Saturday, March 30, 2013

School Violence in Korea

I realize that I am, and in some respects will always be, an outsider in the Korean education system.  After all, I have yet to learn the language skills to communicate with teachers in Korean, to read the official policy, or to read reports and popular media in the original language.  That said, some things just strike me as very problematic and very very cold.  It's always a bit of a struggle for me to decide when to chime in with my opinion and when to keep my mouth shut.  In terms of electronic media, I usually just keep my mouth shut. This topic, however, really bothered me- as it is literally a matter of life and death.
A Korea Times piece published this week addressed the suicide of a 15 year old boy who left a note blaming his death on five boys who had been bullying him at school. The writer tied this to the bigger issue of school violence in Korea.

President Park was quoted saying "the essential change in school violence will come only when teachers show affection to students and interest in them."

A close and caring relationship between students and teachers is a noble goal.  Yet that last I heard, the average class size in Korea was still between 35 and 40.  Moreover, high stakes testing and further proposals for merit pay (based on students' test scores) position teachers in ways that make the warm and fuzzy emotional aspects of teaching and learning less of a priority than the more immediate need to dispense information and offer effective test taking strategies.  To my knowledge, there is nothing in standard teacher (or student) assessments that measure things like kindness, interest in students' lives, or an ability to mediate conflict.

I have worked with a lot of public school teachers throughout my career.  In that time, I have met teachers who may not involve themselves deeply in their students' lives.  I have even met a few who may not care all that much about their students.  But this is by far, NOT the norm.  Teachers in both the U.S. and in Korea (the two countries where I have worked in teacher education) care deeply about their students' well-being.  Many teachers I have met spend an incredible amount of time worrying about individual students.  These individuals not only go to extreme efforts to help students with their personal difficulties, but they are continually worried about how to address the needs of individual students without ignoring the needs of the other 35+ students.  My guess is that those who taught the 15 year old boy who killed himself are extremely traumatized over what happened.  To have government officials suggest that they are responsible for this seems downright cruel.

The only alternative offered in this article is to direct more funding towards the psychological well-being of students.  This would mean, presumably, the hiring of more guidance counselors and the implementation of more professional psychological assessments.  So the overall message in the article seems to be that the solution to the problem of teen suicides, bullying, and the larger culture of violence in Korean schools is in some debatable balance between greater teacher accountability and more funding.

I would like to suggest a different approach to the problem.  It seems to me that one of the principle reasons that public schooling breeds such violence among students is because our schools are not specifically designed NOT to do so.  The purpose of mass schooling in Korea and abroad is to differentiate between students- to place them on the educational and life path best suited to their individual ability.  The outcomes of our education system cannot be separated from this competitive function.  Students are placed in this system in order to compete with one another.  Those who do well in school go on to do well in life, and "doing well" is a matter of doing better than everyone else.

I remember working in a high school in Daejeon a number of years ago.  One day I noticed a piece of A4 paper taped to the wall, right at the front of the classroom.  The paper contained a list of every student in the class, ranked in order of their latest test scores.  The question that comes to mind is how can we expect our students to treat one another in a manner that is more respectful than the way we treat them?  We place our young people, both in the classroom and on the national level, in competition with one another.  It is a system in which students identify themselves according to how they compare, favorably or unfavorably, to their peers.  This is the institutional tool through which they come to know themselves.  Yet we remain shocked that students themselves invoke such hierarchies in their day to day school-lives.

Put simply, this is not an issue that will go away by pressuring teachers to "show affection" or insisting on widespread standardized psychological assessment.  I would suggest that the violence we see in schools will continue (and perhaps escalate) for as long as we implicitly teach that school is a place in which to compete and to prove yourself better than others.  This issue is rooted in the much larger function of schooling in general.  Asking teachers to fix this problem with their individual efforts is akin to asking the crew of the Titanic to start bailing water.  And throwing more psychologists at the problem is reminiscent of the practice of placing suicide nets outside the windows of sweatshops.  It may alleviate some immediate problems, but it is just a means of avoiding the root of the problem.  If we are serious about confronting the culture of violence in our schools, then we would do well to understand these problems as expressions of the system that we have created.

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 23: Thinking about Orientalism

"The Map is not the Territory"

"I believe that the problem does not consist in drawing the line between that in a discourse which falls under the category of scientificity or truth, and that which comes under some other category, but in seeing historically how effects of truth are produced within discourses which in themselves are neither true nor false"
- Michel Foucault

Language (in Japan) "is viewed less as a tool for self-expression than as a medium for expressing group solidarity and shared social purpose" (Tobin, Wu, & Davidson, 1989, p. 189).

"Language teaching encourages children to express what is socially shared rather than what is individual and personal.  Choral recitation and memorization are pedagogical techniques for accomplishing this" (Carson, 1992, p. 41).
[all cited in Kubota, 1999]

A brief and very clear explanation of Essentialism

You can also find brief explorations of the concept of "othering" here and here

Scott Thornbury gives a nice description of Othering as a scholarly and professional practice

Sports Illustrated sparked some discussion over photographs in their recent swimsuit issue.  Some argue that these photos propagate stereotypes and reduce "western" and "non-western" people to an essential dichotomy.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Readings for March 23

Hello all-
I just want to drop a line about the readings for next week.  After re-reading the introduction to Orientalism, I realized that it probably isn't necessary to read the entire chapter.  Be sure to read up to page 14 or 15 -- after that, he goes into detail about his research methodology.  While there are some interesting points in there, I don't think they are necessary for a general discussion on Orientalism.  So please feel free to skim or to skip the second half of the introduction.  If that saves you a little time, then the Willinsky chapter is well worth a close reading.

See you all next week.... and be sure to create your blogs and post the links.

Friday, March 15, 2013

English in Korea

Phlogiston or Oxygen

Sokal Hoax

Questions for the Jo & Shin pieces
How do these pieces differ in the ways they examine the concept of "world" or "international" Englishes?

To what epistemological positions do these writers subscribe?  Can you find evidence in the articles to support your answer?

How would these two authors answer the question....
     - What is the purpose of teaching English in Korea?

Linguistic Landscapes might offer some ideas for using the concept of World Englishes as a practical classroom project.  Here and here are a couple of links that discuss this possibility.

What is English mania?

Some questions that might support a critical reading

Who is speaking? / Who is this person?
What is this person claiming?
Who is the audience for this talk?
Who is the speaking talking about?
From where does this person's knowledge come? / What are the foundations of this knowledge?
What other perspectives are there on this topic?  Who might hold these perspectives?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Information on your Blog Assignments

Your Blog Project

In order to set up your blog, please sign up for a Google (or a gmail) account.  Once you have your account, visit and sign in using your gmail account and password. 

Once you have signed in click on a link called “Create a blog”

You will be prompted to choose a title and a url address for your blog. 

During the next step you will have the opportunity to choose the background/ format. 

That should be it.  Nice and simple. 

The Project

Of course, I hope that you use your blog space in whatever way is most useful for you.  However, my purpose for assigning this is to give you a public space in which to respond to classroom readings and discussions.  Using this electronic format gives us a chance to see how each class participant is responding to our classroom material and should allow all of us to take discussion topics in new directions. 
In addition to simply responding to readings, you may use your blog in a number of other ways.  These include, but are not limited to, 1) keeping running reflections on a particular English class that you are teaching, 2) posting pictures, video clips, links to various web sources that address concerns we are discussing in our course, 3) sharing resources for teaching and learning English that implement critical perspectives.

I encourage you to use the blog in the way that best suits your interests, and I encourage you to be as creative as you wish—take risks.  

Week 2 Materials

"Modern Schooling" and the modern curriculum:

Scientific Management
Social Reconstructionist

Here is a link to a contemporary school in the social reconstructionist tradition

Friday, March 1, 2013

Welcome to the class!  Every Spring semester, I regularly post ideas, thoughts, reflections, and questions related to the Critical Pedagogies course.  I also post assignments and materials for students as well.  I hope this blog can serve as a means of supporting students' efforts to develop critical ELT practices and that it might be a means of promoting thoughtful discussions on English language education and our work as teachers.

Critical Pedagogies
Dankook University TESOL Graduate School
Spring 2013
Curtis Porter
Office #413 상경관 Sangkyungkwan Building
Office Hours:  Wednesday 11:00 – 1:00 / Friday 10:00 – 2:00 (or by appointment) 

As to those for whom to work in the midst of uncertainty and apprehension is tantamount to failure, all I can say is that clearly we are not from the same planet. - Michel Foucault

TESOL practitioners and researchers are increasingly focusing on the implications and consequences of the spread of English.  It is becoming clear that 21st century TESOL faces important questions of how to develop effective, responsible, and ethical teaching practices.  This course seeks to engage with these trends in our field by exploring the potential of critical approaches to English education in Korea. 
Critical pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning that assumes all educational processes to be political in nature.  English education in Korea is certainly no exception.  We will take a broad approach to critical pedagogy and explore numerous social and educational theories which conceptualize the political nature of education in a variety of ways.  The course seeks to evoke questions of ideology, hegemony, and power with the ultimate goal of helping each of us develop teaching practices that confront such questions. 
While there will be extensive theoretical discussion, the course objectives are practical in nature.  The course will challenge participants to develop and implement lesson plans, reflect on teaching practices, critique teaching materials, and connect practical experiences in English education to larger political and social themes.  Classroom discussions, readings, and assignments will be designed to support critical inquiry and the development of critical practices. 

Course Activities
As the purpose of the course is to develop our own critical practices in English education, there is no summative project due at the end of the semester.  All assessment will be formative, meaning that I will assess your progress as we go through the course rather than rely on a single project at the end to determine your grade.  There are several activities that you will be responsible for completing:

Blog Project       (30)
I ask all class participants regularly post thoughts, reflections, and responses to a blog.  I will give explicit instructions for how to do so to anyone who chooses to remain enrolled in the course. 
I will also be keeping a blog that will contain resources and course materials as well as personal reflections on the course.

Lesson Plan       (10)
All participants will write at least one lesson plan which incorporates principles we discuss in our weekly readings.

Reflection on your Lesson Plan     (20)
In addition to writing a lesson plan, each class participant will be expected to teach their lesson (or a part of their lesson) in a real classroom setting and write a reflection on the lesson.  Your lessons and critiques will be presented to the class on the final day of the semester.  

Critique of an Educational Resource or Popular Media        (30)
Write a short critique of an English course book, learning material from the internet, or some popular media artifact.  You may do this on your blog. 

Regular Classroom Participation    (10)
Do the readings, come to class, participate in classroom activities and discussions, engage.... 

I will give you explicit directions and expectations for each project at the appropriate time.

Reading List
(This will probably change according to course needs/student interests/etc)

Rethinking the Curriculum
Week 2 -          Shannon- The Struggle to Continue (Intro)
                     Pennycook- The Concept of Method

English Education in a Global Context
Week 3-           Lee Seung-hwan- Continuity and Discontinuity
                     Willinsky- Where is Here?

Week 4 -          Jo- English Education and Teacher Education in South Korea
                      Shin- The Use of Freirian Pedagogy
Week 5 -          Shin & Crookes- Indigenous Critical Traditions for TEFL?
                     Shin & Crookes- Exploring the Possibilities for EFL Critical Pedagogy
                     Thornbury- Dogme: Nothing if Not Critical

Some Theoretical Foundations of Critical Practice
Week 6 -          Storey- “The Frankfurt School”
                     Willinsky- Of Critical Theory and Critical Literacy

Week 7 -          Freire- Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Chapters 1 & 2)

Week 8 -          Gee- The Literacy Myth
                     Wilson- Why I Won’t Be Using Rubrics to Respond to Students’ Writing
Situating Theory
Week 9 -          Sadeghi- Critical Pedagogy in an EFL Teaching Context
                     Hanauer- Meaningful literacy:  Writing Poetry in the Language Classroom
                     Thornbury- Grammar, Power, and Bottled Water

Week 10-          Moffatt & Norton- Popular Culture and the Reading Teacher
                     Alcoff- Cultural Feminism versus Poststructuralism

Week 11-          Duncum- Toward a Playful Pedagogy

Discipline, Bodies & Emotion
Week 12-          Gore- Disciplining Bodies: On the Continuity of Power Relations in Pedagogy

Week 13-          Kenway & Youdell- Emotional Geographies of Education
                     Cole & Yang- Affective Literacy

Rethinking Postmodernism
Week 14-          Foucault- Excerpt from Discipline and Punish
                     Deleuze- Postscript on Societies of Control
                     Berry- A Remarkable Man

Week 15-          NO ASSIGNED READING [Share Lesson Plans / Closing Thoughts]

Inclusion Statement
There is a possibility that sensitive topics will arise in our readings and our class conversations.  Indeed, one of the purposes of critical educational practice is to confront political tensions.  I request that all class participants respect all students and refrain from statements which discriminate on the basis of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, faith, physical ability or appearance.  If at any time you feel that you have experienced discrimination in our class please inform me immediately and I will do everything I can to address the situation responsibly.