Teaching about the Benefits of Language Diversity and the Limitations of Standards in Language in the Classroom

  • Susan J. Behrens Marymount Manhattan College
  • Rebecca Sperling Marymount Manhattan College


The authors report on an interdisciplinary project between a social worker and a linguist, both professors at an undergraduate liberal arts college. Their work together aims to raise student and teacher awareness of the privileges society assigns to users of Standard American English (SAE) and the limitations faced by users of non-standard forms. Their collaboration includes journal entries from students working through their own feelings about viewing language diversity as an asset to society, as well as feedback from other teachers about their roles in upholding language standards as gatekeepers of education. By placing language differences in the context of diversity issues and uncovering the power afforded the users of the "right" language, the authors work towards an ultimate change in practice.

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