A taxpayer-funded professor of medieval literature at the City University of New York has announced that the use of standard grammatical English is wrongly privileged. Also, preferring standard English over other vernaculars is racist.
In his op-ed, Strouse objects to “linguistic monoculture,” “for aesthetic reasons,” and because he believes professors “need to vary our ways of speaking in order to avoid the precanned insights and stale platitudes that deaden thought.”
He cites another professor who praises the “the African-American vernacular” for its direct style of “‘cussin’ out’ and ‘reading people,’ as well as ‘getting real’ and ‘trash talk.'”
Trying to help students change their speech patterns is bad, Strouse says.
“Already, scholars of rhetoric believe, as the consensus view, that instructors should not try to change their students’ speech patterns,” he writes.
Students hate “bossy teachers” who “tell them how to talk” — especially “bourgeois white teachers,” Strouse explains in his impeccably written, 1,238-word op-ed.
He also declares that judging intelligence on how people talk is judging “based on dubious standards.”
Professors speaking standard English don’t “possess a vocabulary for understanding diverse social realities,” Strouse declares.
“As Allen Ginsberg once told William F. Buckley, white audiences cannot comprehend phenomena like police brutality unless the media grants access to what Ginsberg called ‘the linguistic data’ — the actual words spoken in the streets.”
Strouse notes that his research on American English dialects “began earnestly last year” when his husband, a black man named Evan, complained that Strouse doesn’t talk fast enough.
The professor provides an anecdote about “a mild-mannered Latina student” — Maria — who shouted “What’s up, my nigga!” in a class discussion about dialects of the English language. (RELATED: SCIENCE: Teachers Should Allow Ebonics Because English Grammar Is Too Hard For Minorities To Learn)
Asking “What’s up, my nigga!” is a very special thing to say, according to Strouse (who is himself white), because it’s a “discourse marker.”
“Discourse markers” are statements which label people are “members of groups that dwell outside of the white, middle-class milieu that governs academe in the United States.”
This week, Strouse spoke to Campus Reform about his op-ed.
He described his reasons for composing the essay — in standard English and with perfect punctuation — as “personal, political and poetical.”
“The privileging of standard English contributes to political dysfunction,” Strouse told Campus Reform.
“Thankfully, most working-class people are too smart to drink the standard-English Kool-Aid. But the movers and shakers are trapped in their well-educated bubble and cannot communicate with the folks who, as workers, are actually in the best position to understand how the world works.”
The public school professor added that he believes that employers should not be able to tell employees how to speak.
“The workplace has way too much power and should not be allowed to determine something as fundamental as how we speak,” Strouse said. “People need to tell their bosses, ‘Fuck you.'”
“It is racist to discriminate against someone on the basis that they speak,” he also said.
Strouse received his Ph.D. from the City University of New York.
He is the author of a book called “My Gay Middle Ages.” He is working on a forthcoming scholarly work about circumcision in pre-modern literary theory.