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Possibilities for Social Justice

with student debt, a dearth of domestic employment opportunities and the realization that an undergraduate degree in the humanities wasn’t quite worth what it used to be, many young Canadians graduating from universities took advantage of the opportunity. Since then, scores of them have “done the English teaching thing.”


Many, though, see the global English Language

Teaching (ELT) industry as the antithesis of social justice work. English may be the world’s language, but profit-seeking is its primary function. More often than not, English instruction comes at a premium, further exacerbating the gap between capitalist elites who can afford it and the poor who cannot. Furthermore, language policies and priorities have turned many minority languages into endangered or even extinct species. There are further concerns over “Americanization”—the relentless spread of neo- liberalism, and the ways in which English language education may be facilitating these processes. Given this situation, is it even possible to think

of ELT as having goals like social justice or global citizenship? I believe that it is. Let’s begin with your overall approach to teaching,

or “teaching philosophy.” Maybe you haven’t yet thought about your teaching philosophy—if not, then that’s the first thing you can do! If you already have, a good initial exercise is to try rethinking it through the lens of teaching English, the global ELT industry and

the problems identified above. I mention this because, for many people, a piece of their teaching philosophy is something like “fostering democratic citizens” or some other equally idealistic notion. Don’t get me wrong–idealism is good; great even, but how will your English teaching have that desired effect? Ask yourself this question before planning and conducting every lesson. Avoid monolithic representations of English as these

breed hierarchies. Languages, despite the almost— audible protestations from the grammarians among you, are not static entities. They are in a constant state of flux. We are reminded of this every time we read Shakespeare but somehow, in the intervening periods, many of us forget, strenuously arguing for the “correct” use of English. I’m not saying you should throw out the conventions, or the “rules”, but rather allow for some flexibility and creativity, which moves English a little closer to the idealistic possibilities of a global language rather than the proper domain of any particular country. It can be the difference between giving a student legitimate voice and a claim to knowledge,

iAM March 2010 15

in English Language Teaching

Jeff Myers

URING THE 1990S, GLOBALIZATION CROWNED ENGLISH THE “WORLD’S LANGUAGE,” AND DEMAND FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHERS REACHED A FEVERISH PITCH GLOBALLY, ESPECIALLY IN THE NEW ECONOMIC POWERHOUSES OF ASIA. Burdened Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25