Posted by: Alastair Grant | August 8, 2011

Teachers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your coursebooks… Defending Dogme ELT

Disclaimer: I have NO political quarrel with any of the opinions mentioned here! I’m also not posting this to antagonise anyone or upset anyone of any political persuasion – it’s just my opinion. Ok, if you’re still with me, read on.

I miss most trends.

Take “Twin Peaks” for example. My classmates were debating the minutiae of Laura Whatsername’s untimely demise while I was still thinking about just why it was that Bagpuss had to finish when it did. I missed the craze for 24, Lost, The West Wing and goodness knows what else besides. Don’t tell me, I don’t wanna know…

Dogme teaching debates are no exception. The other day I stumbled upon an exchange between the great and good of ELT and, apparently, Marxism.

I’ve attached the link here so that you can see what I’m on about – and it really is quite an exchange, running into scores of comments about, essentially whether or not Dogme ELT is based on fundamentally “good” principles or whether Scott and Luke simply took what they wanted from various teaching philosophers and used this to prop up their argument.

http://marxistelf.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/romantic-comedy-with-a-sinister-twist-a-marxist-critique-of-dogme-elt/

I have to say that I was quite shocked at the amount of vitriol… without wanting to intrude on a political debate about which I know little or nothing, I felt quite compelled to comment.

For me, the arguments set down here against Dogme bear little or no relation to how the approach can help students and teachers in the classroom and indeed seems an attempt to have a political row for the sake of it.

But I haven’t had a response yet… perhaps Marxism is sleeping, waiting for a firmer foe to face. Nonetheless, I wanted to share my comment and indeed the whole debate for those who didn’t see it.

Like I said, I miss most trends, so perhaps you’ll think my “bit” either misplaced, inappropriate or just plain late? See below (you’ll need to click to expand…):

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Responses

  1. Hi Alastair,

    Really good to read your blog post. If it hadn´t been for it, I would never have read the exchange you pointed towards on ELT, Marxism and Dogme.

    Let me start by saying, I agree with your point 100%.

    But the thing is, the moment we start talking about critical pedagogy, we move into the realms of politics, as for Freire, education is a political act in itself.

    Now, what strikes me in this all are the countless references to Critical Pedagogy and Paulo Freire, but I think somewhere along the line people may have forgotten 5 principles expressed by Freire as being fundamental for the establishment of autonomy and dialogue, hence critical pedagogy (you´ll find this in his Pedagogy of the Opressed, third chapter) :
    1) Love (of fellow man to allow for true dialogue)
    2) Humilty (self-sufficiency doesn´t allow for dialogue)
    3) Faith in fellow humans
    4) Hope
    5) Critical thinking

    Funny that some of these principles were noticeably lacking in the comments which were, after all, intended to foster dialogue?

    Or weren´t they? (well, a dialogue of sorts, because some of the comments were rather heavy-handed, especially when the word “fascist” started being bandied about.)

    Do hope you get an answer to the comment you posted.

    Valéria

    • Hi Valéria,

      Thank you for your comment. It has really made me think about the politics of education and perhaps part of what I was saying was wrong.

      No matter how we see it, politics comes into every part of what we do in the classroom if we accept that there is any kind of belief system behind our teaching at all. I suppose that our beliefs influence every aspect of how we teach – WHY we think some things work and WHY we do things in a certain way.

      A little while ago Brad Patterson (http://blog.edulang.com/do-you-share-your-values-in-the-classroom/ ) was talking about the WHY of sharing values in the classroom, and I suppose, even just the way we react to comments about society from our students (“did you see the stuff on the news about London?” etc etc) shows our political leanings.

      I think your point about Freire is essential. If anything is likely to deliver us from the “banking” system of education, it’s a forum in which participants are on an equal footing and are able to share experiences, material, and educate each other.

      I think the original post in the blog’s thread was about pulling apart an excellent and inclusive teaching approach, based on seeing Marxism’s “grand narrative” as an unquestionable gospel truth. Surely Freire’s critical thinking should come into play here as well!

      And you’re right – the “heavy-handed” comments didn’t help. It felt rather like reading an undergraduate politics essay – and one which, far from being a free and frank exchange of ideas, became a fundamentalist rant.

      By the way, I emailed them too…still no answer…

      Alastair

  2. Hey Alistair and Valeria-

    Nice to be back on your blog searching for a “higher path” !

    My opinion is very close to both of yours and I don’t feel the need to elaborate, but I did want to thank you for the mention, and let u know that I did a RSCON3 presentation after that great “community-oriented” blog post, and the survey with 100 teachers.

    Here’s the summary of it, which I think you’ll find interesting: http://blog.edulang.com/rscon3-wrap-up-100-teacher-survey-results-and-recordings/

    Cheers, Brad


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