammatically-correct English language and proper vocabulary and just used slang, vernacular and whatever else the professor felt like using? Maybe just make up a new “non-linguicistic” language (X Kendi could help with this project) where everyone could feel included. The CAS writing program would be a beacon of irrelevance and BU could take a significant lead in the race to the academic bottom, while students could waste even more money on a BU education. Good luck in the real (non-academic) world of work!

  7. It’s nice to see the authors starting paragraphs with “Many x agree…” and misapplying the word “illogical”. Too often the very people presenting an argument refuse to put it into practice themselves and it is safe to say these authors have abandon all regard for professional sounding english. It’s great to hear as an alumni that coursework submissions are being held to less scrutiny and the instructions for assignments are being dumbed down so everyone can feel a bit better about colonialism.

  8. Just a semantics note: “stigmatized varieties of English like Black Language and World Englishes” – “world Englishes” is a way to refer to all varieties of English, including American English and British English, so it is not correct to say that “world Englishes” are a stigmatized variety.

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