I just posted something on Facebook using someone’s preferred pronouns of “them and their”, which I know is an issue that riles some people up, so I want to explain that issue as I see it:
If I started calling you, and referring to you, as “dickface”: – “Hi dickface””morning dickface how’s it going?” – “fancy a quick pint after work, dickface?” – “have you seen dickface lately?” – “Let’s invite dickface to our meeting, he might have some useful input”
I don’t think it would take very long before you got pretty pissed and asked me to stop. And having been asked to stop, the considerate (of your point of view and experience) thing for me to do is to stop.
The #blacklivesmatter movement has (I hope) got us all thinking about how to be anti-racist – how to be part of the solution not part of the problem.
However, I think we are going to find that being anti-racist is much broader than simply anti-black-and-brown-people racism – being anti-racist means being anti-oppression, and in this short post I’m going to try to explain why I think we classroom teachers (I talk in particular about language teaching because that’s my profession, but my point applies to all teaching) have some learning to do. Let me start with something surprising:
As language teachers:
I don’t think we should be telling our students HOW to speak – I don’t think we should be judging THEIR utterances by OUR “native-speaker” standards. We should be helping them develop ideas about THEIR OWN standards, and helping them work towards THOSE standards, not our own.
And I don’t think we should be telling them WHAT to say – I think we should be helping them to find THEIR OWN voices, to say what THEY want to say, not what WE want them to say.
Yes, as educators we have a role: we can suggest topics and roads of enquiry, and prod them with questions to encourage deeper thought.
Japan (finally) declaring a state of emergency over Covid-19 means teachers and schools are all scrambling to come with ways to teach online. After a (online!) meeting yesterday I came away with what I think is a pretty good fast-starter arrangement for online teaching, so this post is to give you what I know so far, so you’ve got something to build on.
This method (hack?) uses google classroom as the primary method of communicating with your students to tell them about video classes, set assignments etc, and pretty much any audio/video chat application for doing the actual lessons.
(Zoom is popular, and has a great “breakout rooms” feature, tho it does have well-documented security issues – see my short discussion below)
UPDATE 2020-04-10: I realized it’s possible to simplify this even further: You need: 1. A method of sharing links and short messages with your students: Google Classroom might be good (especially if you want to set assignments, share documents etc) but to get online teaching started all you really need is a group for each of your classes in ANY messaging app: once you have them all in one place, you’ll be able to arrange meeting etc to further organize. 2. A method of talking live with your students: any group talk-to-each-other app, some teachers may even feel that no video just audio will work, which will broaden the possibilities
As you know I follow this story quite closely, and I can confirm that these figures are an accurate representation of the science. The problem of course is politics: right now it is looking very unlikely we will avert this. Which basically means most humans are going to die in the next few decades.
However there is a silver lining (if you can call it that): at 1.5-2.0 degrees the massive crop failures and resulting famine, whilst leading to enormous suffering and death (from starvation and war) in the short term, will lead (once enough humans are dead) to a collapse of the world’s civilization: at that point carbon emissions will drop to (near) zero, and since nature abhors a vacuum, trees and animals will take over again – those trees will absorb CO2 which in time will cool the earth again.
WARNING: this post contains (quoted) racist language
People often comment that I am of a somewhat darker complexion than the average white England person. In the mid-eighties, when my family moved to the white largely rural-working class village of Charfield in South Gloucestershire, I started attending the local comprehensive school (Katherine Lady Berkeley’s school, or KLB) and this quirk of my appearance quickly gained me a new nickname: “Paki” (explanation: the word “paki” is a shortening of “Pakistani” and in England is derogatory slang for someone of east Asian origin).
A month or so ago I posted a few paragraphs on Facebook about how I am seriously reconsidering my use of social media. Since then I have done virtually no scrolling through my feeds, and have limited myself to very occasional posts. And I think my life is much better for it – social media was eating up more of my time than I realized, time I now use out in the real world.
So much so that I am considering deleting my accounts – particularly of timeline-based “scrolling” sns (facebook, instagram, twitter). Socially/ethically I believe this is a good thing to do (do I really want to support these companies?), though this isn’t significant in my decision – rather, my motivation is selfish: much like giving up other unhealthy addictions like smoking (admittedly I never really smoked beyond a short phase of smoking-while-drinking) and drinking (which i surely did to excess), quitting social media has made my life better.
Yesterday a friend of mine shared the Carole Cadwalladr TED talk “Facebook’s role in Brexit – and the threat to democracy” in which she explains how she led an Observer newspaper investigation into the role Facebook played in the Brexit and Trump elections. The talk is absolutely jaw-dropping, so if you haven’t seen it yet then watch it now, because I’m going to discuss it with spoilers.
To summarize: People with a lot of money paid Cambridge Analytica to use Facebook to spread carefully targeted misinformation (and outright lies, and hate speech) with the specific aim of influencing the result of the UK Brexit election as a testing ground for technology that they then deployed in the US election of Donald Trump. And so as Cadwalladr says: