Rumblings in the UK

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7 thoughts on “Rumblings in the UK”

  1. HI all. Yes, I was invited by the Association for Latin Teaching (an organization begun in the 1800’s by a group of renegade Latin teachers who were attempting essentially what we do here!). At the time, it was dubbed the ARLT, Association for the REFORM of Latin Teaching.

    As VP of the organization, Keith invited me to come and do several sessions about and of TPRS in a Latin classroom. I did one plenary session presenting TPRS, what it was, and how it worked, and then 3 class sessions for those who signed up demonstrating TPRS with follow up Q and A. The class sessions had 15-20 Latin teachers in each, and they were actually wonderful fun. Between all sessions, night and day, and at every meal, these teachers engaged me in personal conversation. A picture, a really disturbing one, began to emerge. On the one hand, they were really drawn to what I was presenting and what they were experiencing. On the other hand, the conditions under which they teach boggle even our test driven minds. They only see their students for like 40 minutes, 3 times a week. Unless it’s 2 times a week. They are expected in 4 years of what we would call high school to get them ready for exams translating the toughest classical authors in the language. Cribbing the exam is common.

    What I heard at the end of it all was how much they wanted to do this, but how confused they were to make it happen under these conditions. I had no real answers for them. It’s a cultural and political problem (use of power–not which party do you belong to).

    At the conference were editors and CEO of a major publisher who approached me and Keith to prepare materials for the publisher and for workshops with teachers in the UK. A little less than a year later, those contracts were withdrawn because “this work is based on Krashen, and according to our experts, no one is reading Krashen anymore.” Later that year, I spent several hours with one of them and pressed over and over about why Krashen’s ideas were not worthwhile. All he could say to me was that his experts say that NOBODY is reading Krashen anymore. I told him, in so many choice words, that his experts had forgotten to check with anyone outside their ivory towers.

    So, there it is. Keith is doing wonderful work among his peers. He wrote me yesterday to tell me that Blaine was coming and to ask if he could put some quotes from me in his flyer. I love his passion, and he WILL make some inroads. He’s just up against a tough fight. Makes my complaints seem trivial.

    I’ve sent an update on my work here to you, Ben. I’ve also advised two more Latin teachers to join this wonderful community. Hope they follow through.

  2. Wonderfully described, Bob, especially the point about how it is not political but driven by power. It’s probably those robes and the architecture. Hell, if I were expected to wear such robes and teach in buildings like those at Oxford and Cambridge, I’d probably get a false idea of who I was too and make perfectly intelligent language learners feel like they can’t do it either. We may be an imperfect nation where democracy is about whipped to death but we have a lot going on in our free speech to share ideas that will help kids enjoy language learning more than they have in the past. Is it no accident that the last people to want to admit that Krashen is alive and well thank you very much are in universities, our own included? In a way, by making sure that our instruction includes all our kids and not just those who can learn the rules, we are bringing to the table of language instruction a more real, more vibrant version of democracy than ever before. Next time we key in on the kid who is hiding, who is afraid to self advocate, who is in fear in a classroom but laughs a bit in the safety we bring into our room for her, we should think about what we really are doing and what you were doing over there when you addressed that group – doing what we Americans do best – demanding equal rights for all and generally causing a ruckus.

    1. Krashen is alive and well! It sounds like the title of a great book. I really am not interested enough to wade through research. I believe in Krashen because everything he says fits perfectly to what I have experienced in teaching ever since I began …. in 1967. (yeah, I know, some of you weren’t born then.) My intuition tells me the man is right. And no one has yet proved him wrong. All they can say is “nobody’s reading him”, which means “he’s not today’s fad.”

  3. A lot of scholars, those in UK at the university level, have a centuries old tradition of living in their minds. But Krashen points the way to actual human, heart based interaction, which is what language between people is. Mental, mind based interaction doesn’t really have much to do with language, if you think about it, bc in my view we use language to get closer to each other, to communicate more than just mere information, to make our lives infinitely richer, like in this very conversation, and to share things for the common good.

    Language is a gift we have been given to get closer to each other in a way that robots can never be close to each other. Why would those UK scholars, those guys who resemble Jeremy in the Yellow Submarine, want to change to focus on language as a human thing that brings humans closer together? It would mean that they would have to change their point of reference in life from the brain to the heart, a big leap for us all.

    For centuries those and many American language scholars have been creating distance (the ivory tower) between them and regular folks. That Krashen’s research points to this human element as THE essential piece in language acquisition is not something those scholars would want to espouse.

    For them, language acquisition is about establishing mental superiority about the mechanics of language over others who really don’t care. Pretty sad existence. If they really understand Krashen, they would have to open up their hearts. Can’t blame them. Few people want to do that work. I do feel that that is a big reason why we are so opposed in our work. What we do with comprehensible input is a very gut wrenching and heart opening process.

  4. You are so right, Ben. Krashen, while fulfilling all the erudition of the scholar, is, even because of that, able to point so clearly to the human heart, the human experience. That is what calls to me from his work, quite like the poetry of Hafiz, of Mary Oliver and others. There is a real, lived experience in his work. Even as I read it, I know, already, within me, that it is true.

  5. And much of it was derived from about 30 years of hard research and a ton of published articles that are very hard to refute. The easiest way to dispute all his work is to say that it is not true but without really reading any of it. If you read it with any awareness at all, you have to feel its truth and respond as Bob describes above.

    We had about forty of our iFLT teachers at an evening gathering in Breckenridge. Berty Siegel was there and Krashen. Krashen is 71 and Berty 81. My thought standing there as everybody was engaged in talking and visiting was that not enough people have celebrated these two giants.

    So I turned to Kate Taluga and asked her to get everybody’s attention – her Myskoge Indian tribe has a way of doing that that is much more effective than anything I could have done – think of an Indian war cry breaking through the Colorado mountains – and when everyone was quiet I made a speech for about two minutes about the two of them.

    I tried to convey that my whole life has been changed for the better by their work. I tried to convey how grateful I was for the way that they have done work that has paved the way for me to be happy in my own work. I didn’t care how corny it sounded – I figured I wouldn’t get that chance again.

    They were both so gracious and then everybody went back to talking. I’m glad I did it, as those chances aren’t given every day. We need to tell those that we love that we love them, and I love Stephen and Berty.

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