Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Urban Ghetto Culture is Depressing

So I was messing around yesterday, just looking at stuff, and I came across this urban slang dictionary. Like the proverbial train wreck that it is, something about the dictionary compelled me to read it. In its entirety.

I found it incredibly depressing for several reasons:

  1. The heavy emphasis on drugs, sex, and material possessions.
  2. The rejection of values such as familial connections (and I don't mean only in the narrowest "family values" sort of way), respect for established traditions/institutions, and the value of education.
  3. I've heard 90% of the entries in my classroom and I'm just not ready to think about school again.
  4. The dictionary itself is poorly and inconsistently edited. (Sorry, but that sort of thing really bothers me.)
  5. While I realize that language is a living system and is always changing, I think that using the degree of slang words that my students use impairs their ability to speak and write Standard American English. I also think that using the most current slang words diminishes the built-in subtlety inherent in the English language.
  6. As a recent college graduate teaching in an "at-risk" environment, I feel like I should be embracing or at least striving to understand the culture that this dictionary represents, and I don't. I think there is something wrong with these people, and with a society or culture or government or whatever that caused this mindset to become normal for so many. I experience pangs of guilt about this, and I question my commitment to my liberal and progressive ideals, but I just want to move somewhere like Idaho or Wyoming that doesn't have these urban problems.

So mostly it's the last thing. I feel like a bad liberal. I feel like I should vote Republican, quit my job, learn to lay brick, and help the right-wingers build that wall around America, and that makes me sad. I see educators like Ron Clark, who really have made a difference in some of our most urban schools, and I have absolutely no desire to teach in that environment.


1 comment:

K said...

There is nothing wrong with you.

There is nothing wrong with you.

The first thing I chucked out the window when I settled into social work was the whole respecting everybody's essential humanity/watered down cultural relativism crap. Because when you get mired in that, you can't help people. Substitute the word "teach" for help whenever appropriate.

Because part of what I needed to do to help people get the resources they needed was change the behaviors that were for whatever reason preventing them from functioning well. You can't tell folks that everything they think and do is A-OK and then expect them to have some epiphany on their own that will result in some great leap in functioning. Nope, although you suger coat it all you can, what you must tell them is that behavior A is fucked up and fucking them and that you cannot help them unless they switch to behavior B.

Maybe behavior A was appropriate for the culture and environment in which the client/student developed. But it's not appropriate for the culture and environment they're having to enter to get fill-in-the-blank resource. The resource being anything from education to medication to a job to a subsidized cab ride.

For adults, which were the bulk of my clients, it was easy in the sense that with very few exceptions they were legally competent and understood, eventually, the (sometimes not gentle) myway/highway approach. For minors, you are in a bad position. You can't be a hardass. You can try to communicate to them the advantages of using behavior B, but frankly it's not up to them. It's up to their guardians. So you have more people to communicate with and convince...and less chances of succeeding.

Shoot, I don't know what to do. It's a problem we've been wrestling with for generations and sometimes things seem to work and sometimes they don't. How do you give people a reason to change their culture and outlook when they don't see a discernable, long-term, meaningful reward for doing so?

This is messy rambling. Maybe I will have something clearer later. Except for hearing from you guys, it's been a totally horrid day (ask Tyson).