BLM – 1

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11 thoughts on “BLM – 1”

  1. What is your proposed solution then Ben? Once we get passed the raising awareness stage (which we get stuck in far too frequently) which you propose here, what can be done? Respectfully, and I am sure there are stats to back this up, a kid not in AP has more to do with an intact/detached family unit at home that it does with race.

  2. It is hard to talk about instutional systems and reconstructions possibilities. I think looking at the ways we teach languages is a pretty good place to start. A language teacher teaching their native tongue has as much better grasp of the cultural constructs of the language than a teacher that is teaching the language as a second or third language. Don’t get me wrong, they can both be very effective and are. But there is a Nuance in the cultural understanding that might go missing something that is not even seen because we are coming from a different set of eyes/brain patterns seeing the world in our home language.

    This generally shows up in our idioms.

    Here is my example. The word for a butterfly’s cocoon roughly translates to “soul’s sack” but you have to know that soul is also the word for innards. This isn’t obvious to the non-native because it is a third meaning in the dictionary. Now while it is a very cool concept a Soul’s sack, it also explains a fundamental concept of Indigenous peoples, that we are each connected as citizens of Creation and must respect all of Creation. We must seek to understand what the trees need to prosper as well as the human.

    I am really just saying that as language instructors there are real opportunities here to help students deconstruct language to see where the inherent racism lies. And yes beginning students might not want to know soul’s sack but isn’t that interesting for the science kid to wrap their brain around too.

    I think Love begins the whole process in a classroom. I believe all students need to have some well placed adults in their lives that send out a message of trust and walk the Talk. And I know sometimes I have been that person and sometimes I was not.

  3. Don’t Asians appear in your AP classes, Ben?

    If it was purely a majority/ minority issue, surely there wouldn’t be an over-representation of “high achieving” minorities like Asians or Jews in academia. Many Vietnamese or Lao immigrants come from just as impoverished, if not more so, backgrounds than black or brown people, yet many succeed academically.

    Race and racism are part of the picture. They’re also not the whole picture.

    I think the basic point of “anyone can be successful at a second language” is the message we should be focused on. In so many countries around the world, people regardless of academic level, social class or other such factors become multilingual. Poor white kids, poor black kids, rich white kids, middle class Asian kids, rich Hispanic kids, middle class black kids… every single one of them can benefit from multilingualism acquired through CI.

    I’m teaching at a boys’ school in Japan. Many of my students will go on to become doctors. Comprehensible Input works for them. But it also works for the kids whose single mothers are working two jobs just to survive. There may be small tweaks around the edges needed to suit the individual environment (eg. my kids are test focused and so I give them vocabulary tests that are largely meaningless but motivate them), but the core of CI should remain the same.

    Even students that graduate this school after 6 years of high quality traditional teaching and a “mastery” level of grammar knowledge can hardly apply that knowledge in situations based on free expression. At this school the 4% is probably more like 40%, but even so, even with a student population that likes and is good at grammar, even despite that CI works better.

  4. For me it’s not about what works best, since we are all different. What works best for me may not work best for you.

    Likewise, my views on CI cannot be the same as yours. We all have our own backgrounds, our own views. My view on racism is my own, as well. I don’t really give much of a shit about those discussions, as if we could figure it all out and all agree. Who cares? We’ve been arguing about civil rights for many decades, and it hasn’t advanced our country very far.

  5. It comes down to why you are in the profession. Why ARE you in the profession? I’m in it because I want to act locally (re: foreign language education and inclusion of all students) and think globally. I want all my students to feel the same success, and I’m willing to have worked 24/7 for the last forty years on that one goal of reaching them all, and I think that after writing about 15 books about it over the past 20 years, I have achieved that goal with my most recent Ultimate CI Book series.

    Do you think that it’s not possible to reach all your kids – for whatever reason (they’re not from a nuclear family, they’re not this, they don’t have that)? Or do you think that it’s possible to reach all your kids?

    What about the way you are teaching? Do you choose just to not look at that and how it may result in disenfranchised kids in your classroom? Is it just the kids’ lack of understanding of your instruction, some flaw in them? Or no?

    Is it possible that some of our students are being left out and that it’s not their fault? That they’re not lazy or stupid, that things might be going on in their lives that would shove you to the ground?

    Could it be that something in your own teaching demeanor might be sending a strong unseen message to certain kids of yours that they are not welcome in your classroom unless they do it your way?

  6. I have only one question that I wish to raise and use to challenge all language teachers, irregardless of the racism vs non-racism vs. Asians vs. this and that the other.

    Here’s what I want to know:

    What are you doing in your classes to teach in a way that reaches kids who for whatever reason (father in prison, mother dead, on welfare, not on welfare, from privilege, not from privilege, have good self-image, cut their arms, etc.).

    What do you do to include them all? Or do you not do that? Which one?

  7. My students are basically all privileged. There are selective entrance tests for the school I work out and it’s pretty much universal for students to attend cram schools in elementary school in order to enter. They’re richer than average and they’re smarter than average. They wouldn’t be at this school if they weren’t.

    That doesn’t mean life is perfect for all of them. I have minority kids (which in Japan often means kids with non-Japanese names- Korean or Chinese surnames). I have kids whose parents have health problems (including one who lost his mother recently). I have kids whose parents are divorced, or all-but divorced.

    I want to be able to connect to all those students. But there are 47-48 students in a single class. I teach 4 classes of that size- so 191 students in total. There’s not enough hours in the day.

    Education was never my goal for life, but it has become so. I was never inspired by a teacher that made me want to go into teaching. But I kind of fell into it as it’s one of the easiest career paths in Japan and I fell in love with it over time.

    So for me, my main goals in education I guess are two fold:
    1) Deliver English education maximising the “result:time” ratio. I think English language proficiency is particularly important and Japan isn’t performing as well as it could be. Traditional grammar-translation teaching with classes taught in 70%+ Japanese is a big culprit.
    2) To break my Japanese students out of their narrow patterns of thinking. Many of my students are so used to doing things in a certain way that they can’t conceive of alternatives. Either global ones or even ones within their own country. My debate kids are recently discussion the proposition that “selective entrance tests should be banned” and a common response is “there’s no arguments for the affirmative side!” They can’t even imagine that testing may not be a good thing.

    So I guess because I’m teaching privileged kids that I want to maximise the benefit they get out of that privilege while simultaneously trying to help them gain some awareness of their privilege so they can use it to help others.

  8. In the book I mentioned about talking about racism there is an excellent chapter on “check your privilege”. It was super revealing when the author laid out her own privilege. There were several things I had not even thought of as a privilege but in context absolutely were. It might be an interesting discussion. She especially pointed out how hard she had worked to get where she was and how that was connected to her using the privileges she had.

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