October 2016

Lies My Teacher Told Me

October 10, 2016 – Columbus Day in America when Americans celebrate a very bad man who never did anything important except be important, like the Kardashians. If you don’t count the current presidential election, Columbus Day is the penultimate tribute to white man’s arrogance and stupidity. It’s the age of technology! With all the information we have at our fingertips how does this crap still go on? The short answer is Education.

Let’s start with the Christopher Columbus story. Columbus thought he was in China. He really landed in the West Indies where he cheated the sailors, raped and exploited the gentle native people. It’s likely he never got to America at all. He didn’t discover the world was round either. The Greeks have known for 2,000 years that the world is round. If it were 2016 instead of 1492 Columbus would be running for president.

Discovered is a fairly elastic term. In recorded history it refers to when Europeans/whites arrived somewhere (or there would have been no one to rape when they showed up) or thought something. All white people really did was read and write. These skills gave them control of their self-aggrandizing fantasies which they could then catalogue under headings like History. Hundreds of years later others could study the made-up stories in universities, earn degrees in things that didn’t happen and get paid as teachers to browbeat children into memorizing and repeating the absolute garbage their teachers had to memorize before them.

If you are interested, the Vikings settled in North America around 1000 AD and the Scots arrived in New Scotland in 1389. Columbus didn’t discover anything. We are not even sure he ever visited American. Marconi didn’t invent the radio. In English you can boldly split infinitives, start sentences with and, use double negatives (you might have just thought No we can’t and proved it) and end sentences with prepositions. Does it make you question everything you learned in school? It should.

What does this have to do with ESL? Wait for it – there isn’t a single study in its 130 year history that indicates the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) helps people speak English – because it doesn’t. IPA is just more crap teachers are taught to teach and canonized by The Big Book of Caxton’s Spelling Mistakes (aka the dictionary).

Part of me hates to kick my neighbors to the south when they are down – more reference to their sordid election – but I’m not sure it is serving anyone especially students, to keep this data under wraps just because it’s embarrassing. This is a nasty study on the effectiveness of teachers done by the USA government fairly recently. It finds no significant difference between a certified/schooled teacher and one that isn’t when they looked at student performance/achievement. See the summary pg. 105.

It is not just me. Here is an engaging six-minute video (ironically the version I watched was sponsored by a university), I Just Sued the School System . I agree whole-heartedly with everything this guy has to say except that teachers should not be earning more money simply because we shoulder a huge responsibility. Teachers are currently doing a bad job. How much should we be paid for that? The situation is not our fault but it is our responsibility. When/if we upgrade we will be entitled to more respect and more pay.

Upgrade is a rather soft term for forget everything we learned up until now and find some facts for content and skills for delivery. How many teachers enjoying job security and the best benefit and pension packages in history are going to do that? Not many. Not to worry, they will retire or be dead soon anyway. Let’s make sure we are experiencing the last wave of this tired old regime reverently known as Education.

If you have read any of my other blogs you’ll notice I try to end on a positive note. Given the Debbie Downer nature of some of these missives I don’t want to lose sight of my goal which is to leave readers informed but hopeful.

The most up-to-date information on Columbus Day is it will soon be a thing of the past in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

  • More and more places are opting out of Columbus Day—a holiday marking the Italian explorer’s “discovery” of the United States 524 years ago—in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which offers a more honest take on America’s origin story. 
  • Last week, Phoenix, AZ, became the most recent (and biggest) city to acknowledge that Native Americans were already living here when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492, as well as their oppression at the hands of European settlers. From an article by Collier Meyerson and Daniel Rivero with a map of the cities and states in America who have dropped Columbus Day

Among other things the internet is giving us awareness. We can’t fix problems we don’t know exist. ESL/EFL is broken. Education in general is broken. Everything you see on the internet needs to be questioned too, but at least we are starting to question. And everyone with a computer has been granted a voice. Change is imminent. Are you ready?

Until next time,

Teacher Judy

A Global Movement of Teachers is Reshaping Education

Historically, advanced technological and social thinking have erupted concurrently from widely different places at exactly the the same time. One famous example is poor Elisha Gray, a professor at Oberlin College, who applied for a caveat of the telephone on February 14, 1876 the same day as Alexander Graham Bell but a few hours too late to be known as the inventor of the telephone. As for the inventor of the radio, there were several contenders. After much research, heated debate and court cases galore one thing is clear – it was not Marconi. Many of us are old enough to remember the Space Race in the 60’s between the United States and Russia to land the first man on the moon. What does this phenomenon of an idea whose time has come have to do with Education?

A Radical group of teachers met on LinkedIn in 2012. Independently and concurrently this original group of ESL/EFL teachers from Canada, England, Hungary, Portugal, Spain and USA not only rejected traditional language teaching methods, they replaced them. Rita Baker from Lydbury England and The Global Approach is good example. While countless teachers have recognized what we have been teaching as English Grammar is not English Grammar at all but a sloppy retrofit of Latin Grammarhow many have done something about it? We have all witnessed learners who study grammar for years without becoming fluent – it’s because the course content is widely promoted and grossly inaccurate. Rita Baker is one teacher who took on reform. She distinguished the true nature of English Grammar as a simple system children figure out without lessons. English tenses have nothing to do with time. Rita teaches all ofEnglish Grammar, with no exceptions inside of two weeks. She is the only rich ESL teacher I know. Thanks to the internet The Global Approach is the only wayEnglish Grammar will be taught in the very near future.

My LinkedIn contacts hit 10,000 this month and in my ever-growing ESL/EFL community I’m continually connecting with more and more truly original, truly ground-breaking educators. Imagine my delight to encounter Andrew Weiler from Australia promoting alternative methods to language teaching with exactly the same philosophies as Radical teachers on the other side of the world. In this seven minute video he summarizes the results of a survey that asks ESL students, “What’s your single biggest concern as a language learner?” And he provides solutions. I’ll give you a hint, the solution is not grammar. Click Here

If you think your school or your program is solid and will not be affected by radical reform – think again. No system, is exempt from the impact of technology or evolution. Here’s as good read on the broad reach of inevitable change with something we thought would never be affected. Why the Future of TV isn’t TV

Who will be credited with the disruption of grammar based-language teaching? I don’t know. All I know for sure is that it’s outta here! Bold, exciting, effective replacements are already working for learners all over the world. Find one to add your voice to.

Until next time,

Teacher Judy

Judy Thompson