This Doesn’t Feel Right – 2

I haven’t ranted against the textbook for many years. Fifteen years ago it was a major sport in this space. But now, so many years later, with little having actually been done to throw the textbook off of its pedestal, I feel like ranting more on this topic.

(Why is the textbook still so commonly used almost 50 years after Krashen started his research in the early 1970s? Let’s leave that one alone for now. But it’s not just due to ACTFL’s coddling of corporate interests, nor can it all be put on the shoulders of the teachers who are ignorant – in the French sense of the verb ‘ignorer’ which simply means to ‘not know’ – of what the research says about how people acquire languages; it’s also the TPRS movement itself. I’d be happy to say why but not here today. But if you think that it’s got something to do with how TPRS no longer aligns as much as it must with the research, you’d be barking up the right tree….)

In the first of these two articles on how it doesn’t feel right, we talked about how what is happening in foreign language classrooms doesn’t feel right in the way that it hurts the less privileged. In this article I wish to make the point that it’s not just the kids from poverty who suffer at the hands of ACTFL’s current positions – positions that are far too accepting of the textbook (not just accepting – perhaps the right word really is coddling), it’s also the white privileged kids who suffer as well. What’s up with that?

Let’s speak plainly. Foreign language teachers and their 1950s methods still create a mindset in so many of our nation’s foreign language classrooms, for the privileged kids, of unhealthy perfectionism and high octane instruction that – against all the research – not only does not align with the research but also suggests that the more you memorize, the more you think, the higher you score on tests, then the more successful you will be at languages. Say what?

Then, to keep that kind of mind game (memorization and thinking about the language) going, which mindset keeps the textbooks in business (which Dr. Krashen told me is a $1.3 billion dollar business), you need schools with cultures that convey to kids that feeling anything less then overwhelmed is an indication that they are lazy, that performance in class is of more importance that those privileged kids actually doing what they actually feel inspired to do (which is not memorization of verb forms), and that if they can just put on their transcript AP French and use that to help them get into the right college (irregardless of the score they make), then that’s what learning a foreign language entails. The college-bound kids take the class for how it can help get them into college, with little or no expectation (just look at their faces in class) of actually acquiring any of the language.

Look…true CI instruction is effortless for the kids. If you know how that part of the research works and haven’t done anything to make acquiring the language effortless for the students in your classroom, well I’d better just leave it at that because I feel a rant coming on. I’ve been ranting too much lately. I will say, however, that if people don’t start finding ways to teach languages that truly embraces the research, which means getting your kids’ unconscious processes loaded up during class, then, well I said that I’d end the rant.

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