Wednesday, September 3, 2014

On Standards and Diversity

There is a general belief that there are standards that apply equally to all of us and that those standards are not linked to specific peoples and social structures. Not even math, the purest of disciplines, is totally disconnected from contexts, peoples, society.

A linguist once asked me if it was true that Puerto Ricans are a very docile group of people. Had this conversation taken place in a bodega it would have been quite normal to speak off the top of your head, though it showed a limited thinking capacity when it came to human nature. But this conversation was taking place in a higher education institution and in a program teaching courses on socio linguistics, a field dedicated to the formulation and codification of concepts. Obviously, this linguist was not up to the standards required to understand how language evolves and its relationship to power structures, much less able to work with Puerto Ricans students. Yet, there he was in a position where he has been hired as a leader on his field but unable to apply his knowledge to specific situations.

Quite often getting caught up with the standards do not let you see the details, processes, and intentions that support or modify such standards.

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