Submitted by Brett Hall
It was the most beautiful spring day.
My third grade teacher, who had withheld a group of 20-some restless eight year olds from recess for a week by reading aloud a book from Louis Sachar’s “Wayside School” series, would finally release us back into our 30 minutes of rambunctiousness on the Coeburn Primary playground.
Today was the day I had been overly excited for, until I goofed.
I found myself in recess detention for using a double-negative and saying the word “ain’t” when I paid my quarter at ice cream time.
This was just the beginning of my punishment for using such language, as I found myself being scolded throughout my high school career for the same behavior.
I became confused and frustrated since I could use these words and phrases at home, but not at school.
The general consensus of many English scholars was that my way of speaking came from a generation of “uneducated” and “lazy” speakers.
That same belief seems to be the overall attitude among many of my peers here at UVa-Wise as well.
I bought into this belief and accepted it, until I took a class with Associate Professor of English Amy Clark.
Clark teaches in many of her courses that double-negatives were once an accepted, proper part of speech.
Many words are still used because they are derived from older generations, not because the people that use them are “uneducated.”
Learning these things upset me for several reasons: My recess was traumatically lost for no reason, I had been punished for nothing, and folks I run into here at UVa-Wise from outside the Appalachian Mountains prejudge my personality based on what they consider “bad English.”
The University of Virginia’s College at Wise prides itself on being a liberal arts institution.
Fifty-three hours are devoted by each student to mandated general education courses.
Though beneficial to education, many of these courses do not help students adapt to the region.
A general education requirement in an Appalachian studies course would be valuable to each student at the college.
I sure wish my third grade teacher had taken one.
Hall is a junior political science major