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Unintentionally mispronouncing a student’s name now a ‘microaggression’ worthy of new policy

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With all the stress students have to bear in their academic lives, having their names mispronounced is now high on a  list of offenses.

A national campaign, “My Name, My Identity: A Declaration of Self,” was launched in 2015 by the Santa Clara County, Calif. Office of Education (SCCOE) and the National Association for Bilingual Education. It contends that a student can suffer “anxiety and resentment” if a teacher mispronounces his or her name, CNS News reported.

School districts nationwide have now reportedly taken a pledge to “pronounce student’s names correctly” to avoid the “microaggression” of mispronunciation.

“Mispronouncing a student’s name truly negates his or her identity, which, in turn, can hinder academic progress,” Yee Wan, SCCOE’s director of multilingual education services, said.

When a teacher mispronounces, disregards, or changes a child’s name, it is a sign of  “microagression” because “they are in a sense disregarding the family and culture of the student as well,” Rita Kohli, assistant professor of education at the University of California at Riverside, said.

To be sensitive to the ancestral and historical significance of a child’s name,  528 school districts across the country have implemented the campaign to “pronounce students’ names correctly.”

“Mutilating someone’s name is a tiny act of bigotry,”  former teacher Jennifer Gonzalez had written in a 2014 Cult of Pedagogy blog post. “Whether you intend to or not, what you’re communicating is this: Your name is different. Foreign. Weird. It’s not worth my time to get it right.”

“And before you get all defensive about the bigotry thing,” Gonzalez wrote,  “let’s be clear: Discovering that something you do might be construed as bigotry doesn’t mean anyone is calling you a bigot. It’s just an opportunity to grow.”

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Frieda Powers


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