Critical race theory (CRT) emerged as a reaction to ‘colorblind’ legal studies in the 1980s. Its academic foundation is the application of theory to race, law and power, in particular relation to issues of racial equality. In education, we see that the social turn and the move towards social constructionism has promoted the idea that thought and language cannot be separated, joined in part by the role politics and society play in shaping individual people. Writers assume the pre-set principles and conventions of their discourse communities, the language and communication skills with which they have been raised (Berlin 1988). I want to acknowledge code-switching as a contemporary method of pedagogy and assess the effectiveness of this model of learning. The main argument here is that some instances of code-switching reinforce White superiority in education, and will review some of the central works that support this claim. This topic is particularly relevant due to both the ongoing development of research and the implications in a wider social context, and will aim to provide an insight into the response of critical race theorists to emerging social movements and the impact these have in classrooms.
This project will outline and critically assess the role of code-switching and critical race theory in education and how they can be used to create more inclusive learning environments. It will include a definition of key terms such as discourse community, race, critical race theory, and code-switching. Young’s essay Nah, We Straight serves as an argument against code-switching, - the use of more than one language or languages concurrently in conversation - and argues that whatever the most understood definitions of code-switching are, the process itself always advocates language substitution and the translation of something from one language into ‘Standard English’ (Young 2010). Hill (2009) also states that the code-switching practices of students in academia should highlight the importance of having a home language, in many cases African American English, that contrasts to Standard English without being told that it is worth less. Wheeler and Swords (2006) and Barrett (2014) say that code-meshing - the blending of languages to create amalgamations of syntaxes - serves as a better alternative to code-switching. I argue that code-meshing with nonstandard dialects are fully compatible with Standard English as code-meshing encourages writers to intertwine their understanding of the standard principles of communication with individual and often native speech habits.
Is there a way to make education fully accessibly for all learners? What does the emergence of a critical race theoretical field suggest about the importance of social issues in our classrooms? Is there, in fact, a ‘correct’ way to speak or write? Young’s point is to eliminate code-switching as a pedagogical feature within composition studies and literary instruction, replacing it with the more inclusive, less prejudicial, code-meshing. I would like to think that it is in fact possible to create a education system in which different discourses and languages are not only said to be equal, but when put into institutional practice, are equal.
Berlin, J., (1988), “Rhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Class”. College English, Vol.50(5), p.477-494
Barrett, R., Lovejoy, K.B., Young-Rivera, Y., Young, V.A., (2014), Other People’s English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy
Gee, J.P., (1999), An introduction to discourse analysis: theory and method
Hill, D.K., (2009), “Code-switching pedagogies and African American student voices: Acceptance and resistance”. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Vol.53(2), p.120-131
Wheeler, R.S., Swords, R., (2006), Code-Switching: Teaching Standard English in Urban Classrooms
Young, V.A., (2010), “Nah, We Straight: An Argument Against Code Switching”. Journal of Advanced Composition, Vol.29(1-2), p.49-76
Winford, D., (2003), “Code Switching: Linguistic Aspects”. An Introduction to Contact Linguistics, p.126-167