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In the Interests of Clarity

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  • Russell Kent
    Hi everybody. Recently, I posted the message below. In the interests of fair play, I would like to point out that this is a message from David Hogg which I
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2005
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      Hi everybody.

      Recently, I posted the message below. In the interests of fair play, I
      would like to point out that this is a message from David Hogg which I
      posted on his behalf. It seems, that although can receive all the Dogme
      postings, his access to post messages has been denied. So, in the
      interests of free speech, and acknowledging a valid contribution to the
      list, especially in the light of recent postings, I agreed to his
      request to post it on his behalf.

      Bye the way, it is my understanding, and apologies if this is incorrect,
      other members of the list were also asked, but, sadly, did not even
      afford David the courtesy of a reply.




      Twocents has his finger on the pulse, as is his wont. He asks (in #8994)
      the important question of where our list should go from here. Quite so.
      Where indeed?

      Perhaps back to its roots (for instance, just re-read message #2; this
      important snippet seems to me to be crucial: <<<"We have to recognise
      that there are many institutions that will not abandon coursebooks, but
      at least the mania to supplement what is already in a sense superfluous
      might be kerbed: this is our problem here in IH barcelona - teachers
      meetings are nothing but materials PRODUCTION workshops, when they
      should be materials REduction workshops...">>>. The bit about "allowing"
      cassette players into class is important, too, of course, but the
      principle of materials-reduction is one that's still hard to argue
      against, and probably always will

      Message #49 (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dogme/message/49) is also
      informative, relevant and current, especially the bit where Jeremy says:
      "<<<I absolutely admire teachers who can put together coherent,
      genuinely interactive and involving programmes without coursebooks (for
      example), but is that necessarily a great virtue - unless you're
      passionately committed to
      it? I think good teachers use all and anything they can to make classes
      interesting, involving and *real*. That's why I'm a huge fan of 'live
      listening' but also enjoy using taped material because of its variety
      and the fact that it's often interesting a/o funny.

      Right, I think I'll put on my helmet and flame-proof garments and hope
      you don't all blow me up too spectacularly!>>>". Jeremy seemed there to
      be committed to principled eclecticism in reco! gnising the value both
      of live listening and of pre-recorded extra-mural voices.

      And so much has been said, often, on our list about dogme being an
      "attitude" or "state of mind" rather than an "approach" or a "method".
      (I'm paraphrasing from memory now, so please feel free to correct me if
      I'm very wrong about any of this). Seen in that light, Jeremy's attitude
      seems very "dogme" to me: it seems that Jeremy has a "good" attitude, to
      use the layteacher's vernacular.

      Any teacher with such an attitude would only ever "allow" pre-recorded,
      disembodied voices into the classroom when doing so addresses a need
      that the teacher in question has identified in the learners in question.
      Such a teacher, obviously, has no need whatsoever to join Scott and
      "sign a vow of EFL Chastity...".
      (http://www.teaching-unplugged.com/dogmaarticle.html )What on earth -one
      might ask- would be the benefit for any such teacher (or, importantly,
      for her/his students) of signing up to Vows of Chastity? Surreal.

      Here's my point: if a teacher has the right attitude (a "good" attitude,
      or a "dogme" attitude, or whatever else you might want to label it),
      then dogme per se -whatever that is, or was, or would've been- is as
      superfluous as are all the "...videos, CD-ROMs, photocopiable resource
      packs, pull-out word lists, [...] web-sites, [...] standard workbook,
      teacher's book, and classroom and home study cassettes [...] the vast
      battery of supplementary materials [...] the authentic material easily
      downloadable from the Internet or illegally photocopied from more
      conventional sources. [...] the best-selling self-study grammar books,
      personal vocabulary organisers, phrasal verb dictionaries, concordancing
      software packages [...] " (ibid.).

      And when one considers that the population of the dogmelist seems
      nowadays to be top-heavy with good-attituded (or "dogme-attituded", if
      ya like!) teachers who have no intention whatsoever (and no need
      whatsoever) to commit to any Vows of Chastity, then one wonders what the
      point would be in continuing to look "for ways of exploiting the
      learning opportunities offered by the raw material of the classroom,
      that is the language that emerges from the needs, interests, concerns
      and desires of the people in the room."
      (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dogme/ ).

      Because, a perusal of dogmelist messages over recent months demonstrates
      amply -don't you think?- that that particular investigation has run its
      useful course, and that if anything new is to be DIScovered (or
      UNcovered, or REcovered, or even -dare I suggest it?!- merely covered!!)
      here about language teaching and language learning, then it has more
      chance of being discovered (...etc!) by our opening up the the debate
      and *explicitly stating* that it's absolutely cool to "break" all and
      any of the Vows, because what we're all *really* interested in is *good
      practice* rather than the very narrow (and too often misinformed)
      objective of mere materials reduction for materials reduction's sake.

      And let's go back further than the dogmelist's origins, too.

      Who among us could not sympathise with Scott's and Neil's exasperation
      as expressed here: http://www.teaching-unplugged.com/dogmaarticle.html
      <<<"For several years now, my fellow Diploma teacher trainer, Neil
      Forrest, and I have been waging war on materials-driven lessons. The
      plaintive cry of an ex-student ("Our teacher never talked to us") cut
      straight to the quick. Too many observed lessons, we realized, were
      being hi-jacked, either by materials overload, or by Obsessive Grammar
      Syndrome (OGS). We laid down some rules: if the language lesson didn't
      include real language use, then we questioned its usefulness.
      Photocopies were proscribed; the OHP was banished. Grammar presentations
      had to be squeezed into 5 minutes. Real talk, usually relegated to the
      bookends of the lesson proper, had to form the lesson core. And the
      teacher had to talk - not ! at the students or even to them - but with
      them. No posturing was allowed">>> ?

      The very worthwhile solution that Scott and Neil got down to work on
      (applying -unwittingly!- Adrian Underhill's important insights from over
      a decade earlier) seems to me to have been a valid response to a very
      specific problem that they wanted to address. The problem was teachers
      whose attitude was un-dogme (ie, not very good!), and who needed (but
      REALLY, REALLY NEEDED!!) some help re-thinking what they should be
      trying to achieve for their clientele.

      But just because several dozen teachers who pass through IH Barcelona's
      DELTA program each year need that kind of help does not seem to me to
      lead along a direct path to the conclusion that "ELT dogme" is the way
      to go for the whole profession!

      I wonder how many among you agree with me, and would agree also to
      changing the list's name to something more representative of our
      membership and our aims; something like "ELT Good Practice". All in
      favour say "Aye!".

      Because it seems to me that the pursuit of whatever-it-might-be that
      constitutes Good Practice, in one language-learning context or another,
      is precisely what the dogmelist is about these days, with or without
      materials; with or without "gr***ar"; with or without pre-planning.

      Even one prominent, eloquent, enlightened member of that (realtively
      shrunken) breed among us -the successful, committed dogmetic- was moved
      recently to contribute these important comments to our list: <<<" Dennis
      asks if any of us have done any dogmetic teaching lately...

      I haven't, and the students seem to be enjoying it, because the less
      dogmetic approach meets their expectations of what it means to learn
      English. Sure, I've planned --- yes, planned --- some of this term's
      activities around the students' interests as expressed in letters they
      wrote to me. Those interests were general, however, and haven't really
      changed much since the class began: pronunciation, grammar, spelling,
      conversations, listening, reading, writing... One student just came out
      and told me (in her letter) that I am a good teacher
      but need to change my methodology. I appreciated the honesty. Of course,
      there are those who liked the class discussi! ons we used to have, the
      scaffolding, the spontaneous exploration of grammar point X in the
      middle of it all, but the dogme crowd tends to be a minority as far as
      I've seen. It has a lot to do with motivation; many learners want to be
      taken by the hand, not asked to lead the
      way, which is easy to understand.

      It's possible that dogme has served those of us who were looking for a
      group hug among like-minded colleagues in cyberspace. Regardless, I
      think the real power behind teaching-unplugged as I understand it, still
      resides in materials-lite pedagogy.

      We might ask ourselves whether it is most effective to fight fire with
      fire by publishing more dogmetic materials (perhaps heresy in itself),
      or if we are simply a small band of merry men and women, content with
      covert operations, 'good deeds', and living deep in the woods."
      (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dogme/message/8748 ).

      The dogmelist seems to have matured in many ways, since its misguided,
      (too) narrow-focused (unnecessarily) over-ambitious beginnings. The
      dogmelist has evolved. The dogmelist has become bigger than dogme itself
      (whatever that would've been). The dogmelist has become something it
      never could've imagined itself becoming at its inception. All of which
      has a certain poetry about it: what could possibly be more *dogmetic*
      than for the dogmelist to have ended up in this place, so very far from
      where it originally seemed to have been headed?!!

      I've sometimes been referred to (affectionately and less so!) as the
      "Kiss of Death to the dogmelist". Fair dues!: anyone who knows me knows
      how much I enjoy the notoriety of that label. But it ain't the truth. I
      never set out to be the Kiss of Death to the dogmelist, and I don't see
      myself as having become it by merely posting this new manifesto here.

      Rather, what I'm trying to do here (and I hope even the tiny minority of
      cynics -perhaps less than 0.162% of our membership, but as far as I'm
      concerned no less important for that- can see that now) is to *breathe
      life* into a dogmelist which has -even after five (and-a-bit) whole
      years!- failed so far to notice that the problems it was originally
      trying to solve are not at all global ones; and that the global problems
      that *do* need to be solved in our profession require an open-minded
      approach instead of a dogmatic one (albeit a "tongue-in-cheek",
      "metaphorical", dogmatic one). Moreover, dogme has done a fine job in
      solving those very local problems; it achieved that years ago.

      So, that's about it, I guess. I've said my bit. I'd like to hear what
      y'all make of it.

      Who'll join me in tearing up the Vows of Chastity? Say "Aye".

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