Lindsay Johns： Michael， street slang is anathema to me， and I want it kept out of the classroom because， for me， and with the young people that I mentor down in Peckham in South London， I cou…I tell them “language is power.”
When I hear young people speaking street slang， they sound as if theyve had an exceedingly painful frontal lobotomy. “Lully， innit？ Ye git me， bluds？ Yeah， basicallys.” They sound stupid and uneducated. I want the young people that I mentor to be taken seriously by those who have the power to take decisions， which can affect their lives the better. For better or for worse， Ed Miliband and David Cameron do not speak street slang. Michael Rosen： Well， its very interesting， and if we talk about street slang， it is only one kind of slang. Somebody like David Cameron， he spoke another kind of slang when he was at school. He spoke Eton slang. So when we talk about slangs， we have to be pretty careful， because we all talk slang. We have no evidence that simply speaking one kind of slang， or one kind of local dialect， actually prevents you from speaking another. We are all capable of being bi-dialectal， thats to say speaking two kinds of language or more. So the key issue is why dont your mates in Peckham choose to speak standard English， or maybe they can， and， or maybe they know how to， and choose not to. So thats one of the key issues.
Lindsay： If street slang was the lingua franca of power and the key to social mobility in this country， I would be the first to advocate it to the young people that I mentor in Peckham. But its not， so I dont. I personally am not a big fan of code-switching or cultural relativism， because I think that actually， under pressure， for example， in that all-important college， job or university interview， the young people revert to type. So they revert to street slang， and therefore it prejudices their application.
Michael： Now， as far as I understand it， you think you should ban it. Now， my view would be “no， you study it.”
Lindsay： I have a zero tolerance policy with my young mentees down in Peckham， and I try and correct the way they speak. So for example， if its basically “you get me，” “like，” “brov，” “cuz，” all those kinds of slang terms， I think they are best kept out of the classroom.
Michael： You， if you go to Shakespeare， youll find that Shakespeare uses the word “cuz.” Now， my starting point would be， if， lets say， one of your friends uses the word “cuz，” and say， “Well， lets have a look at that word ‘cuz. Lets see what its history has been in the English language. Lets have a look. Here in this scene in Shakespeare， in Romeo and Juliet， OK， there is…theres street violence going on in Romeo and Juliet. Here is a fascinating way in which street slang is being used by a dramatist. Lets look at it.” So， we start from the language that your students， your friends， are using， and we say，“Lets have a look. Here is this vehicle of theatre， this…this vehicle of…of language， sometimes a vehicle of power， Shakespeare， and hes using some of the similar language using， that…that you use.”