Postcards from the Edge of the Internet

At the start of this week I was thrown a curve ball and caught on the hop, the careless mixing of the metaphors alone left me conjuring up an image of one of baseball’s more surreal moments. I was totally unprepared when I was asked, at very short notice, to cover the “Global Citizenship” class for a few weeks. Although it’s a subject that I’ve never taught before, I would be teaching it to a class of grade twelve students that I have taught English to for the previous three years, because of this I had no qualms about covering the class until a replacement teacher could be found.

Having had no time to plan a lesson, or for preparing any materials, my plan had to be formulated during the ten-minute motorcycle journey to work. I decided that the first week we would have a debate, and I allowed the students to decide the topic from a choice of three:

  1. Is there a difference between being a global citizen and a citizen of your own country?
  2. Is technology causing us to become less human?
  3. Does the freedom of speech mean that all opinions should be respected equally?

The students narrowed it down to between numbers two and three, which pleased me as these were the two questions that I had given the time and effort to thinking of on my way to work, the third one being someone else’s idea that I had taken the time and effort to steal off of the internet.

Eventually, the students decided that they would discuss the topic of whether technology was causing people to become less human. From initial conversations, it became apparent that the students’ opinion was split evenly between those who felt technology was causing us to become less human and those who felt that it wasn’t. As I allowed the students to research and prepare their arguments, I casually circulated around the room in an awkward manner that only a 40-year-old male with little self-awareness can. As I listened to their conversations with one another I couldn’t help but get involved. What became apparent very quickly to me was how at ease both groups were with the role that they allowed technology to play in their lives. Most students felt that conversations over a webcam lacked none of the intimacy of a conversation conducted face to face. A number of students expressed the idea that they actually felt less awkward communicating through digital formats, whether it be text messaging, emails, chat-rooms, or webcams. After a short amount of time, both groups had discussed the proposition and despite the fact that they were meant to be preparing for a debate, they had  concluded that progress is good, or at least that progress is inevitable so you might as well enjoy it, and that technology is inextricably linked to  progress and therefore it too must be good. The arguments of both groups had run aground on a sandbar of technological apathy. It occurred to me that these students experience the world almost as much through technology, as they do through any of their other senses. To them discussing the benefits of technology was akin to discussing the benefits of using your eyes. It appeared to me that technology had almost become an extension of their senses, and debating whether it’s beneficial was, to the students, redundant. When I asked them whether a conversation over a webcam had less value than a face to face discussion, they looked at me in a way that was at first confused, but then gave way to sympathy as they realized how the teacher was “so old, and just doesn’t get it”. When at last they were able to comprehend the meaning of what I had just asked them, they just casually responded that there were no advantages to having conversations face to face and that a webcam is perfectly capable of capturing the essence of communication, maybe even of what it means to be human. I looked disbelievingly at them and asked for clarification, which they provided for me by rolling their eyes and returning my look of disbelief wrapped up in an air of unhealthy cynicism.

It started to become obvious to me that the teacher and the student were looking at the same issue from two totally different perspectives. Being forty years old, I had seen computers evolve from machines that had struggled to do anything more advanced than the most basic mathematical calculations. This had left me cautious and skeptical as to their ability to replace, or even enhance, the fundamental requirements necessary for meaningful human communication. These students, however, expressed no reservations about embracing any technology into their daily routine, trusting that its benefits will always outweigh any problems it might create.  Because after all, technology is progress and progress is good.

I was starting to feel my age, and so, as I withdrew from their conversations I started to understand how alienated my lack of faith in technology had left me, how much the world had moved on during the time I’d spent researching Japanese pornography.

filmeditor vomit the exorcist possessed exorcist
A metaphor of what it feels like when one of your students answers a question with an unexpected and inappropriate response.

Technology Failures

Back in the early nineties, I was a teenager struggling with my sense of identity. I had a low self-esteem and I was trying desperately to figure out who I was. I was insecure and unsure of my place, my purpose and my reason for being in the world. In short, it was a challenging time. Some would have called it teenage angst, others might have seen it as an existential crisis,  when in all reality it was probably nothing more than just good old fashioned puberty.Image result for clippy gif

The world was moving quickly, the dawn of the digital age and the personal computer was upon us. As a student, I was told that my ability to get a job, to fend for myself, to provide for my family, would be inextricably linked to my ability to use a computer. Failure to adapt to the computer revolution would result in my becoming a technological pariah, pushed to the fringes of society and laughed at. While I could understand the potential of computers and the role that they would inevitably go on to play in society, my predisposition for self-loathing wasn’t helped by the fact that somebody, somewhere, had decided that the public would be more likely to accept the digital revolution, if it was presented to them through the medium of talking pieces of inanimate office stationary. Struggling to appreciate your sense of self-worth becomes infinitely more challenging once you start taking advice from a narcissistic paperclip that talked down to you. I was never that scared of using computers, I was open to the idea, and could even see the benefits of using them to complete my school work. What I did become affraid of was being second-guessed by a paperclip with all the personality of sundried fart, and the agenda of a dogmatic demagogue. Who can ever forget the irritatingly malevolent, froideur bastard Clippy?clippy A character dreamt up by the twisted mind of a perverse, failed software engineer, somewhere in rainy Seatle, entombed deep in the bowels of Microsoft. The instant I would start to type something Clippy would appear in my field of vision at some sinisterly oblique angle, questioning me as to what my purpose was, whether my intentions were aligned to that of the software. Clippy went about his job with the sort of enthusiasm and zeal of a Nazi on his first day at work, guarding a concentration camp.

What made Clippy particularly malevolent was how his abhorrent personality had been disguised by the form of a doe-eyed paperclip. His appearance succeeded in fooling many of my friends, but I knew a bastard when I saw one. And so it was that I embarked upon several years of psychological warfare with a talking paperclip, and just when I appeared to be getting the upper hand Clippy called in the reinforcements.

Image result for microsoft office assistant merlinImage result for microsoft office assistant catImage result for microsoft office assistant einstein

Admittedly Clippy had at least gone to the trouble of enlisting the help of sentient beings to undermine my fragile confidence, but there was something not quite right about the fact that I’d gone from taking the advice of a paperclip to taking advice from the twentieth century’s foremost physicist Einstein over a relatively brief period of time. Inevitably this led me to question the likelihood of Einstein not just having a talking paperclip as a colleague, but also a talking cat and a pagan wizard. All this ended up doing was for me to develop a heightened suspicion towards any of Einstein’s theories.

Nearly thirty years on and the memory of Clippy lingers and can still be the cause of a restless night’s sleep, so enduring has been the pernicious nature of the damage he wrought upon my fragile psyche. The confidence of a thirteen-year-old boy can’t be expected to wrestle with both Oedipus and Clippy in some kind of bizarre, Freudian tag team at a morally corrupt Wrestlemania, whilst a fanatical crowd bays for the youth to be emasculated by random pieces of office stationery.

At the beginning of the 1990’s computers were being used by students more and more for school work. For example, all Business Studies projects had to be submitted after being typed up on a word processor. Today that seems like no big deal, but you have to remember what the ‘technology’ was like back then, what with the continuous feed printer paper with the tear off holes down the side. In essence, it was little different than handing your ideas in on a piece of high tech toilet paper.Image result for continuous feed printer paper I remember my parents bought me a word processing program for my computer, the Commodore Amiga. Now the Amiga was primarily a computer for playing games, and using it to produce academic work would today be comparable to trying to do your accounts on a Sony Playstation. Of course, the neo-Luddites in society did their usual thing and claimed that spell check would destroy people’s ability to spell, leaving society as nothing Image result for neo ludditesmore than a severely dyslexic, gibbering mess. Of course ten years earlier they had been shouting and screaming similar things about how the calculator would render us incapable of performing even the most simple mental arithmetic ever again. If history has been able to tell us one thing, it’s that those who try and stand in the way of progress run a high risk of ending up looking like a complete arse.

Generally speaking, the track record of man to predict the impact that a technology will have on society in the future has often at best been hit and miss. Take for example Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, who completely failed to grasp the full potential his invention had to change the world when he said:

“One day there will be a telephone in every major city in the USA”

 

Education – A Means of Social Control and the Common Core

weapons-of-mass-instruction

As a means of finding ways to improve what they do, teachers are expected to reflect on their practice to find things they can do better. Nothing sounds particularly alarming about that, I’m confident many other occupations encourage self awareness and improvement, but when a teacher is constrained by the standards set by a government ones reflection can become considerably restricted. Most teachers start off as idealists, after eleven years I still have my moments, moments when I feel ‘I can make a difference’. New teachers want to open up the eyes of their students to the abundance of opportunity that awaits them in the world. Over time this enthusiasm is slowly and painfully drawn out of the teachers soul, eventually leaving a hollow shell, stripped of dignity denuded of hope and with only self loathing for company. Many methods are used to achieve the complete demoralization of a teacher, but by far the most frequently used is change. Constant change to how you do something eventually leads you to conclude that you are always doing everything wrong:

We trained hard … but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.

Common Core State Standards

A little like the result of a game of Chinese whispers, the Common Core initiative was a by product that resulted out of the motivation behind the American Diploma Project (an attempt to standardize the quality of high school diplomas). In an article for the Washington Post New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the year, Carol Burris identifies what she calls ‘4 Common Core Flimflams’.                                                           Flimflam (n): nonsensical or insincere talk.                                               “I suppose that you suspect me of pseudo-intellectual flimflam”

  1. Flimflam # 1: The Common Core standards are internationally benchmarked and grounded in research.

I am forever being informed that the common core standards are grounded in research, Burris argues strongly against this assertion, whilst also admitting to be at a loss as to which countries benchmarks they may have used. To read her three further flimflams see the link below.

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/09/17/four-common-core-flimflams/

In the Common Core knowledge is cut down to the essential need to knows that everyone will be taught, with teachers likely to teach to the standards not beyond them. Some might call this creating a level playing field, others the beginnings of a path to mass social control. Teachers will have a framework and a standardized rubric in which to teach and assess their students ability to think critically, something they will all have to do the same way, they will conform in their criticality because that is how to get good marks. Ultimately we will have a society that won’t be afraid to rock the boat because everyone will agree that the boat needs to be rocked. We will have a population of sheep, to serve the best interests of a small minority. 

This mass production of people is not reserved purely for the working class, in his book ‘Excellent Sheep’ William Deresiewicz postulates how education at all levels is mass producing graduates to fill predetermined roles in society.

It’s a bleak and soulless scene. But nobody protests. Any doubts are allayed by presidents and deans, who tell students before they arrive and repeat after they graduate that they are the most dazzling, brilliant, gifted young people ever to enter whichever college they attend. And any crises of conscience or conduct are averted by a system that cuts the chosen ones endless slack, penalizes no misconduct and sees to it that all have prizes at the end.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/books/review/excellent-sheep-by-william-deresiewicz.html?_r=1

Standardizing testing, standardizing curriculum if only we could standardize students and tattoo bar codes on the back of their heads. meat-grinderPeople are not standardized and to force people through a one size fits all meat grinder of education, can be in nobodies best interests, with the exception of the ruling elite perhaps.

I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the surprise you have in store when you discover that the elaborate system of social control official schooling represents has been a vigorously worked out idea for at least 400 years. The real question you should be asking is why, in all the years of school incarceration you suffered, did nobody bother to let you in on the secret?

J. T Gatto Weapons of Mass Instruction

social control
Yes; we are all individuals.

Often regarded as a loose canon by his peers, Gatto (New York City teacher of the year 1989,1990, 1991 and New York State teacher of the year 1991) refers to what is called ‘the hidden curriculum’, what might also be perceived as education’s hidden agenda. The hidden curriculum to which Gatto originally referred to with suspicion is today however accepted and the importance of the role schools play in socialization is being increasingly recognized;

Education is a process of socialization. It prepares the child for social living. It reforms the attitudes wrongly formed by the children. Thus a family may make the child superstitious; education will correct his beliefs and remove his prejudices. It teaches him value of discipline, social cooperation, tolerance and sacrifice. It instills in him the qualities of honesty, fair play and a sense of right and wrong. The importance of education for creating right social attitudes among youth cannot be overlooked.

http://www.sociologyguide.com/social-control/education.php

With education in the west focused on standardizing itself and striving to produce standardized people, that fit neatly into a standardized society. And with much of the rest of the world receiving education through the medium of English, it’s not too hard to perceive a future hive mentality. As Huxley suggested humans of different castes all conforming to the society’s need for that caste, all consuming all asking the questions they have been taught to ask. Our standardized society is nigh.

Brave New World Finished

Gonzo symbol

All Aboard the Education Gravy Train – A Savage Journey to the Heart of Economic Servitude

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Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge,

but he that hateth reproof is brutish

Proverbs 12:1

It was always going to be a strange day. Taking the high school students to the University expo, fair. Or would it turn out to be a circus, complete with clowns, unicycles, and bearded ladies, a macabre show masquerading under the pretense of education but whose aim was nothing more than to entertain the youth and convince them that paying tens of thousands of dollars to a university over the next four years would be in their best interest. There was plenty of room to doubt that the students were excited about this trip. In conversations prior to our departure, it seemed impossible, but they were more cynical than I was. Their lack of concern as to what they might be studying in two years time was no less than disturbing, reckless even.

To set the context, a couple of months back I asked my students “how do you learn something?” A student was quick to reply “pay a teacher.” A response I was far from expecting and when I asked the rest of the class what they thought, I soon appreciated that it was  universally accepted that the payment of money, to them constitutes the first stage of the learning process. Thus calling into question the academic theories of Vygotsky, Piaget, and Bruner, whilst laughing in the face of Socrates’ and his gallant refusal to accept payment for teaching. In fact according to these students every theory of learning had been blown apart by their collective cynicism and is in need of immediate revision. The fact that these students were able to surpass my own vast reserves of cynicism left me feeling unnerved, unsure as to who I was and the role that I was expected to play in this whole teacher, student dynamic. Their view of things was different from that of my generation. After all it had taken my generation years of disappointment to achieve our degree of cynicism, but here were these young upstarts showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty and morality, bitterly sneering, contemptuous.

What was happening? What was next? We were going to a university fair, of that much I was sure, but these cynical vibrations had set me on edge, taken me by surprise. Would I be able to endure the 3 hour van journey, confined in such an enclosed space, participating in conversations that were more akin to free association, or that would perhaps deteriorate completely and leave us at the level of dumb beasts? It was too late to worry about these questions, all of us were committed no matter how strange the vibrations got.

The Costs Versus the Value of a University Education

What are the costs of going to university and how well are they off set by the benefits? 30 years ago a university degree assured the graduate of employment and receiving a decent salary, as well as a prime position for professional development and promotion. A graduate could expect to earn the sort of salary that would finance a steady coke habit, develop a  gambling addiction, or any of the other good old fashioned American pastimes. Today the world of the graduate is less bountiful, offering far less opportunity to develop self destructive habits. With nearly every country in Europe and North America languishing in a time of austerity, and little to no economic growth, opportunities are few and far between. Therefore it requires serious thought, wealthy parents or a fearless student who is unafraid to yoke themselves with up to $100,000 worth of debt, for which there is no guarantee, that at the end of it they will secure a ways or means of paying it off. In some respects you might just be better off borrowing $100,000, and go to Vegas, it would after all be quicker than the 4 years of study and probably has a similar chance of seeing a beneficial financial return.

US student debt is scary. It’s an uncontrollable, rabid bull, intoxicated by the scent of youthful optimism, that has been set loose in an academic china shop. Student debt is in excess of $1.2 trillion, a debt greater than that owed by all student-e1393014217134Americans on their credit cards. Student debt is also greater than the total outstanding on mortgages.  In 2005 the average student debt was $17,233, by 2012 that amount had risen 58% to $27,253.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/halahtouryalai/2014/02/21/1-trillion-student-loan-problem-keeps-getting-worse/

Student debt has a knock on effect as it delays a student from making financial commitments such as taking on a mortgage or a car loan, making regular payments to the local meth dealer, starting a new businesses or saving for the future. This immense financial strain on the educated sector of society has a potentially disastrous national economic effect.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-26893131

Life for a new graduate can be extremely disappointing. The number of new graduates each year vastly out numbers graduate level jobs.

  • Forty one percent of workers who graduated from college in the past two years say they are underemployed and working in jobs that do not require their college degrees;
  • 41% 0f recent graduates are earning &25,000 or less;
  • 80% of college graduates expect their first employer to provide a training program;
  • 52% of graduates did not receive training through formal programs at their first job;

    USA face
    To pay off his student debt this young boy had the scar strangled banger tattooed onto his face and is paraded around during the interval of the seal show at Sea World.
  • 38% of new graduates have to live with mum or dad upon graduating.
  • Only 16 percent of students who will graduate in 2013 had already secured employment as of April 1, 2013.

http://www.accenture.com/us-en/Pages/insight-2013-accenture-college-graduate-employment-survey.aspx

Figures like this make you question the morality of taking a bus load of students to a University Fair without giving them a prior warning of the scope and magnitude of making this decision.

EDU USAWhen I had been at the fair for about a couple of hours, I decided it was time to start antagonizing the miserable souls who had been wedged into their booths like irritable, obese battery hens, forced to sell their university. I had come all this way and it seemed like the least I could do was try and learn something while harassing some poor sod who was just trying to make their way peacefully through the day. Unaware as I am to the intricacies and workings of the U.S education system, I decided to meet with a representative of ACE, a service funded through the U.S State Dept. They provide advice and support to overseas students wishing to go to university in the U.S. A pleasant man brandished his business card at me, sporting the rather comedic name Mike Hock. I could tell by the look in his eye that he believed he was doing the right thing, he believed in his position in life. Usually I find such optimism to be nauseous and repulsive. Instantly I could tell that Mike was probably the type of guy that was into extreme sports, doing press ups before taking a shower each morning, and on a gluten free diet. But, I knew I had to grit my teeth and establish communications with Mike to allow my curiosity to be satisfied. In what developed to become an eminently forgettable conversation I was left puzzled by one thing he said. U.S students sit the S.A.T, on which the average student gets a score of  about 1,500 out of a possible 2,400. Mike told me students with an S.A.T score of 1,000 could find a place at a university in America. This set off the cymbals of cognitive dissonance in my head. Surely university is a place for those who have shown competency in academics. Why would someone so far below average want to even pursue getting a university degree? I wonder what would happen to professional sports teams if they adopted a similar selection criteria. If I had the cash could I be playing short stop for the Yankees? But it’s not just American universities that have turned their back on education in the interest of corporate greed. The U.K also seems to think that education must equal debt.

So it appears that American and U.K  universities are not so much academic institutions focused on developing the knowledge of their students, but more of a proxy for financial institutions that ensnare graduates into financial servitude.

think_outside_the_box_by_gingergenius-d5aslao

It’s ironic, a saying intended to inspire original thought has now become an oxymoron and parodies itself due to its unoriginal and over usage. Surely it’s time for someone to think outside the cone, maybe someone could think outside the context, think outside the book or the page if this metaphor is to retain its purpose of conveying the need for originality. As it is, it has become nothing more than a tired, sad, old, overworked metaphor carelessly bandied around in staff rooms by teachers who have all but given up the will to think and perhaps even the will to live.

Thinking outside the box is what teachers endlessly encourage their students to do. To think critically about what they are told and what they read, and yet at the university fair every student unquestioningly accepted that university has to be their next step. They unquestioningly accept that amassing enormous debt is nothing more than a rite of passage. These students weren’t even thinking of going to university as a decision for it had already been decided on a subconscious level, with no thought, understanding, or questioning of whether it will benefit them. There was more chance of me finding a missing Malaysian airliner than of finding a critical thought in this venue.

Are life’s most valuable skills learned inside a classroom?

As the sun set behind the hilly landscape and the bus darkened, so did my mood. Here I was shepherding this young flock of unsuspecting lambs into the jaws of  financial servitude, this was weighing heavily on my conscience, adding to my self loathing. I was keenly aware of the need to finish this account positively, after all these are my students and this is their future I’m talking about. So before my mood toppled over the edge and into the abyss of despair, I removed my head from out of my ass and took a look around the bus. Despite the fact that the students were hungry and tired they sat quietly talking to one another, laughing,smiling. You could tell these students lived in a dormitory together, their interactions were more akin to that of family members than just school friends. The few students that didn’t board at the school were included into this dynamic without hesitation or a second thought. Despite their tiredness the students maintained the highest respect for both their friends and their teachers. I started to realize the value of these students and what they can potentially offer to society in ten years time. I can honestly say that these grade ten and eleven students were exhibiting social skills that were far more developed than the majority of adults I come into contact with. These characteristics were not learned inside a classroom, nor have they ever been assessed and given a score out of 10. They have been  honing these skills almost from birth, practicing and refining them with the zeal and discipline of the most dedicated student.

educationrevolution_2185_25096810The purpose and values of schools have long been questioned (see JT Gato Weapons of Mass Instruction). What are the skills that students need to learn today for tomorrow’s society? The mass production, industrial assembly line, that teachers like to think doesn’t exist today does, only on an even grander more complex scale than ever before. I cannot believe that it is in the best interest of a student to commence their professions under the burden of such debt.

As is often the case, my students teach me the most profound lessons. They have shown me what a people can do for one another. That kindness and consideration when shown equally throughout a group is enormously powerful. If someone had the money to invest in these students they would work so well and so hard together they would be able to rival any organization. And none of these skills were taught by me, not in a classroom.

I only hope the students remain patient and will be good enough to continue to teach me, although what they’re going to get out of it god only knows.

Teaching English as an Additional Language – A 10 Year Odyssey in Search of a Correctly Conjugated Verb


linguistic-imperialism-1-728

It all started a long time ago in a land far far away. Like minded people gathered asking questions, they would seek out teachers who would help them to better understand the world and their lives. From Socrates to Pericles, to Plato and Aristotle education began with the noblest and purest of intentions. Socrates refused payment for his teaching as he believed that knowledge should not only be given just to those who could afford it.

What follows are my thoughts following ten years of prostituting off my mother tongue to the highest bidder around Southeast Asia. For many of my experiences the setting has almost always been in schools, but sadly the subject has seldom been education.

Native English Speaking Teachers – A Soldier in an Army of Linguistic Missionaries

The teachers you get coming to Southeast Asia are some of life’s most unique individuals. 95% of them fall in to one of the two following categories. Type ones come to teach in Southeast Asia to avoid debt or custodial sentences, they are too far gone to hang on to the coattails of social acceptability in their native countries, too introverted, too extroverted or just too perverted to fit in anywhere else. They wander through the countries of Southeast Asia with a head full of confused grammar and loose morals. Then you get those poor bastards who come here unaware as to just how depraved and twisted this place is. They leave behind good jobs, with good prospects, and find themselves teaching in an educational vacuum, desperately trying to cling on to the values they know to be true, but they dare not utter. Right away these people know they have entered an environment where knowledge is not just ignored but aggressively attacked. It is a place where black can be white, where sometimes two plus two does equal five and where it can be considered just too damn dangerous to have fire drills.

In ten years I have seen many different types of teachers pass through schools, I’ve seen a few passed out in classrooms too. At first being an expat and working in a school was weird, it was like mixing the most mind bending twisted holiday at night, with a responsible job during daylight hours. Needless to say such compartmentalization of these two disparate worlds was not always possible. On one occasion I recall a teacher turning up for work at three o’clock in the afternoon because they had an appointment with the principal about the renewal of his contract. Exactly when he’d started drinking and if indeed he had actually stopped, it was impossible to tell, he had to look for work elsewhere.  Ten years ago you were unlikely to find a teacher sober before lunchtime, indeed you would be lucky to find many teachers in school prior to lunchtime. A decade ago you could and did do anything, drinking until three in the morning when you started teaching at eight was nothing unusual.

Times have changed, things have become more serious. Maybe I’ve just changed and become sober.

Globalization, Indoctrination and Linguistic Imperialism

Why is there such a need for English to be taught around the world? Why is English the lingua franca? Why is it  that these countries must have native English speakers teaching their children, after all when I learned French I did so from an English person? Could it be that it is all bullshit?

There has been a long held belief that a western education is better. In turn there is that western teachers must also be better. These are beliefs that are consistently reinforced through linguistic imperialism,  defined as:

the dominance asserted and retained by the establishment and continuous reconstitution of structural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages.

Phillipson, Robert (1992), p 47.

English is the language of capitalism and a vital tool of the global hegemony. The ceaseless reinforcement of the importance of the English language through the pervasive international marketing of American brands, and rhetoric used by institutions like the British Council. English is accepted by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as the common language. It is reasonable to expect that in a world of such international trade that there must be a common language, in this case English, but that in no way means that native English speaking countries provide the best education nor necessarily the best teachers to teach the English language.

Last years report by the  Organization for Economic and Cultural Diversity (OECD) showed how these five countries fared against one another:

   

Literacy Maths Science
Singapore 3 2 3
Japan 4 7 4
Korea 5 5 7
United Kingdom 23 26 21
United States 24 36 28

For the full list see the link below:                     

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/leaguetables/10488555/OECD-education-report-subject-results-in-full.html

Obviously these results  are unflattering to the two major English speaking countries, even more so when you consider that Singapore’s language of instruction is English and they severely out performed both the United States and the United Kingdom in literacy. This raises the question would Singaporean English teachers be more effective teachers of English to Southeast Asian children? Simply the answer is yes but they would command huge salaries.

So why are native English speaking teachers still in so much demand throughout Southeast Asia? There remains a belief, that still carries some truth, that a degree from the west is of greater value than a degree from a Southeast Asian country. Whilst this may be true the only thing that prevents Southeast Asian students from getting a degree from a western university is the cash. Nowadays having the financial resources is more important than having the academic ability. Western Universities are run like businesses and they charge a premium for foreign students. This brings us back to where we started and Socrates refusing to be paid as knowledge should not only be given to those that can afford it. Truth be told though no knowledge has to be given, nor often is, just a degree certificate that proved you paid to attend a university for three years.

Education, in particular English Language education in foreign countries has become an industry, which feeds off of, and reinforces the beliefs of linguistic imperialism. What must be held as most important is what a student is capable of learning, not what language they are capable of learning it in.

The truth is nobody but the students should profit from education.

Looking upon my 10 years in Southeast Asia I can state categorically that Linguistic imperialism rocks, it has allowed me to live for a decade, the first half of which was spent indulging in such hedonistic debauchery it would have made Nero blush, comfortably in Southeast Asia. Yes there might be some moral questions that remain unanswered, but so long as I’m alright I’ll just keep turning a blind eye and a deaf ear.

union-jack-lips-by-passion-lips