I see a parallel with what is happening with police and what is happening with teachers. Both are being asked to do too much. This brings a certain meanness into them.
Look at how we grade kids. It is divisive. Some deep kind of dark principle, the same one that divides cops from the people they are supposed to protect, is starting to be exposed in education, a dark principle very much connected to the way we teach and assess that also divides teachers from the children they are supposed to teach.
It has to do, in the case of the police, with assessing whether someone broke the law or not, or is a threat. In the case of teaching, and I am only talking about teaching languages here because that is all I know about, it’s about assessing whether a student has learned something or not.
Isn’t it our responsibility to make sure they learn something? Can we continue to blame them if they don’t learn? Can cops keep shooting if the black man runs? Where are the adults, holding themselves responsible as adults for what happens in their professions of law enforcement and teaching?
In the case of cops, usually it’s the white citizens who don’t get shot. Potentially dangerous incidents with whites don’t escalate like they do with blacks. With teachers, it’s usually the white kids who get the higher grades. The brown and black kids don’t get shot, they just get ignored. They get shot later.
You can try to argue this point about what has been happening in education for far too long, but you would lose.
Here is just one example:
In their language classes, teachers often put a speaking grade down in their grade book with novice level students. They should probably go read the research, because doing that is just wrong in the first place. They shouldn’t do that. Would you assess and grade a 2 month old because they can’t yet speak?
We think that getting a speaking grade in our novice classes on a student is not such a big deal. Try convincing the child who agonizes for some kind of approval in their classes all day of that. It’s a big deal to them.
Finally, when the teacher makes it clear in their instruction that they won’t teach in a way that allows their students to succeed, the kids give up and you lose students, so it hurts both of you.
Forcing kids to speak in class is bad enough already, but then forcing them to speak for a grade is absurd, against the research, and all kinds of other bad things that have nothing to do with the way people acquire languages and do nothing but destroy kids’ belief in themselves as language learners.
If we see that kind of meanness in the way cops interact with their communities, all on micro levels in micro events that get glossed over by the way we live in our society these days maybe we will see the pressing need for some of the things we see going on now in our society.
Do we really think that we in language education are immune to the changes in our society that are happening now? Grow up. It’s not just on the cops.
Come on. Look around. Figure it out. Change the way you are teaching. Make it less about white privilege. You can do it, but you must wake up first.
Wake the hell up.