Bennett Favors Black English as Tool

From a Times Staff Writer

Education Secretary William J. Bennett said Thursday that he favors using black English as a teaching tool.

“I’m not from the huffy-puffy school,” Bennett said in an interview with The Times’ Washington Bureau. “I think you should use anything that’s not illegal or immoral to get students to learn.”

As an example, he said, “If one can use black English to give students an appreciation of literature and proper English usage, . . . fine. I don’t care. It’s just like anything else.”

Examples of black English include “he be tired” instead of “he is tired” and “des” and “res” instead of “desk” and “rest.” Although some linguists say black English is a legitimate language with its own syntax, vocabulary and rhythm, many educators contend it is slang whose use in classrooms handicaps students.


Bennett likened the use of black English to his use of television when he was a philosophy instructor, something he said he did to the shock of his colleagues. He said: “It turned out my students watched more TV than they read philosophy, so it was a good place to start.”