by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Matthew Stewart writes for the Martin Center about an academic fad that will hurt minority students.
On August 3, the Executive Committee of the Conference on College Composition and Communication approved a position statement on “Black Linguistic Justice.” The statement was crafted as a set of “demands” that “teachers stop using academic language and standard English as the accepted communicative norm.” The “Four Cs” is the largest and most important professional association for college-level writing teachers and is closely associated with the National Council of Teachers of English, an even larger group whose membership is mainly composed of secondary school English instructors.
The lengthy and repetitive statement is actually entitled “This Ain’t Another Statement! This is a DEMAND for Black Linguistic Justice!” In a clumsy adoption announcement, the CCCC urges teachers to view the statement “as presenting a set of actions for us to enact, not just encouraging words.”
To what has the official body of college composition teachers given its imprimatur? In a word: politics. In two words: separatist politics.
While acknowledging that progressive “CCCC/NCTE policies in relation to multilingualism have been vital to classrooms and communities,” the statement avers that not nearly enough has been done on the political front. Educators “must be activists” (italics in the original).
In language that invokes old Dixie rather than the 2020 schoolroom, the CCCC statement portrays American schools as places where black children meet nothing but disrespect in their English classes. Language instruction as it is now practiced is said to “seek to annihilate Black Language + Black Life.” Thus, educators are called to engage in a “political process that must inherently challenge institutions like schools whose very foundations are built on anti-Black racism.”
The statement was crafted by six self-described Black Language scholars, all of whom are on the faculty of large universities. Up front, they declare their demands to be a product of the moment, citing the pandemic’s effects on black people, #BlackLivesMatter protests, calls to defund the police, and institutions with “anti-Black skeletons in their own closets.”