This Doesn’t Feel Right – 1

As stated many times here, but more in recent years as we have together become more and more aware of the rank inequity in our field of language education, it is CI that is going to throw the water on the Wicked Witch of Inequity.

The research shows clearly that all people, not just the rich, can acquire a language. The fact that there are less people of privilege in upper level foreign language classes in our country is a deep embarrassment to our profession. It’s shameful.

Why is it shameful, Ben? Because the approaches used by the textbook, etc. favor kids of privilege. When the approach used to teach the language doesn’t align with the research, kids and teachers of privilege play the system to their favor, as they do in all subjects.

It has to do with such things ranging from availability of books to just plain covert racism in the system. But we’re not here to look at those things. I just wanted to say that CI done right can easily break the lack of inclusion in our nation’s foreign language classes, so get ready to hear the sound of the ice cracking.

In my opinion, the ice started fissuring in the 1960’s (see an article here called 1963). The fissures turned into cracks, big ones, when Stephen Krashen got wind of (did not invent) the idea of comprehensible input. That wind spread from Southern California over to Japan and the Far East when Beniko Mason started doing her own research, some of it with Krashen, and then there was a period from about 1990 when three important bad things happened:

  1. People missed Blaine Ray’s real intent with TPRS and started selling their own version, and neither Blaine nor Krashen blew the whistle on them. This is still going on. I can back that statement up.
  2. ACTFL failed miserably to embrace and defend and illustrate Krashen’s work. They paid it a little lip service – with the thin lips of trumpeters trumpeting their own inferior research – to seem like they knew the had plummeted the shoreless implications of his work, but their love hug with the textbooks companies kept Krashen’s work virtually buried from the 1980’s until now. No excuse for that. ACTFL’s leadership is very old-school, and they play their part in the fact that few kids still make it to the second half of a four year program even with what we now know about languages are really acquired. (In my view, ACTFL is putting a squadron of WW2 tanks onto the WL battlefield without traction belts. Such is my view of the textbook. We need rockets. We have them in CI. But so many of us are content with the tanks.)
  3. Teachers continue to keep a very strong love hug going on, a choking one, with their textbooks. Karen Rowan wrote a “TPRS” commentary box in each chapter of Realidades in 2005 that is an embarrassment to CI and its grandeur. That kind of thing allowed the textbook companies to marginalize CI. Suddenly, the textbook companies were stuffing CI into far less than 5% of each chapter and so people thought quite wrongly that the way people learn languages is via a textbook and comprehensible input might be an interesting sidelight. They put TPRS in a box and putting it in those little boxes in each chapter did somethign to assuage their gnawing fear that they really didn’t know what the hell it is.

Now, how did we get in this post from the topic of equity to how the WL establishment in our country, so closely aligned with the textbook, has never done the right thing of making CI the principal focus of WL pedagogies and making the textbook, at best, the sidelight? Why is this ignorance (in the face of research and the standards) still going on so that we still have upper level classes in non-CI schools that are mainly white?

I don’t know about you, but when I was teaching at East High School in Denver, which exhibits a tripartite demographics – i.e., a real American demographic – it just didn’t feel right that the only kids in my level 3 and 4 classes were basically white, and the other two-thirds of kids, the ones whose skin happened to be brown or black, weren’t there? Yes, I was doing TPRS back then. No, it didn’t keep those kids in the program for four years.

THIS IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM SO, WHATEVER THE REASON IS THAT YOU CHOSE TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THIS ONLINE COMMUNITY, PLEASE KEEP IT IN MIND. YOU SEE, WHEN WE GET SO GOOD AT COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION THAT OUR KIDS IN THE UPPER LEVELS ARE OF ALL SIZED, TYPES, COLORS, ETC., (FULL EXPLODING CLASSES OF RED WHITE AND BLUE AMERICA), THEN WE WILL KNOW, BECAUSE OF THE WAY WE ARE CHOOSING TO TEACH, THAT WE ARE A PART OF THE SOLUTION TO WHAT IS HURTING AMERICA SO MUCH THESE DAYS, THAT WE ARE PART OF THE MASSIVE PARADIGM SHIFT IN LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION THAT SAYS THAT CHILDREN LEARN LANGUAGES BY FOCUSING ON THE MESSAGE AND NOT USING OUTDATED MEMORIZATION TECHNIQUES THAT KEEP THEM FAR FROM THEIR HEART’S DESIRE IN SCHOOL, WHICH IS TO EXPERIENCE SOMETHING REAL IN AT LEAST ONE OF THEIR CLASSES THAT DAY, SO THAT THEY CAN GO HOME A LITTLE BIT LESS FILLED WITH DESPAIR.

(I read an articles somewhere this morning that said that we are in the time of the ending of rule by the few, of all those who seek to gain a shameless supremacy over the lives and property of others. I couldn’t agree more. And what is going to bring that about in our field? Comprehensible input. But not the kind of comprehensible input that puts it as secondary to the textbook, that makes it bend to the will of the established WL order in the U.S., but rather the real stuff. My prayer is that Krashen lives long enough to not have to take a defensive position anymore with those who have so egregiously attacked him over so many years, to take his rightful place at the top of the heap of world language researchers, up there with Chomsky and Lev Vygotsky. That will be a grand day indeed. My hands are in readied position to begin the applause.)

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