An Oakland Student Speaks Out

By Michael Lampkins

Following is the testimony by Michael Lampkins, the student director on the Oakland Board of Education. The testimony was given on Jan. 23 at a hearing on Ebonics before the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

I am a 17-year-old high school senior. My grades put me at the top of my class. I work part-time and volunteer my time to help kids. I care for my elderly grandmother. I was elected Youth of the Year by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. And I have held audience with President Clinton. But when I walk out that door, nine times out of ten, I’m perceived quite differently. I need a solid education. I want to learn. I want teachers and administrators who want me to succeed in my future. I want African-American student counterparts in my classrooms who want to learn. Therefore, I need instructors with the classroom strategies that are right to meet my unique needs growing up in a contemporary urban community.

Just as a doctor must be trained to diagnose the symptoms of disease, teachers must be trained to recognize the language patterns that students bring into the classroom. And, while those language patterns are different than Standard English, they are not deficient, and with the proper instructional methods a bridge is built to transition students to learn to speak, read, and write Standard English proficiently.

As America embarks on the 21st Century, I come before you with a plea: I want to be part of the “new promise.” I want to be prepared with a competitive education and advanced degrees, so that I may take my rightful place as a leader in tomorrow’s global workforce.