No linguist is ever at a loss to understand how attention to any aspect of language as an object of inquiry can contribute to the context where the piece might be found. But linguists rarely get consulted, because what is also true is that virtually no one beyond the landscape of linguistic study is likely even to know that such a perspective on language exists, much less that it might truly be useful. Waiting for this state of affairs to change is fruitless—surely frustrating—and many of us choose to ignore the views “out there” keeping our individual and collective focus narrow. We just do linguistics. But occasionally, we look up, wondering what to do to increase awareness of us—maybe even our popularity, as Mark Liberman led us all in doing in his LSA plenary address in 2007.
What should also—arguably more acutely—get our attention is what the effects of widespread, possibly willful, linguistic naïveté, often accompanied by a not small amount of linguistic prejudice have. Alarmingly, this naïveté often ends up in the service of policy makers—and such a condition is apparent in the nature and substance of the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards (http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy ). The standards testify to very little consultation with linguists and similarly scant evidence of linguistic sophistication. In fact, the “Language” domain does not address any language phenomena beyond students’ ability to demonstrate proficiency in some form of privileged/standardized—mostly written—English. The juggernaut quality of the of the standards’ rolling out challenges careful and thoughtful responses to them and to what may be long term term educational consequences of their implementation—both intended and unintended. But there are ways.
Two colleagues—experts in deaf education—were applying for a grant offered by the California Department of Education, inviting “higher ed” faculty to find ways of guiding teachers through the implementation of these new CCSS. A requirement of the RFP was that the primary higher ed team include a “subject matter” faculty member: someone not involved directly in pedagogy. They only had to ask me once. For the past two years, we have been designing and holding multiple Saturday workshops with the 25 teachers whom we recruited and selected. These workshops have focused on the nature of the ELA CCSS, the challenges they pose to classrooms with students who are deaf or hard of hearing, who use languages other than English (notably, ASL, in these cases, but also a highly variable range of communication systems), and who may have disabilities—cognitive or physical. My discussion will include treatment of the choices we made together about topics and how we would address them, but will focus on my attempts, sometimes—but not always—successful, to weave in what seemed critical and relevant linguistic perspectives and “linguistic thinking” that would allow teachers to move beyond mere “implementation of” and “teaching to” the ELA CCSS, and the wider lessons I learned from the collaboration.
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Klein, Sharon, "Weaving Linguistics Into a Range of Fabrics" (2014). Taking Linguistics Beyond Linguistics Programs and Departments Symposium. 3.