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).

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. 

Comments

If Waters thinks "learner-centredness, task-based learning, authentic language, and “the anti-textbook stance in ELT”" is the result of a PC backlash againt the "asymmetrical distribution of power relations" then he is dangerously close to falling into the same error he complains about - ideology over reality - albiet with a tricky "meta-critique" twist.Learner-centredness, task-based learning, authentic language, and “the anti-textbook stance in ELT" are good because students learn more, not because of some power relationship issue*.Scott when you wrote in a recent article that Dogme "positions itself in the Freirian tradition" I almost had a heart attack**. Dogme is great because students learn more when language is authentic, relevant, and real, not because it addresses a power relationship issue. Aligning yourself with Freire is a deservice to Dogme.* Could you say that only by addressing the power issue have we become learner-centered? Maybe. But I think that is window dressing applied by academics seeking publication. We've become learner-centered because it works.** I know you've said it before but I guess I had blocked it out!

Thank you Scott for another interesting post, so interesting that I bit the bullet and spent 10 minutes signing up to leave a comment. I have always been wary of people who talk about "PC gone mad". Back in the early nineties there was quite a lot of this kind of talk going on in North America, and it was often rhetoric used by extreme right-wing radio show announcers who basically wanted an excuse to be rude to women, ethnic minorities and so on. They would find extreme examples (e.g. herstory instead of history) and engage in a lot of handwringing and then red-faced shouting. However, despite this I believe that Waters has a good point. I do not think it is political correctness per se, but there is a lot of simplification going on. Perhaps it is in order to create a "narrative" in which some are cast as good guys and others as bad guys. And I agree it has an overwhelming effect of making teachers feel guilty. I find it tiresome of hearing about the evil publishers when it is thanks to their money and support that conferences, professional magazines and so on are able to exist and in some cases flourish. But I agree that those commercial interests should be kept in check, preferably by governments interested in proper training and education of teachers.I find some learner-centred discourse slightly disempowering to both learner and teacher. Same goes with the humanist movement in ELT, who are often all about respecting and being patient with the learner while being quite insulting and disrespectful to teachers who do not wholeheartedly embrace their views. As for the anti-coursebook movement I feel that there are unfortnately those who take cheap shots and make selective simple arguments that aren't helpful. One might say that I "would say that", as a coursebook writer but I believe that if something isn't working (let's say a coursebook) then we should try and improve it.Of course, the hard-core PC among us will perhaps liken our handwringing here to the military wanting to build fuel-efficient tanks and make "greener" missiles. They would perhaps question whether or not English language teaching should exist at all.  

Thanks Scott for another interesting post on an issue that I have been thinking about a lot lately as Alan Water’s voice has been pretty vocal recently lamenting the political nature of ELT.  What does it all mean?For me, there are four really important questions:

  1. What is ideology and why does Alan Waters feel that ideology is something evident amongst critical theorists only?
  2. What is the driving force of thinking in ELT in terms of its overall shape and structure?  How does Alan Waters fit into that (or not)?
  3. Why does he choose to focus on issues of "political correctness" at this point in time?
  4. What does this all mean for individual practitioners in the classroom?

I hope that there will be an opportunity to debate this with Alan himself, as it would be a valuable experience for us all to have input from all perspectives.So, starting with (1) - ideology is something we all refer to in order to make sense of the world.  When it is a counter ideology it is just more noticeable and easy to comment on.  Hence Alan focuses on Phillipson, Pennycook, Jenkins et al as they argue against the grain of ELT and talk about its history and development from colonial times onwards, as well as its power base and distribution and how varieties of English should now be considered equal and teaching goals reformulated. They question the central premise that it should be the powerful and the privileged who dictate how the teaching agenda is set in ELT, or that the discipline should reflect their interests. DOGME is in there too – although we haven’t yet established if that is critical or not! (see other blog posting). These critical ideas are paradigm shifting in their enormity so of course cause ruptures in the seams of ELT. However, the critical commentators that Alan focuses on also have significant differences between them, something that his analysis arguably fails to recognise in what seems to be an overly simplistic “us” and “them” division of commentary. Having read his articles, I am not completely convinced that he has explored fully enough the nuances between these commentators and their respective understanding of ELT at the present time and I would certainly welcome a more thorough and rigorous analysis in that respect. Alan’s own version of ideology appears to be one that props up a traditional and arguably outdated version of ELT.  It is also the case that it appears to be emergent from a right wing political trajectory which presents itself as “neutral” when in fact it’s not. Some of the sources he refers to for the crux of his analysis seem to support this view as they are characteristic of this political position .  One way of explaining his arguments in these articles would be to locate them as a rather defensive and protectionist reaction to the changing nature of ELT espoused amongst some of his fellow academics who are the focus of his criticism.  The issues are of course talked about much more widely than academia, but the focus of Alan’s articles tend to be fellow academics who are calling for recognition of diversity and a changing agenda of teaching which he perhaps does not agree withMoving onto (2) – ELT at present is largely dominated by the ideas of liberal humanism that sprung forth from the enlightenment. These ideas focus on the rationality and reason of the individual hence the preoccupation with learner-centredness.  Some of this is good of course as surely we want our learners to be at the centre of the process. It is fair to say that overall ELT likes to see itself as a “tolerant” sort of profession that deals with difference on a daily basis.  However, that does not mean to say that there are not prejudiced thoughts in circulation amongst members of the ELT community or contained in its popular ideologies or that the profession as a whole has succeeded in presenting a united front on how to deal with these prejudices when they arise. Often positions are not taken where positions should have been taken as ELT claims itself as “un-political” (paradoxically the most political of positions possible – abstinence). Another problem is that liberal humanism also focuses the guilt of its colonial past squarely on the shoulders of the individual teacher.  Wrong!  Understanding the role of the English language in the colonial project does not mean that individual teachers should feel guilty about this – with some provisos about what they do to address this in the present. Pretending it didn’t happen, or that their classroom is not affected by it, is not taking it on board.  Also not recognising the dual roles that English plays as a language or freedom and entrapment in the modern world means that practice will be biased towards one and not accepting both exist – thereby some students who are trapped by English will fail to have a voice in the classroom where only the successful can be heard.  So, I would part company with Lindsay at this point and say that contrary to the suggestion that individual teachers are being “made” to feel guilty by critical ideas that separate the world into good/bad people, the profession itself has failed to deal with its own legacy in a collective way through recognition of its past, hence the continuation of this as an individual problem.  For the ways in which this operates in relation to racism in ELT, read Kubota in her “unraveling racism in a nice field like TESOL” (2002) where she argues that individual guilt is what prevents the discussion from actually getting anywhere as everyone is busily trying to prove they are not racist and the discussion gets lost in this rather than focusing on the institutionalized racism that exists in our world and profession.   As a continuation, where do Alan Water’s ideas fit into that?  Well curiously, I think he actually falls outside the liberal human tradition into a more firmly right wing agenda thereby isolating himself from the current trend.  There are plenty of commentators who are doing great work and can be found at the centre of ELT who I think will find his recent work quite disturbing as it has a sense of intolerance about it that is not really the way new knowledge and ideas tend to circulate in ELT. I don't think this is only a worry for those of a critical persuasion. As a further point perhaps Alan’s persona of British white, male, academic, which he does not problematise at all in his articles becomes more noticeable when coupled with the ideas outlined.  I think Alan’s own positionality is an area that he needs to be more critically reflexive about as is the usual practice in educational research, no matter from which perspective, and it would certainly help those of us reading his articles to know how he feels that affects the arguments he puts forward.  This absence perhaps becomes more prominent in Alan’s discussion about the issue of political correctness.So (3) political correctness – Lindsay is right that this has taken a nasty turn to the right in recent times post 80s where it is a term that has been reclaimed to attack the old and new left and concepts such as anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia that gained ground during the 60s.  Its origins lie further back in WW2 and were used quite differently then.  George W Bush was one of the main proponents of the dangers of Political Correctness claiming that it prevented people from expressing their true feelings (well in his case that clearly isn’t so!).  This suggests that we are all naturally, and given half a chance, bigoted in our thinking process and that it is only PC that prevents us from unleashing our “true” feelings.  I don’t ascribe to this view to be honest (although prejudice does need to be confronted at an individual level continually within ourselves and there is no sell by date on that) but I think that when people use the term “PC” it is almost always used pejoratively and to denote a criticism. I believe it is important to see the term PC for what it is – a way of discrediting ideas that talk about understanding and unity amongst the world’s populace, or in the case of ELT, that talk about diversity of language models and changes in the teaching agenda, as well as ideas such as social change etc as discussed on the recent blog on critical pedagogies.  This includes EL teachers and commentators recognising the part they play in the whole process. Alan seems to be questioning the relevance of this discussion at all for language teachers and his article suggests that it need not be a prioritySo, what does this all mean for the individual practitioner (or course book writer, or teacher educator etc).  It’s a good idea for all of us to work out where we “fit in” to the spectrum of ideas available that I have very briefly outlined – there is so much more to say so apologies for the covering of so much ground in such a short space of writing. Will it be Alan Water’s version of ELT and its apparent swing back into intolerance, or the middle ground (which of course contains many differences and nuances which I have not got time to go into) or critical ELT with an openly transformative agenda? If people find themselves being really bothered by the ideas of critical ELT and feeling guilty, well then maybe its worth asking why?  Clashing ideologies are likely to be in there somewhere which basically boil down to how you see yourself in the world, and where your political understanding lies, which undoubtedly translates into your job.As an afterthought – Scott come out of the shadows please and tell us what you think.  Your role doesn’t only need to be to provoke debate, you can get involved! Would love to hear your thoughts.  Lindsay, I don’t understand your last comments – can you explain.  You seem to be rejecting PC as a term, and then you use it at the end when you say “Of course, the hard-core PC among us will perhaps liken our handwringing here to the military wanting to build fuel-efficient tanks and make "greener" missiles” - you lost me there.  Who are the hard-core PC people among us?? 

Thanks Lindsay - for signing up, and for your comment. You said, "if something isn't working (let's say a coursebook) then we should try and improve it". I tend to agree: whatver tiny ripples thew Dogme movement creates on the surface of ELT, it is not going to bring the copursebook industry to its knees, and I appreciate the efforts that people like yourself are going to, in order to improve them.We need to be both idealistic in our goals, and realistic in how we go about achieving them - to paraphrase the wonderful (and greatly mourned) Chris Brumfit (see elsewhere on this blog). He also said: "We must not believe in magic solutions, whether the collapse of America or the triumph of Esperanto*. The question is not how to remove English, but how to use something for which there is a demand and to use it as honestly and justly as possible". (Brumfit, C. 2006. What, then, must we do? Or who gets hurt when we speak, write and teach? In Edge, J. (ed.) (Re)locating TESOL in an Age of Empire. London: Routledge.)* "or the end of coursebooks"!

Hi Sarah and thank you for such a long and thoughful response. There is much to ponder over there, and you asked me to explain my last comment about the hard core PC. I guess I was being a bit tongue in cheek there, and borrowing Waters' term in the sense he intended it as I felt that I was getting myself heated up in the previous two comments.However, the "hard core" (note the inverted commas) critical analysis I was suggesting would be along the lines of Phillipson in the original Linguistic Imperialism book. Or perhaps more among Marxist thinkers outside of ELT altogether? It isn't a view I subscribe to, I hasten to add. Obviously. But I am still working out where I fit in to the spectrum of ideas you mention!

Thanks, again, Sara for a well-crafted - but no less incisive for all that - comment. Again, I feel I can't do it justice. But I will take up your challenge to try and clarify my own (rather wobbly) position. Wobbly, because although I would like to think that Dogme has critical (i.e. socially transformative) credentials, in the end it probably doesn't, nor needn't - for the reasons that Diarmuid so well expressed. If you want a revolution, look elsewhere for your discourse. If you want sound pedagogical practice, Dogme is as good as anything else out there, maybe even better. But I still wobble, nevertheless, half-hoping for a more radical agenda (in the face of statements such as that made, the other day in the FT, when there was talk of Pearson buying a large chunk of Santillana: "The ELT industry is all about scale!") Whatever we like to think personally, or whatever we do in our classrooms once the door is shut, we are really just pawns in a massive and often very cynical global inustry whose priorities are seldom educational let alone transformative.But I wobble in the other direction, especially when I am lucky enough to see how ELT is played out in the contexts which are the most typical - not in the super-resourced classrooms of private language schools in the BANA heartland, but, say in the schools of the UNWRA refugee camps in Ramallah, Palestine, where young, committed, incredibly hard-working and underpaid teachers are teaching large classes of (sometimes traumatised) six-year olds a language that is, for all intents and purposes, the language of their (economic if not political) oppressors, and doing it with pathetically few resources but with an energy and inventiveness that is truly amazing. Now, what is that these teachers need to know about critical pedagogy, or the post-method condition?  And yet one of them quizzed me at length about my take on Kumaravadivelu, whose paper on post-methods had been set as part of his Masters program at one of the universities there. With all respect to Kumaravadivelu, whose work I admire, this seemed so totally removed from the reality on the ground. Equally shocking was the fact that Tony Blair had just been in town, touting an "IWB in every classroom" program to the Ministry, when half the schools don't even have a reliable electricity supply.So, I can't help respond with a high-five to comments like this "While method has ignored the reality of learning and language learners, postmethod has ignored the relaities of teaching and language teachers". Not Waters, but Ramin Akbari, writing from Teheran, in the December 2008 issue of TESOL Quarterly (Postmethod discourse and practice). Now, Ramani is no critic of critical pedagogy (CP): he wrote a passionate piece in its favour in a very recent ELT Journal ("Transforming lives: introducing critical pedagogy into ELT classrooms" ELT Journal, 2008, 62/3) where he really knows how to talk the CP talk, e.g.: "The majority of students who come to English classes.. belong to the middle or upper classes of their society. Such learners... are unaware of the way the majority of their society's citizens negotiate their day-to-day lives or even their survival; CP can provide the needed insight for such learners so that through social activism they can transform the lives of those who are marginalized and help them attain better economic and social conditions"(p. 281) One can't help but add, "and pigs might fly!"  This is the kind of discourse that plays into the hands of sceptics like Waters.But somewhere between the ELT J article and the TESOL Q one, Akbari seems to have experienced - not a change of heart - but something akin to the realism that Brumfit writes about (see my response to Lindsay). So that, in the TESOL Q piece, he says "Postmethod is more concerned with the philosophy and philosophical discussions of teaching rather than the actual practice of teaching itself" (p. 645) (I can hear Dennis raise a cheer!)  Akbari adds: "What is missing...is a proper understanding of the limits within which teachers perform. That is, by assigning the extra roles of social reformer and cultural critic to teachers, the postmethod is taking language teaching beyond the realms of possibility and practice. The profession is totally unaware of the fact that teachers operate within tight adminstrative frameworks..." (p. 645).  And further on: "The academic world has the luxury of theorizing, while language teachers have to deal with the day-to-day necessity of meeting pacing-schedule deadlines and worrying about the pass/fail of their students at the end of the course as a measure of their teaching efficiency" (p. 649).Now, in fact, this statement is entirely congruent with his ELT J article, where he suggets that nothing will change without "the decentralization of decision-making (in terms of content, teaching methodology, and testing)" (p. 282) but in the TESOL Q piece he is less sanguine about the chances of this happening in most contexts where English is part of the state-mandated curriculum. His conclusion is about as accurate a statement of my own feelings as anything I could say myself:"Our profession must come to the realization that no grand theory or overarching idea can capture the local narrative of all L2 classes across time and space, and postmethod must get its inspirations not from postmodern philosophy or academic discussions per se, but also from the reflections of teachers and their practical wisdom... Postmethod... must be able to help teachers theorize their practices by including their voices in its tenets, not speaking on their behalf from a purely theoretical perspective". (p. 650).One hopes that it is discussion forums, like this one, that allow those voices to be heard.     

Scott thanks for this excellent contribution. My turn now to return your many compliments about well-crafted writing. I really enjoyed reading this and felt is was your best so far (which is not to underplay the others).   And thanks for coming out of the closet regarding your thoughts.  I think that I now better understand what you are saying.  Your posting answers the discussion we started in the other blog space about critical pedagogy, more than it does the Waters issue - although they are not unrelated.  I didn't really find your position as wobbly as you think, any more than mine is. I may sound certain (so people tell me) but I go over these issues all the time in my mind and realise that there are no easy answers. I too search for ways of making my own practice more critical, but am restricted in a million ways, as are we all, by the adminstrative and educational codes circulating around me over which I have no control.  It's nice not to be restricted here in this blog space.I agree with much of what you say with a couple of provisos.  I want to be sure that we don't fall into the trap of stereotyping each other too much and I feel that I unfortunately might be being slotted in to your distant theorizing academic category? Understandable as I am doing a PhD (primarily I would say to keep my brain alive and kicking as I doubt in the long haul it will really make any difference to my "career") and do write in an academic kind of style. I followed your lead on citing sources from your various postings where you helpfully include a references list.  The latter though is much more about making sure I don't sound too angry and accusatory as these sorts of sensitive discussions can become heated easily and I agree with your tweet sent earlier that it is good to reflect before responding so as to make sure responses are reasoned. It is perfectly possible to disagree and I really enjoy discussing with others - convincing people is not really my aim here.  But I hope that I am more than just a theorizing academic and I do feel that in my own little way I have a pretty deep connection with the community and teachers around me.  So I absolutely agree that pedagogy needs to be informed by teachers on the ground and their practical wisdom.  I would be the first to say this and as a teacher myself (who happens to spend a lot of time reading other stuff too) this is essential for our survival and development.  However, there is nothing to say that the people in the difficult circumstances you describe (and others I myself have encountered in such circumstances) might not be thinking in similar ways to those found in any of the wide spectrum of beliefs in ELT, including critical ideas - they too are part of ideology and thinking. Perhaps not always expressed with the references and academic citation, but the ideas that circulate in society are more or less the same as those we have been discussing here, expressed in a multitude of ways.  I think we need to be careful to do teachers a disservice by saying that they cannot think critically unless it is being done in an academic way, or that they instinctively go for the middle ground, or are anti-theory, rather than seeing critical pedagogy as a viable option.  It is likely that there are teachers who fit into both these ways of thinking, and more.  There are examples of explosions of discontent the world over all the time, which also transmit into education, if we take the time to notice them.  What we also don't want to do is allow our discourse which doesn't want to impose a critical agenda to become a discourse that just switches off from that when it is there.  My own research always focuses primarily on teacher and student voices through interview (currently in Serbia), and what always fascinates me is that people can express the same basic beliefs in such vastly different ways, and how teachers and students resist things all the time in their own unique ways.  I try to employ research methods that allow those voices to speak for themselves and to really "hear" what they are saying - but as I said before somewhere, I think we need both - teacher voices and classroom experience and a theoretical framework to understand it in, apart from anything else to avoid our own inevitable biases when encountering "others" in our travels.  This is something that is uniquely ours and it is really important to share how we do this with others and perfect it as much as we can.Your "pigs might fly" quote sound more to me like a sort of strange philanthropic take on critical pedagogy.  I will search out the whole article, but would say for now that critical ideas are as diverse as any other area and are often interpreted to suit individual outlook.  I would have thought the very top-downess of this idea, as well as the dodgy references to economic class (the privileged helping the marginalised as if they can't help themselves) sends a message that doesn't quite fit with my understanding of criticality.  But I would need to read the whole article.Two other things - Lindsay so sorry that I spelt your name wrong all through the last posting. I'm sure that happens a lot to you!  Me too as I am often Sarah rather than Sara.  Thanks for explaining the hard core PC comment and relating it to Phillipson. I know he often gets criticised for what he wrote in Linguistic Imperialism, but the fact remains that his book changed the face of debate in ELT and opened up a lot of avenues of discussion at a time when they were much needed.  For me, although I think he doesn't really give enough coverage to how language is subverted and reclaimed by people in their localities, he still made a very valuable contribution to ELT and continues to do so on work in European languages.  I don't agree with a lot of what he says, but I am glad that he is amongst us, as the wider the spectrum, the more democratic the field.  I thought I'd say that as I do feel there is rather a lot of negativity around his ideas, the central premise of which is exposing some of the contradictory activities of the BC and the Fulbright Commission etc which has been really important.Finally, Scott you interpreted Diarmuid's comments before as separating the discourse of DOGME, from the discourse of societal transformation.  What Diarmuid also said is that DOGME in itself doesn't necessarily mean a teacher will be critical.  I think the second part of this is something that still remains unanswered for me.  How do you feel about teachers who may believe wholeheartedly in the superiority of the native speaker model, for example, transmitting that in a negative way to their students (who are producing "inferior" English in their eyes) using a DOGME approach.  I just wonder how you navigate that contradiction??Thanks again for the discussion!     

Waters (2007a) offers a spirited defence against the spectre of political correctness (PC) that he claims is rooting itself ever deeper in the discourse of Western intellectual ideology and threatening the field of ELT with its “unbalanced and distorted views”. He identifies PC as an ideological force that can be situated within the Western Anglophone world and which is wrought with inconsistencies and hypocrisies. It does not require “normal standards of proof and veridicality” and presumes to act for the good of those whom it “perceive[s] to be less powerful” by advocating “positive discrimination”.All of which may sound very convincing until one considers the source of Waters’ information about PC – Anthony Browne, journalist, and his book, “The Retreat of Reason”, written for the UK-based right-wing think tank, Civitas. Waters presents Browne’s attack on the concept of political correctness, overlooking the clear ideological nature of the journalist’s work and neglecting to mention the very fact that “PC” is itself a contested label which is regarded by many as controversial. Browne’s work has been dismissed by some reviewers as inaccurate, poorly-researched, and misleading. In the book that forms the basis of Waters’ understanding of PC, among other claims presented as “factually correct” are Browne’s hypotheses that women are not paid less than men because of sex discrimination but because of the life choices that they make (pp.59-60); that the liberal media in the UK chooses to “to champion those who are deliberately trying to murder innocent civilians [in Iraq]" (p.11); and that HIV is on the increase in the UK because of the large numbers of immigrants coming to this country. This is all included in what Waters puts forward as his source for a definition and explanation of the concept of PC.Added to this is the apparent misunderstanding of what critical pedagogy is about. According to Waters, it is about forcing certain sectors of the world into the role of victim and others into the role of oppressor. Then the critical pedagogue, according to Waters, jumps in to liberate the oppressed. It is unclear how this sits with Simon’s argument that “What is not needed is the pretensions of empathy, the claim to share an understanding of the positions and feelings of others, but rather the recognition of the impossibility of such claims” (1992:72); or with Giroux’s warning that “radical pedagogues will have to abandon the traditional leftist policy of treating the oppressed within the boundaries of a unitary discourse” (2001:238); or with Pennycook’s caution that “On the one hand we need to ask to what extent we are able to listen to and understand our students in order to take up their concerns and positions; on the other hand we need to ask to what extent our pedagogy is meaningful in particular contexts so that in its very practice it does not become a new form of cultural imposition” (1994:318).Critical pedagogy, which Waters claims has had “a strong influence on the development of thinking and practice in ELT for some time now”, is not at all as Waters paints it. Critical pedagogy is about educating students to problematise “facts” in the hope that by so doing they will be able to develop their critical faculties and to resist and reject the myths that we are all bombarded with. It is predicated on the ideological assumption that when the majority are able to think for themselves, they will reject oppressive practices and we will edge closer to a more just and equitable living arrangement with the other people on the planet. In the literature of critical pedagogy, it is more frequent to read about the need to “listen to our students” than it is to read about the need to “tell our students”.In his reply to Holliday (2007), Waters (2007b) claims that “In many cultures—perhaps the majority—authority and power are seen to have a potential to be exercised not just in harmful but also beneficial ways.” He wrote his article to “encourage a more critical attitude towards the potential abuse of power.” And yet his article appears to take issue with those people who are questioning the abuse of power, basing his views on highly questionable sources and misinterpretations. It would not be unreasonable to question whose interests are being served here.