From language teaching to politics – easy done.

The fundamental distinction between CI teachers and those who teach grammar explicitly is that the latter do not recognize unconscious control of the rules of language aka grammar (I restrict the rules to grammar for now b/c few teachers teach phonetic rules or even syntax rules they focus entirely on forms, particularly verb and substantive endings of the typical European language). Their attitude is reinforced by the larger society’s belief that the way we speak is founded on classroom principles and cultivated by cultivated people. Non-cultivated or colloquial speech is denigrated as imprecise, incoherent, awkward, and formless. Anyone can get page one in a local newspaper by declaring that our youth mumble incoherent slang and everyone immediately agrees. On a broader scope, they agree with that sentiment when it is applied to knowledge in general, witness Ben Stein‘s miserable diatribe against young people at a site I will post later.
Until quite recently, students of any language were discouraged from reading vernacular literature and restricted, at least in class, to so-called high literature whose diction is frequently archaic and stilted to the ear of the average person. But that is just the point, education is not conceived by these people to be for the average person. This is what is behind the cry for rigor and high standards: they know the majority of youth in this country does not come from homes where so-called “high English” is spoken and the hope is that they will drop out of any form of education that might lead to political and economic power and become serviceable technicians. Middle- and lower-class youth learning foreign languages is particularly loathsome to these people b/c they firmly believe knowledge of a fl to be a mark of prestige if not usefulness.
Who are “these people”? A significantly large number of people who feel themselves part of any group that: #1 feels entitled to a particular position and role in the society and, #2 feels that position and role to be threatened. Studies of other societies in a historical context reveal this trend, an inevitable trend. The GOP has latched onto this, first with reactionary Whites in the recently desegregated South, then to Evangelicals, then to working-class and ethnic Whites, then to more and more Middle-class voters. Voila the modern, reactionary GOP defending “these people” against whatever perceived enemy they fear: immigrants, indigenous minorities of color, ignorant masses and the under class, religious minorities (Mormons?), Communists, socialists, anarchists, union members, professors at universities and in liberal think tanks, and a host of others who threaten their version of the proper order of the universe. The most retrograde and Neanderthal of these fears is the fear of women, hence the anti-birth control, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage (yes, that), anti-equal pay sentiments expressed so recently by, as Tina Fey puts it, gray-faced men in two dollar haircuts. I heard a friend from Pakistan say, when I told him with joy that women produce sellers in India now had cell phones with which they could get the prices being offered at the other end of the production line and thus deal more effectively with the middle men, “Oh god, now they’ll just be able to do anything they want!” Heaven forefend!

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