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17558Dennis: Copy of reply to Margit's posting on GISIG list arising from discussion following webinar: "The Dickensian Turn"

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  • Dennis Newson
    Oct 24, 2013
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      [ Dennis writes]

      It is interesting that the quoted statement comes from a member of the Dogme list.  I have been deliberately cross- posting between the GISIG and Dogme and other  lists in an attempt  to widen the input to the discussion started in reaction to Luke's inspiring recent GISIG webinar on the Dickensian Turn. My perhaps jaundiced view of contributions to discussions on the GISIG list is that the prototypical comment is an unarticulated: "No comment."

      People like Bill Templer have enabled me at last to see the truth of the often repeated statement that even people who claim they are non-political are making a political statement. Those who do not cast a vote in a political election and say they have not voted are deceiving themselves. Deciding not to participate is a vote for non-participation.

      But I most certainly understand and genuinely sympathise with teachers who argue in all honesty and sincerity  - I am interested in my pupils and their progress and I am interested in teaching my subject, in our case English as a second or foreign language, as interestingly and enjoyably and efficiently and effectively  as possible and I neither want nor think it moral to involve my learners in any form of party political discussions or propoganda.

      The problem is that education, especially anything to do with language (or literature and history and sociology and economics) taken earnestly, is not simply a matter of teaching skills. It can never be as ideologically neutral as, say, teaching carpentry or pottery, or cooking  or car maintenance. Committed teachers of young people are unavoidably critically involved in nurturing and shaping the minds of future citizens. As the Russian poet Yevtushenko wrote: "Telling lies to the young is wrong." And  if a diligent teacher  determined to teach English as a foreign language with all attention focused rigidly  on comprehension, fluency, accurate pronunciation  and the correct  use of prepositions and tenses is suddenly faced, let us say, with a reading passage in a ministry of education prescribed textbook that is racially prejudiced against  black Moslems or gypsies, or anti-homosexual and lesbian or in praise of  brave young people who have sacrificed their lives fighting and killing to protect the honour of their fatherland  - what should they do? Miss it out? Explain to the learners why they disagree with the sentiments expressed? Use it and say nothing? But all three options constitute political acts, decisions based on unarticulated moral and ideological convictions on the part of the teacher . All teachers are political whether they acknowledge the fact or not.



      Dennis Newson
      Formerly : University of Osnabrueck, GERMANY

      Committee member : IATEFL YLTSIG

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