chapter  6
Dialect Awareness, Cultural Literacy, and the Public Interest
ByWALT WOLFRAM
Pages 21

A few years ago I was asked to conduct a workshop for a school system in Maryland, one of the hundreds I have conducted over the past few decades. The reaction of the participants was predictable. While the teachers understood the need to be tolerant and respectful of different cultures and the diverse ways of speaking represented by their students, they firmly insisted that their primary if not exclusive task as educators was to get their students to speak “correct,” “proper,” or “Standard English”—and that any compromise of this objective was at best frivolous and at worst misguided education. What I did not realize as I was conducting the workshop, however, was that I had done a similar workshop at the same school two decades earlier. I had completely forgotten my previous workshop until a participant observed, “I remember you doing a workshop like this about 20 years ago.” The most startling revelation was not my forgetfulness, but the fact that there was no indication from the responses of the participants that my earlier workshop had any effect on the perspective or the policy of the school with respect to dialect diversity. Language ideology is among the most entrenched belief systems in society, rivaling religion, morality, and nationalism, and change does not take place rapidly.