Taboo ELT

Pluralistic ignorance is the situation whereby many people secretly believe something, but are all afraid of admitting it because they believe they are the only ones who hold the views. 


I was curious if there were any views TEFL teachers held but were afraid of sharing with their colleagues or peers. So I asked. The results of the highly scientific twitter poll was that around 52% of teachers said they do hold views they were afraid of sharing. I was really curious about what these views might be so I set up an anonymous poll. 


I will just post the views here without judgement or comment. I will say that I was kind of hopeful that there might be one view that stood out among a lot of teachers but the opinions were much more varied.  It was partiualrly interesting when people thought two opposing views were “taboo”. 


I should also note that this poll had no validity whatsoever. People could have been trolling or just writing something they really knew wasn’t a taboo view at all. There were 43 responses. I removed one because it was, to my mind, a little beyong the pale

Textbooks

Students can learn with or without coursebooks
I’m sick of explaining the hypocrisy of including a predictable, tokenistic chapter on ‘the environment’ in every textbook and syllabus written in the past 30 years when the ELT industry is largely dependent on millions of people travelling massive distances by airplane to undertake study. Similarly, I’m sick of schools and teachers making predictable, tokenistic gestures towards ‘the environment’ for the same reason: beach cleanups and banning plastic straws can all get to fuck if your entire student body just dumped literally tonnes of co2 into the atmosphere just getting here.
Textbooks represent a lot of research and a great understanding of students’ needs. They are an excellent resource to guide students through their English learning journey.


Natives Vs non-natives 

Students are often better off learning English from non-native speaker teachers.
That native English speakers are often better teachers.
*Some* non native speaker teachers have accents that are difficult to understand, make countless errors, and really shouldn’t be teaching. 
On native-speakerism: in an ideal world, every program would have an experienced non-native speaker (who understands students’ L1, their struggles with grammar) AND an experienced native speaker (for cultural knowledge, model of pronunciation). We had that in one program where I taught and it worked really well. It’s what I’d want as a learner too.
Educated native speakers will tend to “know” more idioms than most non-natives do! That doesn’t necessarily mean they are retrievable to order (In feedback, for instance), universal across varieties, or even (Dellar-style) teachable. But the fact remains.
Monolingual English native speaking teachers who’ve never learned another language to a decent level of proficiency (let’s say B2) lack credibility as English language teachers

Effectiveness of ELT

The students improve because they are living in this English speaking country and interacting on a daily basis, not because of our courses
The majority of teaching (75%) in ELT is below standard.
we can’t really “teach” anything

Approaches and methods 

PPP is fine.
I think skimming and scanning are probably just pointless rituals
skimming and scanning encourage students to get the wrong end of the stick
The debunking of learning styles/multiple intelligences has not really reached many of the teachers around me so I feel like I’m breaking wind any time I question whether we should be looking at learning through that framework.
learning styles are of course nonsense but can still be worth keeping in mind
I don’t believe that learning in a group is of any worth to anyone. If you really want to learn a language then doing so by yourself and having a one-to-one teacher is by far the best method. I don’t believe that attending a private academy/institution/language school is the best way to spend your money.
Ain’t just the one way. There are so many ways to learn a language, like there are different ways to learn a musical instrument. And they *all* work to some extent – because learners are meaning-makers.
I believe that leveling (grading) text can be quite useful for making text more comprehensible and accessible, especially to beginning learners who can’t comprehend the text otherwise. Some teachers in my primary-secondary school district seem to believe that reducing the lexile level (complexity, lexical level) of a text for a newcomer English learner is denying them access to grade-appropriate materials. So they kind of look at the act of leveling a text for a beginning reader as a denial of rights, which is completely absurd to me, but I think it actually comes from a good place.
Memorize vocabulary using word cards, lists, or vocab apps
accuracy is more important than fluency

The profession 

ELT teachers should not be allowed to teach YLs. It is simply a babysitting service. Most teachers don’t have the skills, passion or knowledge to teach and deal with YLs. You should only be allowed to teach YLs if you have done exactly the same qualifications as someone who teaches YLs in a state school for example. Degree, PGCE and possibly a masters in specialising in YLs.
loads. example: the majority of teachers I’ve worked with or managed outside of the higher education or public sector don’t deserve to be treated or paid as professionals as they utterly fail to conduct themselves as professionals, hold themselves to professional standards or do a tenth of the work of the average school teacher.
  I’m also constantly disappointed by the insistence of teaching staff to try to impose middle-class leftwing values on their classroom practice, particularly as so many of their students don’t share these values.
We aren’t saving the world!
Within the private academies, student progression is based on customer retention and ensuring they layout out payment for the next semester. Should you raise this issue, goodbye teaching job.
I feel that it’s all so technicist, focusing on techniques and the creativity side has gone. Maybe that’s just the context in which I work.
Some adolescent students are not temperamentally predisposed to language learning and therefore it is a complete waste of time teaching them. Their presence in the classroom is disruptive and counterproductive. Experienced teachers will know who these individuals are in the class within the first 10 minutes of a lesson. Exceptions will occur from time to time, but it would serve every one’s interests if these students were quickly moved into other subjects.
The field caters to middle aged white ladies far too much and this robs it of racial literacy
You might be living the dream teaching now. But the lack of a pension will fuck you up in your golden years.
That qualified & experienced EFL teachers are more knowledgable & hardworking than PGCE qualified teachers. EFL teachers never get to set work and do marking in class, EFL teachers have to satisfy a wide array of paying students and I’ve seen a lot of mainstream teachers on Twitter go crazy over the simplest of ideas that are the mainstays of EFL work. EFL teachers should be better paid and recognised as ‘proper teachers’.

Misc

The other teachers just SUCK at teaching
Krashen is wrong about FonF, but he’s so close to being right on everything else. (This isn’t taboo; it’s just not widely enough appreciated.)
“You’re a white supremacist”
 because e.g., You have an English only policy in your classroom 
You don’t teach about world Englishes 
You keep telling your Japanese students: Don’t be shy 
You keep asking your Japanese students to speak louder 
Can I really share these with my “colleagues” who even pretend I don’t exist at the teachers’ room? 
American Celta trainees just cannot take any criticism.
Standardised testing is overrated
No one cares about all the gendering stuff. It’s an English language lesson, not social engineering.
I don’t think there is that much evidence that explicit and implicit learning are separate processes.
I get to choose – pretty much – what I teach, but I do feel more and more uncomfortable with many of the ‘traditional’ theories of SLA. They are so monolingual and anglocentric in their view of how people use language, assuming that people speak and are educated in the same language they use at home and that a ‘second’ language is an add-on.
Students exchange some time and a bit of effort for 1 / 50th of a degree while we all pretend it means something more.
We spend 80% of our energy on the 20% who cheat, lie, and laze about.


The poll is still open. If you want to submit your views I will try to update this page periodically 

There were so many responses that I made a 2nd post. Here



Are journal editors research subjects

One of my intellectual heroes is Alan Sokal. Sokal got a bit sick of the ‘fashionable nonsense’ coming out of Literature studies departments in the 90s and sought to expose them through a hoax. He wrote a paper which was called Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” which argued, among other things, that gravity was just a social construct. 


Sokal submitted the article to a top literary journal where it was published. Three weeks later he revealed the hoax. 


In 2017, three authors conducted a similar hoax on what they believe is the fashionable nonsense of our time, namely ‘critical theory‘ scholarship. The recent hoax has been dubbed the ‘Sokal squared’ (due to the number of fake papers they had accepted) or the ‘grievance studies affair‘.


In both cases the issue of the ethics of deceiving a journal editor has been raised. However, unlike the Sokal case, in this case one of the hoaxers has actually faced censor from his university. Portland State university has censured professor Peter Boghossian over the affair and has banned him from carrying out research involving human subjects. 

But if journal editors are human subjects, then we are faced with a rather difficult problem. Between Sokal and the most recent hoax there have been a number of studies which looked into the issue of predatory publishing or publishers with low standards. Wikipedia actually has a page dedicated to “scholarly publishing stings“. It includes such things as a 2012 maths paper which was randomly generated.  This paper was intending to show the issues with predatory journals (I have written about these here). 


Another paper from 2007, by Thomas Witkowski’s attempted to show how poor quality articles on topics like NLP were being published in ostensibly high quality journals.  His fake paper was not only published but the editors loved it so much they even helped the author to expand on it

According to bioethics researchers then, are all these studies illegitimate? The original hoaxer, Sokal, disagrees and has argued that:

common sense suggests that something has gone seriously awry here, when rules initially written to protect subjects in biomedical research from physical harm — and later extended to social-science research, where the harm could be psychological — are applied blindly and literally to an “audit study” aimed at testing the intellectual standards of scholarly journals. 

You may not have sympathy for grievance studies hoaxers or even for Sokal but decisions like these can have unseen consequences. 

If it is wrong to hoax journal editors to expose pseudoscience or other nonsense, because it is unethically doing research on human subjects, is it also wrong, for example to send, as Ross Thornburn recently did, fake CVs to job companies in order to expose discriminatory hiring practices. In an excellent study, Ross shows that if you are white and trying to get a job in Asia, you have around a 64% higher chance of getting employed than if you are black.  

Thornburn didn’t, to my knowledge, have ethical approval to carry out this research. And he is not the first to have carried out research of this kind. Should we see all such research of this kind as misleading potentially vulnerable ‘research subjects’, or is there an argument that the good this kind of research can do outweighs the possible risks?