ESL etc.

Global Issues and Activism in English Language Teaching

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Peaty, David. (2004) Global Issues in EFL: Education or Indoctrination? The Language Teacher, 28(8), 15-18.

August 20th, 2007 by Dave · No Comments

…there are certain risks inherent in global education. These include inadequate teacher knowledge of the subject, tension between the traditional curriculum and the more progressive elements of global education, and the risk of indoctrination.

However, all of these justifications are insignificant when compared to the main reason for introducing global education in all subjects across the curriculum, including foreign languages, which is that the future of our planet is at stake.

The real issue, then, is not whether or not to integrate global education into language teaching, but how to do it without indoctrinating our students.

In other words, if society accepts and respects the principles, values and goals being advocated, there is no problem of indoctrination, even when the teaching materials are clearly promoting a cause.

It appears, therefore, that the problem is not in advocating certain views and values, but in straying away from the mainstream into more radical territory, such as the effects of consumerism on the global environment.

Each saw a need for the dominant or mainstream perspective to be challenged because business as usual was clearly unsustainable in the long run. Their answer was to promote critical thinking.

Fundamental critical thinking skills include evaluating whether statements are of fact, or opinion, if the facts expressed are true, false, or unverifiable, if assertions are supported logically, and if proposals are good, or bad, and for whom, and why. They also include identifying reasoning flaws, such as fallacies and leaps of logic, and the numerous devices, such as loaded language, used to mislead the public by public relations specialists working for governments and for private corporations. Critical thinking, together with media literacy, could help protect students from the influence not only of teachers with extreme views, but also of those who seek to manipulate the mainstream media and the Internet for political or commercial gain.

…there are contexts in which absolute neutrality is neither possible nor desirable.

Many educators recognize the need to address this issue by presenting a clear statement of the marginalized view, in the hopes of creating a fairer balance.

Introducing concepts such as fair trade, challenging myths such as that hunger exists because not enough food is grown worldwide, and asking provocative questions about government policies is not indoctrination, but a stimulus to further inquiry.

On the contrary, when students are inspired to become good global citizens, it is generally by teachers whose values they admire, teachers such as Bamford (1990), whose sponsored walk attracted the support of several hundred teachers, students and friends, raising two million yen for a development project in Ethiopia, Schwab (1994), who introduced her students to the Foster Parent system and had the satisfaction of seeing them sponsor an Indian child, Rowe (2003), whose students support children at a mission in Vietnam and hold charity bazaars to support volunteer activities in India, and Smith (2002), whose students raised funds for, and built, a house with Habitat for Humanity.

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