Tag Archives: education

Reach One, Teach One

“An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young
people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.”
— Source Unknown
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Content of Character [written 4-2-2009]

Tonight, I watched a PBS special titled “Linguists”.  It was a documentary on dying languages throughput the world.  I found myself immediately drawn and more than a little touched by what I was seeing.  I, admittedly, cried.  One language in particular was called Chulym.  Linguists, Greg Anderson and K. David Harrison, interviewed and recorded 20 speakers.  They estimated there may be between 35-40 fluent speakers out of a community of roughly 426 members. The youngest fluent speaker was 54 at the time of filming (2008).  It is spoken in a small Siberian region north of the Altay Mountains, in the basin of the Chulym River, a tributary of the Ob River.   All speakers are bilingual in Russian. In Soviet times, speakers of the language suffered as children.  They were discouraged from using their language and punished in a process of language devalorization.  The youngest speaker said as a child his mother told him “Chulym was Necessary”.  She said, “Let the Russians speak Russian, Chulyms will speak Chulym”.

As a black woman in America, I have been forced to speak Caucasian-Americans perception of the American English language.  It oft times a weight on my shoulders.  The constant struggle to think as I speak and enunciate and articulate.  I am working in my consciousness to speak “good” diction to ensure that my level of intellect is perceived.  You know, not letting the Black Out.  No one wants to be considered a dumb nigger . As I watched this program, I watched various cultures purposely drop their native tongue to adopt the English language or the prevalent language around them.  As an American who has befriended Latin, Indian, Caribbean, or Asian Americans who speak just about as much Spanish, Indian, Patois, or Asian as I do.  Perhaps this opens the window of opportunity to us all, but what is the sacrifice.  What must we lose… Cultural identity and heritage???  It is a superficial society that makes say different is less than.  I go out and hear people say “Stupid Mexicans” and it is an abrasive chilling reminder of where we are in this world.  I have lived outside the U.S. and it is not easy being in a place where few people speak your lingo.  Mostly I was startled as I pictured various family and friends and their southern vernacular, dialects, and colloquialisms.  I thought of how many people have heard them speak and viewed them as uneducated, brash people.  Yes, it saddened me.  I thought about waking up to a world where I could not say “Ya’ll or Mane”.  A world where no one understood me.  A place that enslaved me to this fake voice I project when necessary became the everyday.  I frightened by the idea of never being able to take off the veil…

Clip by clip, I watched the linguists capture and record the dying languages.  I heard their reverence and I acknowledge they respected them as languages and a people. Though the various languages contained words of the region, as a whole, it was its own.  In America, my black talk is quickly relegated to jive, slang, ‘broken’ English.

Demeaning Words.
Negating Descriptions.
Buffoonish Banter.

And yet, I have heard my grandmother speak to my in her beautiful southern mumbled cadence and listened to the God in her.  The most profound truths I’ve ever known have come to me from the elders.  Wise individuals and Visionaries that Jim Crow and Cheap wages did not allot schooling to or allow any form of secondary education.  So I sit here on the couch mystified by language and how essential it is to a culture’s identity.  I think of my own childhood and the disparaging remarks teachers made and their swift reprimands at the sounds of “ain’t”.  I think of substitutes who favored the students with less ethnic names.  I even, guiltily, recall opportunities presented to me because I spoke acceptable English.  Opportunities that other classmates were better qualified and capable than me, but lacked the communication skills, therefore passed by.  So I became the better representative because of enunciation.  And I think of my younger relatives and their experiences in America, what cards the world will hand them.  I wonder what the U.S. school system and society will do to them.  For worse than me, some of them are black males.  They are the ones, America euthanizes worst.  I pray they do not feel less than and that they are not treated like second class citizens.  Then I HOPE they learn to be chameleons- that they can change it up and shed their blackness to blend in.  I do this with the wish that they’re presented with the best options and choices available to us “Good Talking” blacks.

Because I know what happens to those who don’t adapt.

and the sure death they must face.  It is not a quick death but life long, like a poison.  It is filled with struggle and strife, instability and hardships.  It is a virus that kills a grown man’s pride and robs him of the ability to to take care of his offspring and home.  It will destroy a woman’s strength and she bequeaths a sense of hopelessness and helplessness to her children.  A cycle that produces a continuous flow of generations that don’t believe in dreaming.  Kids who see American success via Rap Verses and Athletic Abilities, Dime Sacks, and Kilos.  A new generation who measure success in Rims and Flat Screen TVs, Jordans and Coach Bags.  Youth & Young Adults who learned long ago to hide their natural talents and view them as a waste because the popular society taught them self doubt and inferiority.  It infuriates me.  This division we’re given- minorities.  This history keeps repeating itself from the big house workers to field hands.  Barack Obama would never have reached such a pinnacle if he had spoken the EXACT same things with more urban inflections.  In my mind, when he is around his people, he doesn’t sound like Mr. President.  He speaks like “Barack’nem from up the street”.  This theory does not need evidence, we know the answers are apparent.

I have heard some of the most articulate people of my acquaintance say stupid shit. dumb shit. ditzy shit. straight and utter bullshit.  I’ve watch well spoken people steal pension plans and rob individuals of their entire savings and 401k.  I’ve read about them embezzling.  I’ve listened to them raise gas prices and health premiums.  I’ve noticed them sell crack mortgages and stocks.  Maybe, just maybe it’s time we base our opinions on people by what they say, not how they are saying it.  It’s time we accepted others for who they are as a person and not how they look as a people.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

For additional information on dying languages

and to view the aforementioned PBS special

please visit, The Linguists

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Our Youth

We live in a society where young women like Heidi Montag view having several plastic surgeries in one day at age 23 as acceptable or posh.  Our world has become plastic and synthetic, the dollar isn’t the only thing losing value…

“And yet what we teach children in school is 2 + 2 = 4 and Paris is the capital of France. What we should be teaching them is what they are. We should be saying: “Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the world there is no other child exactly like you. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything! Yes, you are marvel.”

Pablo Casals


Poet Sevan [Apollo Poetry] had this quote as his Facebook status today and I thought how beautifully said.

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The Curious Case of Living

I can’t help but believe that George Carlin and Cody Chestnutt

held similar beliefs and ultimately envied Benjamin Button!

I want to live my next life backwards.
By George Carlin

I want to live my next life backwards:

You start out dead and get that out of the way.

Then you wake up in a nursing home feeling better every day

Then you get kicked out for being too healthy.

Enjoy your retirement and collect your pension.

Then when you start work, you get a gold watch on your first day .

You work 40 years until you’re too young to work.

You get ready for High School: drink alcohol, party, and you’re generally promiscuous.

Then you go to primary school, you become a kid, you play, and you have no responsibilities.

Then you become a baby, and then…

You spend your last 9 months floating peacefully in luxury, in spa-like conditions – central heating, room service on tap, and
then…You finish off as an orgasm.

I rest my case.


I’m just saying they would’ve been the best of friends…


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