Towson University recently hosted a virtual “Antiracist Pedagogy Symposium”, which was something that “criticized university writing curriculum and other writing programs for being racist and promoting the white agenda.”
The program featured an array of speakers and it was sponsored by the school’s Office of the Provost, the Center For Student Diversity, the Faculty Academic Center of Excellence, the College of Liberal Arts, and Towson’s Department of English, including others.
Of course, you would think that the main task of this symposium would be to educate attendees about first-year writing. While that was definitely true, the forum also kept themselves busy by addressing “linguistic justice.”
“As the country begins this long-awaited reckoning with our institutional racism, our colleges and universities have been deeply engaged in one of the most ethical dilemmas of our time: How do our institutional structures and practices keep contributing to the problem of minoritizing, marginalizing, silencing, and otherwise harming indigenous and black students of color?” the announcement of the event read. “What is it that we need to do to change and create not just an environment that is passively inclusive but also one that is actively anti-racist?”
The Virtual Event
This even took place on June 17th, and it featured April Baker-Bell, who is an associate professor of language, literacy, and English education at Michigan State University. She said that she felt that teaching standard language usage and literacy only perpetuates the idea that “black language” is an inferior substitute to standard grammar.
Baker-Bell said that this dangerous teacher attitude perpetuates an assumption that “black students are somehow morally, linguistically, and intellectually inferior because they communicate in the black language.”
“The way that black language is devalued in schools absolutely reflects how we as a society devalue black lives,” Baker-Bell said. “The anti-black linguistic racism is often used to diminish black language and the black students in classrooms and that is not separate from this rampant and deliberate anti-black racism and violence that has been inflicted on them in society.”
Whew! What a mouthful! Oh brother!
Also present at this symposium was Cristina Sanchez-Martin, English Professor to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, who said that she continues to work hard to undo the “whiteness” that she is always seeing in her students’ writing. Oh brother.
“The repeated references to ‘correct grammar’ and ‘standard language’ is only going to reinforce the master narratives of English being used as only as a white and monolingualistic method that is deficient in multilingualism,” insisted Sanchez-Martin during the symposium. The speakers also included Dr. Carmen Kynard, Texas Christian University English Chair Lillian Radford, University of Pittsburgh English composition Dr. Khristen Scott, and Reverend Dr. Zandra L. Jordan, director of the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking.
What in the world is wrong with teaching students proper grammar? How ridiculous can you get?