There was one part of the “Do You Speak American” show that I did really dig, it was the LA School Districts Academic English Mastery program.
This is a program that teaches kids who are native speakers of African American Vernacular how to express themselves in Standard American English through contrastive analysis. Two awesome things happen. One is kids learn descriptive rules of both SAE and AAV in a context which celebrates their dialect as an intrinsic artifact of their culture; they learn SAE without devaluing AAV as “bad English” or “slang;” in effect learning the grammar of non-standard variations. This is true bilingual education, and it’s exactly what reactionary people all over the country decried when Oakland School District wanted to recognize “Ebonics” as a different variety of English. Duh!
Anyway, the second awesome thing that happens is that kids become totally grammatically aware and conversant in linguistic terminology. In the program, they showed a fourth grade class (I’m guessing). A teacher had kids split into groups and asked them, what language is this, and they would yell “Mainstream American!” or “AL” (African American Language); and then he’d ask them to code switch “Who can code switch that for me?” and then he’d ask “what’s the difference” and they’d discuss in groups and come up with “3rd person singular marker!” It was a dream come true.
In my spanish classes, I have people who ask me to define what a verb is every time I say the word; i.e., every class. Then they say, wull, it’s because I never learned it before . . . and then I say, yah, because you’re dumb and you don’t listen. Well, I don’t say it out loud, but one day I will.