I just viewed a “map” of skills, for the 21st century language learner, naturally. Boy! I would love to find a teacher who had all those arrows in their quiver, let alone a student. As I read, I kept thinking, “How would various people determine exactly what some of these elements entail?” To a small school district administrator, accepting diverse perspectives may be tantamount to abandoning cherished educational goals in a religiously oriented community. Recently, an exchange occurred on a listserv where some members objected to dancing done by little girls; they thought the dancing was eroticizing the children. When I tried to explain that those moves and dress represented a deep tradition and should not be interpreted in the sexual way Westerners have always interpreted hip movements, I was slammed – really hard. I was ridiculed for suggesting that this fell into the realm of cultural diversity. In fact, after someone told me I should take my political opinions elsewhere (one reason teachers continue to get shafted – they will not fight, believing in an all-beneficent administration to protect them), I abandoned that listserv. That dance move controversy made me feel I was confronting a 19th century missionary who knew sin when he saw it. Yes, and these religious zealots have no clue whatsoever that their interpretations of these cultural phenomena come straight out of their own repressed sexuality; that’s what makes them such figures of fun.
But on a listserv for teachers, it wouldn’t be in keeping with the spirit of the listserv to point out their incredible ethnocentrism. And that’s my point: we still have the majority of fl teachers who believe that if we put up paradigms, students will somehow magically transfer that to an ability to communicate in the TL. We have teachers who see teaching about other countries is about showing how mature the U.S. is and how quaint and immature other countries are. I read things on listservs that appall me, ignorance about people, about culture, about history, about geography, so deep I wonder how these folks got a degree.
Ah! There’s the problem: we can graduate from high school and from college in this country without having our parochial beliefs challenged. There was a time when we all accepted that when someone had gone through college, they had abandoned their Sunday School concepts. Unfortunately, that wasn’t entirely true then and in this day of assembly line degrees, it’s even less true. What I do think is valuable are the requirements like SEI (Sheltered English Immersion). While I reject the understanding behind requiring teachers to take these courses, most of the courses seem to impart some valuable information. I have only been required to take one course, the introductory course, and I thought the information was very good and excellently presented.
Nevertheless, I noticed a number of teachers (not entirely representative – there were few urban public school teachers in my class; most were either from very tiny rural school districts and many were, like myself, from private schools, reservation schools, etc.) seemed uncertain about the notions being presented. But it was merely a two-day course, 16 hours, so I thought a lot was accomplished. Moreover, these teachers will have to complete 45 hours if they continue teaching and if the rest of the curriculum is like what I saw, they will learn some of these Basics I think are so important.
Perhaps I’m pessimistic because of the rise of the Tea Party and other movements based on fear and ignorance. Their ability to dominate national politics is small compared to what they can do on local school boards. No, I’m afraid we cannot assume that a fl teacher has somehow been innoculated against religious fanaticism and narrow-mindedness. The goals of this skills map are wonderful but it’s like the qualities of a saint I see listed at my Catholic school, wonderful but unlikely to be obtained.