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Diversity in an International Classroom
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Nozka



Joined: 26 Feb 2008
Posts: 50
Location: "The City of Joy"

PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chancellor, what I am saying is that students need to be able to express opinions and debate, and as a teacher I need to give them the opportunities to use and practice these important functions of language just as they need practice in applying the rules of language which you mention. Controversial statements, I believe, are useful in the classroom because they do get people to use language and think about how to express their ideas clearly. This whole thread is evidence enough of that.

I have never said that my lesson objectives are to teach critical thinking skills. However, if my students learn these skills as a by-product of my teaching, what is wrong with that? It's just like anything else useful they may learn as a result of studying English. If I teach my students what a 'red herring' is, some of them may already know what this fallacy of argumentation is in their own language and some may not. Who cares? If they didn't know it before, what is wrong with them learning it in a language class? Forgive me for wanting my students to have the tools to defend their values and beliefs from an opinionated American like me.

I agree with you, Spiral, that the focus should be on language, but I think it's rather hard to draw the line here.

Students can "learn" just about anything in a language class - that's the beauty of it.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9132
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 5:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have you ever tried to have a sustained conversation with someone who has no critical thinking skills?
I have never said that my lesson objectives are to teach critical thinking skills. However, if my students learn these skills as a by-product of my teaching


Shocked


Nozka: Maybe your experience has been limited to some culture where it's considered impolite to express one's strong opinions?

I've never had a European student who wasn't all too happy to express his or her opinion on an issue, or to give advice. I've never had a student over the years lacking critical thinking skills. I can't quite imagine such a person, I'm afraid.
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Nozka



Joined: 26 Feb 2008
Posts: 50
Location: "The City of Joy"

PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

spiral78 wrote:

Nozka: Maybe your experience has been limited to some culture where it's considered impolite to express one's strong opinions?


Spiral, this is a plausible and valid consideration, but I have taught "all over", and I did say critical thinking is lacking both East and West.

Perhaps the critics here would be happier if I said rather that students do not apply critical thinking skills? Would that be satisfactory?

I'll try and get some help from Dr. Pinker, who is speaking here about higher education:

"I would like to see required courses on the major analytic tools of logic, probability, and critical thinking, particularly those that serve as prosthetics for the limitations of everyday human cognition. The pedagogical challenge is to prepare students to apply these tools, since other research suggests that people often don't generalize abstract rules to new domains."

http://www.slate.com/id/2130334/

Yes, I know, I teach ESL and not logic etc. But if my students don't get it anywhere, why not in my class, at least a little? If they don't get it at Harvard, they certainly don't get it at a Madrassa in a village in West Bengal, which is full of strong opinions.

I once had a student (rather unsolicited, and in another country) tell me that the Jews invented the AIDS virus, and they were withholding the antidote to boot. How does one respond to that? I find statements like that very difficult to ignore, and I would also say that this person is not applying critical thinking skills, if they had any.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8640
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are right about an EFL classroom not being the place for teaching logic. I doubt Dr Pinker was advocating that either - higher education not normally covering EFL.

Lots of people don't get enough fresh fruit or exercise either, yet I don't feel the need to hold nutrition seminars or aerobics classes. By extension, I don't think it our job to teach them what to think or even how to think.

As for the mad and sometimes unpalatable opinions that learners can and do hold, well, that's just a sad fact of our profession. Like in any profession, it is not on to challenge the beliefs of the clients, just because we do not like them. Some people will believe highly offensive things but I sincerely hold the wiser course is to hold one's tongue. In addition, the person who would make such racist comments does so not due to a lack of critical thinking skills, but because of a deeply-held fear or hatred which overrides everything else. By its very emotional nature, nothing reasonable you or anyone else could say would ever dissuade him from holding this belief.

I have heard French people claim that theirs is the only language that can effectively conduct diplomacy, as there are no synonyms in French. I have heard Americans claim that they invented democracy. The British believe that they have the best police force and law courts in the world. Russians know that they are destined to redeem the world. EFL teachers can mistake teaching English for an ambassadorial mission. Is any one of them applying reason? I don't think so. But if they were in a language class, I doubt that they'd appreciate being told their cherished national or professional myths were without logical foundation.
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Chancellor



Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1305
Location: Astana, Kazakhstan - if you're willing to send me cigars, I accept donations :)

PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nozka wrote:
Chancellor, what I am saying is that students need to be able to express opinions and debate,
They should already know how to express opinions (I'm certain they've likely been doing it in their native languages for years). Why must students be able to debate?

Quote:
and as a teacher I need to give them the opportunities to use and practice these important functions of language just as they need practice in applying the rules of language which you mention.
Giving them opportunities to use language in a variety of contexts is important (I'd even say it's essential) but why do you think it's your place as a language teacher to teach them how to express opinions, which is something they already know how to do in their native language, or to debate (something that not everyone does or needs to do)?

Quote:
Controversial statements, I believe, are useful in the classroom because they do get people to use language and think about how to express their ideas clearly. This whole thread is evidence enough of that.
Maybe they can be useful but, again, is it really your place as a language teacher to impose controversy upon your students? Can they not learn how to "use language and think about how to express their ideas clearly" without you inserting controversial subjects?

Quote:
I have never said that my lesson objectives are to teach critical thinking skills. However, if my students learn these skills as a by-product of my teaching, what is wrong with that?
You assume that this notion of "critical thinking skills" is a universal axiom that must be imposed on everyone. Critical thinking skills (while certainly valuable in and of themselves) is just one of the more recent educational fads to come down the pike.

Quote:
It's just like anything else useful they may learn as a result of studying English.
What they happen to learn in addition to learning English is their responsibility, not yours.

Quote:
If I teach my students what a 'red herring' is, some of them may already know what this fallacy of argumentation is in their own language and some may not. Who cares?
But unless you had some sort of agenda going on, why would you feel the need to teach this particular vocabulary?

Quote:
If they didn't know it before, what is wrong with them learning it in a language class? Forgive me for wanting my students to have the tools to defend their values and beliefs from an opinionated American like me.
It isn't your place to give them "the tools to defend their values and beliefs;" you're a language teacher, not a logic or philosophy teacher.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9132
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 6:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps the critics here would be happier if I said rather that students do not apply critical thinking skills? Would that be satisfactory?

Well, my own students over the past near-15 years clearly can and do/could and did apply critical thinking skills proficiently. Even if their opinions aren't always in line with what I might personally consider an 'enlightened' viewpoint.

Anyway, my final word on this. I think the gap in the understanding of whether and how 'controversial topics' should be used in language classrooms is unbridgeable.

For my part - it's all about language. I won't ever presume to challenge the beliefs of my students - it simply isn't my place as a facilitator of language development and usage. My own bottom line on this is that my job is to help them to state their own ideas, not to impose mine.

Over and out.
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Chancellor



Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1305
Location: Astana, Kazakhstan - if you're willing to send me cigars, I accept donations :)

PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

spiral78 wrote:
For my part - it's all about language. I won't ever presume to challenge the beliefs of my students - it simply isn't my place as a facilitator of language development and usage. My own bottom line on this is that my job is to help them to state their own ideas, not to impose mine.
Agreed. This is, in fact, one of the things that irritates me about the government indoctrination centers (public schools) here in the states - the attempt by teachers and school districts to impose certain views on the students.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12050
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Chancellor,

You wouldn't say, then, that, like EFL (as can be seen by this tread) any "indoctrination" that may tale place in the public schools here would be dependent upon the "policy" of the individual teachers?

I've taught in public schools here in the States. When I teach Language Arts, that's what I teach. Same with all the other subjects I've taught: Reading, Composition, Science, Social Studies, Math, etc.
I've never been instructed by any administrator to "indoctrinate" my students in any fashion, nor have I done so.

There may well be teachers that do - just as there apparently are in EFL. So, why do you single out public schools in the States as "government indoctrination centers?"

Regards,
John
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8640
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

spiral78 wrote:
[i]
Anyway, my final word on this. I think the gap in the understanding of whether and how 'controversial topics' should be used in language classrooms is unbridgeable.

For my part - it's all about language. I won't ever presume to challenge the beliefs of my students - it simply isn't my place as a facilitator of language development and usage. My own bottom line on this is that my job is to help them to state their own ideas, not to impose mine.

Over and out.


After that expression of clear thought, there remains nothing for me to add either.

End of transmission.
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Chancellor



Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1305
Location: Astana, Kazakhstan - if you're willing to send me cigars, I accept donations :)

PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

johnslat wrote:
Dear Chancellor,

You wouldn't say, then, that, like EFL (as can be seen by this tread) any "indoctrination" that may tale place in the public schools here would be dependent upon the "policy" of the individual teachers?
Or the school districts or the particular textbooks that are used.

Quote:
I've taught in public schools here in the States. When I teach Language Arts, that's what I teach. Same with all the other subjects I've taught: Reading, Composition, Science, Social Studies, Math, etc.
I've never been instructed by any administrator to "indoctrinate" my students in any fashion, nor have I done so.
But what texts were you required to use (or did you select for use)? Were you (or your school), for example, trying to promote homosexuality by forcing kids to read Heather Has Two Mommies or promoting multiculturalism by using a textbook in which there are two thanksgiving holidays and the greater emphasis is placed on the one in April that is based on something that happened in Mexico in the 1500s? Did you use a textbook that made Columbus look like a genocidal maniac or otherwise made whites look evil and non-whites look like heroes? Did you use a science textbook in which a disclaimer was ordered to be placed indicating that evolution is a theory and not fact?

Quote:
There may well be teachers that do - just as there apparently are in EFL. So, why do you single out public schools in the States as "government indoctrination centers?"
Based on the history since the early 20th century. For more about this, go to www.johntaylorgatto.com, get this dvd: http://www.amazon.com/FOX-NEWS-REPORTING-Textbooks-Children/dp/B002Q4UAYO or read this book: http://www.amazon.com/Language-Police-Pressure-Restrict-Students/dp/1400030641/ref=pd_bxgy_d_text_b. It is generally understood that private schools (particularly religious ones) indoctrinate; so, that sort of goes without saying.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12050
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 8:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Chancellor,

"Were you (or your school), for example, trying to promote homosexuality by forcing kids to read Heather Has Two Mommies or promoting multiculturalism by using a textbook in which there are two thanksgiving holidays and the greater emphasis is placed on the one in April that is based on something that happened in Mexico in the 1500s? Did you use a textbook that made Columbus look like a genocidal maniac or otherwise made whites look evil and non-whites look like heroes? Did you use a science textbook in which a disclaimer was ordered to be placed indicating that evolution is a theory and not fact? "

Nope, nope, and nope.

I like Gatto a lot, and I agree with much of what he wrote. However, when I see a DVD by "Fox News Reporting" that exposes "staggering errors and omissions which may be pushing agendas, hidden and otherwise," well, excuse me but I really do have to snicker (Snicker, snicker) and the works "Pot" and "Kettle" leap to mind.

My congratulations, however, for having apparently undergone the brainwashing with no ill effects.

Regards,
John
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