A Specious Argument 1

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5 thoughts on “A Specious Argument 1”

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. As long as the sentence “Respect each person’s style” really means, “Let me be a page turner”, it must be opposed.

    When I first started getting into CI/TPRS I saw Michael Miller, Jason Fritze and Susie Gross. Each has an individual style, and none of their styles is mine. But the method works irrespective of the “style”. We simply cannot allow our colleagues to get away with fuzzy language that reflects fuzzy logic or an outright dodge. (And yes, I am one of those people who objects to “I feel” when “I think” is intended.)

  2. Thank you Ben for making this important distinction between style and method, and Robert for making the distinction between feel and think. I agree that we need to move away from this “safe” argument that every method has value and utility in the language classroom–in strategic ways of course. This is also especially important when departments are making decisions about textbook use and adaptation (as well as testing). I’m guessing that a lot of teachers, administrators and departments are steamrolled by textbook representatives whose livelihoods depend not on helping teachers teach language, but by selling a franchise. Most of them probably believe the two goals are the same, but they have to–their jobs depend on it. We must not allow textbook manufacturers and representatives to speak as authorities or experts on language acquisition. They are experts in getting people to buy books, and that is their #1 priority.

    1. Just to be clear John – that point about style vs. method is from Grant. I think it’s a fantastic point to make. In fact, I am going to take what Grant wrote and respond to a threat with it. It is a threat that is over a year old but still sticks in my teeth badly. (I was going to say “craw” instead of “teeth” but I think craw is a very ugly word.)

      If you remember, I chose under pressure to make this PLC private in May as per this:


      I was so confused – that is the only word – by the heat coming my way in those moments as that IB principal defended his ten member department, all page turners, and then one of them said to me that she wanted me to admit that there is no difference between what (my former student) K wanted (stories) and what she taught.

      The background is that this principal had even called my new (East High School – DPS) principal about this. He had also threatened legal action by (my former employer) Jefferson County lawyers and was very upset that they told him I could say whatever I wanted to on my (at that time) blog.

      This guy had every one of his teachers up in arms that day. I was on my knees from real professional fear and fatigue that I would be sued for the content on this site (the threat seemed real to me at the time). I would have vastly preferred to use my fists than continue that conversation.

      Anyway, right there at the very tail end of that fight, a teacher got on the phone (the principal was exhausted and so was I), and she said something like, “Ben, you know that what we do here in our IB program is just as good as what you do. That is why we are so concerned. You are really slandering our program. So just admit that what we do is fine and it is all a question of style and how we choose to teach (or something like that) and then we can drop all of this.”

      [An aside: the year before on the level one National French exam many of my 8th graders had placed in the top ten of that exam in CO and their IB 9th graders were not on the list. I could have brought that point up at that point but wisely chose not to.]

      To get to the point – I kind of agreed with her. I was twenty four hours away from a plane to India for that winter break and I just wanted to be on the plane and fly out of here. I certainly lacked any commitment in my voice, but I said something to the effect of “Yeah, o.k. you’re right”. I was so tired and as I listened to my verbal acquiesence my mind screamed no at me. It was a bad day, what can I say. I had been scared badly and I all I wanted to do was get off the phone.

      [Another aside: can you imagine Susan Gross with her lawyer husband and being in retirement responding in the way I did? Me neither.]

      Now, with what Grant has written, I can send it as an email to this teacher and her principal. The only thing is that I am on the Do Not Rehire list in Jefferson County for this and the principal told me expressly to never contact him again. But I think I will. What Grant points out finally allows me to get this moment of weakness erased from my own deeper mind. I don’t care how they react.

      1. By the way John, referring to your right on comment about book companies, when I just now went to this school’s site, guess what was written in big letters at the very top of the homepage:


        Note to Parents: Thank you for contributing to your student’s academic success. Teachers request the purchase of student texts for the value of note taking, highlighting, annotation and computation.


  3. It’s the vitriol that goes along with the argument that really has caused me to take the posture of answering if asked and choosing my words carefully when I answer. I hate to put it this way, but the phrase, “You will have to pry my worksheets and grammar books out of my cold, dead hands.” seems to be sometimes closer to the truth than I’d like to believe. In my case, I have managed to carve out a live and let live space for myself.

    I was so disappointed by my colleagues last fall, I decided to try to bring Susan Gross to present her upper level workshop at my school. My administration has been supportive, but my colleagues – not so much. My reasons for inviting Susie were threefold. First, I wanted to encourage my fellow TPRSers in the mid-Atlantic region. There is so much going on out west, up in Maine, etc, and while Carol and Susie have been out to do the beginning CI, it’s been quite a few years since we’ve had any upper level presenters. I want to give my admin a peek into the quality professionals and presenters – the reasons I trek around the country every summer. I was also looking for credibility. I finally figured out that I don’t need their blessing to continue on my chosen path. Besides, I’ve got all of you! Lastly, I want to try to encourage the young folks in our profession to come out and share and learn. At this point, people are coming from all over and I an encouraged by that. When I told my colleague that people were coming to New Jersey from Virginia, she responded by saying that they must have an additional reason for being in NJ – couldn’t be just the workshop! They are threatened and rather pathetic – those whose months and days are regulated by chapters, grammar worksheets, projects, failing students, falling enrollment and material “covered”.

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