School officials in Oakland, Calif., who claimed all along they were only trying to teach their students better language skills, have obviously learned a valuable word lesson of their own. A report recommending a $2 million, five-year program to improve English skills never mentions the word "ebonics."
That word, of course, stirred strong discussion when the district first devised its plan. By using "ebonics" for a form of black English, the school board raised suspicions it was trying to get federal funding for teaching a foreign language - a notion that was quickly shot down from Washington.Faced with heated arguments on both sides, the schools came up with a cautiously crafted statement urging that more money be spent helping students in the predominantly black district become proficient in language. If the new wording throws the focus back onto education and away from the "ebonics" controversy, it will do its job.