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By BENJAMIN H. ALEXANDER, President, Drew Dawn Enterprises, Inc., and Research Professor, The American University
Delivered before the District of Columbia Council of Engineering and architectural Societies, Inc., Washington, D.C., February 25, 1995
I am particularly pleased to be speaking to engineers, architects, scientists, businesspersons, educators, politicians, etc. this evening; for you are the important people who can solve our educational problems - that is, if you have the courage to do so.
As I was preparing this talk, I was reminded of a story I am sure all of you know: Lewis Carroll's classic, Alice in Wonderland. This fanciful tale tells of a little girl who followed a talking rabbit down a deep hole into an entirely different world. In this fairy-tale world, animals, birds and people could talk to each other.
But poor Alice found that in the animal world, although the words were the same as in her people world, the meanings were always different. What was correct on earth was always incorrect in the underground animal world. So poor Alice was forever getting into trouble talking to the animals. Unlike Alice, I don't talk to animals; I talk to people. But like Alice, what I say sometimes gets me into trouble.
My hope for progress in education is that people like you will today become courageous enough, to have the moral power, the necessary convictions, and the required strengths to bring honesty again to education. For example, until we purge the lie from our hearts and our minds, that excellence in education is not attainable - it will never come to pass.
Excellence in education is possible today if we teach our students to read, write, and understand the written word; master standard English, appreciate hard work, have self-respect and respect for others, seek values, and shun crass materialism, etc.
I recall, as President of Chicago State University, being at a conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan - with over three hundred participants in attendance. All, except myself, seemingly agreed with a court ruling by a U.S. District Judge; his ruling called for the implicit recognition of black English in Ann Arbor schools. I said then, while being hissed by many in the audience - and I say now, that ruling is criminal and a travesty of justice; because it implies that blacks are still on the plantation and basically inferior and must be treated differently - which is nothing but utter nonsense. I have not and will not accept the legitimacy of any non-standard English - no matter what many educators may say. Pupils must be taught to read in standard English in their years in school - or they are doomed to the "junk-heap of no success."
I had to dismiss a government contract worker a year and a half-ago because he could not read the following …