In his landmark historical study of methods, Kelly (1969) argued that methodological choices are contingent on higher-level decisions at the level of principles and beliefs: “Matter, methods, and media relate ultimately to the provenance of ideas” (1969, p. 3). According to this view, a method is one of a set of possible practical implementations of choices made at the level of ideology. That is to say, all methods are ideological at heart, and no method is “disinterested” (Pennycook 1989).Ideological, too, is the “critical turn” that has influenced both applied linguistics and pedagogy in this late modern, or postmodern, era. The current debates about linguistic imperialism (Philipson 1992), for example, or ‘appropriate methodology’ (Holliday 1994), or ‘native-speakerism’ (Holliday 2005), or World Englishes (Jenkins 2005; Kirkpatrick 2007) or ‘transcultural flows’ (Pennycook 2007) or identity issues (Norton, 2000; Nelson 2008) or, arguably, Dogme, share a common ideological goal which seeks to redress social, cultural and/or linguistic inequalities, and to (re)instate the learner’s agency and autonomy while, at the same time, wresting power, control, and authority away from the traditional stakeholders, such as examining bodies, publishers, education ministries and universities.But is this just political correctness (PC) dressed up in so much academic cant? In two recent opinion pieces (2007, 2009), Alan Waters of Lancaster University, argues that indeed it is. “PC… characteristically sees the world as being made up of ‘oppressors’ and ‘victims’. Individuals are therefore regarded as belonging wholesale to one category or another” (Waters 2007, p. 358). Thus, learners are naturally constructed as disempowered, and everyone else involved is complicit in their oppression – everyone else including their teachers. This the PC perspective, according to Waters, lies behind other trends, such a learner-centredness, task-based learning, authentic language, and “the anti-textbook stance in ELT” (p. 355) – all of these trends being “similarly shaped by a view of the ‘structure’ in question comprising an asymmetrical distribution of power relations” (ibid.). The net effect of this PC discourse has been, ironically, to disempower teachers, leaving them feeling guilty about asserting their role in the learning process.This ideological position, Waters adds, has now become an ‘intellectual orthodoxy’, and because it is associated with issues of social justice, to question it or to resist it, is tantamount to aligning oneself with a conservative, even reactionary tradition, something no self-respecting academic – or teacher – would risk doing.What do you think? Are we in the grip of a PC conspiracy? Are teachers really the oppressors? Or has education been co-opted by the forces of neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism? And are there serious issues of inequality that we should all be committed to righting? References: Holliday, A. 1994. Appropriate Methodology and Social Context. CUPHolliday, A. 2005. The Struggle to Teach English as an International Language. OUP. Jenkins, J. 2005. World Englishes. Routledge.Kelly, L 1969. 25 Centuries of Language Teaching. Newbury House.Kirkpatrick, A. 2007. World Englishes. CUP.Nelson, C. 2008. Sexual identities in English Language Teaching. Routledge.Norton, B. 2000. Identity and Language Learning: Gender, Ethnicity and Educational Change. Longman.Pennycook, A. 1989 The concept of method, interested knowledge, and the politics of language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 23.Pennycook, A. 2007. Global English and Trranscultural Flows. Routledge.Phillipson, R. 1992. Linguistic Imperialism. OUP.Waters, A. 2007. ELT and ‘the spirit of the times’. ELT Journal, 61/4.Waters, A. 2009 Ideology in Applied Linguistics for Language Teaching. Applied Linguistics, 30/1. Some of the comments made in response to this entry have been edited and, unfortunately in some cases, removed, as they went against the TeachingEnglish house rules.
Submitted 8 years 5 months ago by Scott Thornbury.