Monday, April 11, 2011

I eat, I digest, I poop; therefore I am a gastroenterologist

The Jamaica Gleaner has an online article today with the headline A Waste of Time to Teach Patois- Seaga.  In the article, former Prime Minister Edward Seaga tells the Gleaner that: would be a waste of the country's educational resources to teach Patois in schools.
"There is no standard way of spelling a particular word in Patois," Seaga said. "If you want people to be able to talk to one another in Jamaica and outside of Jamaica, it does not make any sense."
Also in the article, the current Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, chimes in:
According to Golding, teaching Patois would be akin to saying, "We have failed to impart our accepted language of English, so we are giving up. This one can't work, so let us find another one that can work."
Here is what bothers me about this: neither of these people is a linguist. What they know about language as an object of study they picked up in their years in language arts and English literature and composition classes.  But despite this, they are perfectly willing to challenge real linguist Hubert Devonish, a professor of linguistics at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, and others, who are in favor of bringing Jamaican Creole (Patois) into the schools as an enhancement to early education and especially early literacy.  Just back in January many people concerned about this issue met in Jamaica to convene a Caribbean Language Policy Conference that addressed these and other issue pertaining to the ecology of "standard," creole, and other languages in schools, government, the work place, etc.

But because they can talk, Seaga and Golding get to disagree authoritatively with linguists.  It's as if because I eat, digest, and poop, I am qualified to lecture on gastroenterology.

When do we get to charge these people with practicing linguistics without a license?


  1. Hey, remember that we are now in an age of deregulation! Soon, no licenses for anything! You could be a dentist or a neurosurgeon by keeping government out of your affairs.

  2. Oh boy. We also eat every day, but we can see clearly that we aren't experts in nutrition or even remotely good at making decisions when it comes to food. Ridiculous. This semester I've been trying really hard to help my students see that whatever opinions they have are part of a larger conversation going on, so in order to have thoughtful opinions, it's crucial to understand that conversation and contribute to it. It's an uphill battle to get people to understand that other people's perspectives mean something.

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