An undergraduate researcher at the University of Wisconsin–Madison has gained national acclaim for her research showing, she says, that members of minority groups feel oppressed by standard, grammatical English.
The researcher is Erika Gallagher, reports The Daily Cardinal, the student newspaper on the taxpayer-funded campus.
Gallagher’s research was chosen to be presented at the Collegiate Conference on Composition and Communication in Portland, Oregon earlier this semester.
— The Daily Cardinal (@dailycardinal) April 6, 2017
The focus of the junior’s research is a theory called “code switching.” Basically, adherents of “code switching” say that individuals will seek to alter their speech patterns to fit the group of people with which they are communicating. (RELATED: ‘Ma Lips Ah Sealed!’ Hillary Uses Black Accent In Chat With Sharpton)
Members of minority groups feel especially marginalized because of “code switching,” Gallagher’s research found.
To avoid any hurt feelings some people may feel by attempting to speak standard, correct English, Gallagher wants to eradicate the stigma associated with Ebonics — or African–American Vernacular English, a nonstandard dialect of English spoken by some black people.
“I want to center the voices of the people who need to be centered,” Gallagher, a participant in the UW-Madison writing fellows program, told The Daily Cardinal. “As a white-passing person, I have a lot of power and privilege that should be shared.”
Ultimately, she explained, she wants to expand her research and eventually create a nonprofit group which urges teachers across the United States “to be more accepting” and to present their classes with disclaimers urging students to speak using the language which makes the students most comfortable.
Gallagher said her experience as a writing fellow, which involves helping other students improve their writing abilities, led her to believe that a focus on details such as proper English grammar causes minority students to feel excluded.
The social welfare major’s acclaimed research involved talking at length with three minority students about how they perceive language. Using standard English as “the biggest form of cognitive dissonance that exists,” one of the students said.
“Just because you speak a different way doesn’t mean you’re not smart,” Gallagher told the Cardinal.
Gallagher is a Posse scholar at UW-Madison. The Posse scholar program “identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes.”
According to her Facebook page, Gallagher has also been the lead camp counselor at Burgundy Farm Country Day School, “a nurturing environment that engages the whole child” where a year of junior kindergarten costs $26,934 and a year of sixth grade costs $30,814.
Gallagher’s Facebook likes include Bernie Sanders, the International Socialist Organization of Madison and, of course, Colin Kaepernick.