Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English and Writing Studies



First Reader/Committee Chair

Hyon, Sunny



This thesis argues for the deconstruction of the standard English ideology, which holds that standard English is inherently superior to other English varieties. It examines the ideology’s detrimental effects on those who speak and use nonstandard English varieties, mostly minorities and people of color, who are linguistically profiled and marginalized because of the ways they speak. The ideology can also generate intensified reactions to perceived grammar and usage errors in those who subscribe to its prescriptivist views, and can promote judgments and stereotypes which impede communication and connection between people. To help dismantle the standard English ideology, the author reviews the work of scholars in linguistics, sociolinguistics, and various English fields that provide support for the essential equality and legitimacy of all English varieties and ultimately, their speakers. Critically informed by linguistic fact, socio-historical analyses of the origins of standardization, and the ways the ideology feeds racism, language and literacy instructors can then implement balanced pedagogies that are inclusive and take students’ home language into account while simultaneously teaching standard English to help close the achievement gap between linguistically diverse students and more privileged groups. Such critical language awareness entails knowledge of seminal U.S. court cases and education policy which have sought to redress social justice, language, and education concerns in a society that continues to be segregated along racial and poverty lines. Studies show that current trends in language educational policy reveal a shift away from discourses of achieving equity and toward rhetoric that reflects more privileged student groups. Specifically, the new era is anti-bilingual education and in favor of foreign language enrichment programs, which benefit more students, but permit educational inequalities to remain unchallenged. Studies also show that language practitioners’ attempts to be inclusive can result in an attitude of avoidance in which the explicit teaching of standard English is evaded. Such contradictions and complexities of shifting conceptual grounds are reflected in Writing Center scholarship which details how an attitude of avoidance has left many multilingual and even monolingual students nowhere to go for sentence-level instruction, making it even more difficult for many students to access structures of privilege. The author finds theoretical and practical guidance in writing centers’ shifts towards transformative language and literacy praxis that is truly inclusive and aims to leave no one out.