Saturday, April 07, 2007

English for the masses

... because Roh has trouble flirting with the wait staff in European cities:
"During visits to foreign countries, I don't have any problem in communicating with heads of state thanks to interpreters. But during my free time after summit meetings, I have a problem as I'm not fluent in English."
What to say. Robert Phillipson has pointed out that the British empire was not interested in teaching English to the majority of its subjects. Language training was limited to small local classes of imperial coordinators. That changed following WW2, when the British Council and various US state agencies began spending huge sums to promote the use of English worldwide. (Socialist governments tended to resist, for example the Freedom Party in Sri Lanka excised English from the curriculum when it took power.)

Propaganda had really come into its own during WW2. So did they foresee the spread of mass communication? Hell yes, and they didn't need crystal balls. The first color TV was patented in 1942. An honest expression of what the US (military) elite had, has and will always have in mind might be something called From PSYOP to Mindwar: The Psychology of Victory, published in 1980. Excerpts here. The authors, one of whom now a military analyist for Fox News, knew their Gramsci and le Bon.

Yeh I know, folks aren't thoughtlessly reproducing the discourses that have accompanied "globalization" to Korea, at least not all of them. But after more than 3 years on the peninsula, I can say with confidence that most language teachers most certainly are. Mention critical literacy and you get a blank look. Tell them what it involves and the look changes to one of confusion or distaste. "I teach reading" you will be told. "I teach listening" they will say. "A teacher must be neutral." But what the fuck are the kids reading and listening to? How about encouraging them to ask some questions about the texts that are steam shoveled into their heads? Fuck VOA, fuck CNN. If you must use this shit, then put on some gloves and examine it with your students. If "grammar" and "vocabulary" is all you know how to teach, then get some books.

(ECE teachers, kindly ignore this rant, keep teaching social skills.)

1 comment:

sam59527 said...