A short comment on preferred pronouns

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.

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#blacklivesmatter means we teachers have some learning to do…

CC Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnysilvercloud/28476745294

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.

IF that’s what they want.

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How to set up to teach online in a hurry

日本語の版はこちらです。

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

How to:

1. open up google classroom from your google (personal) account
https://classroom.google.com/

2. top right hit “+” > create a class

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how to think things in the 21st century

I’m in a caustic mood today (“caustic mood” = 暗くて皮肉的な気分). I mean this post is humor and sarcasm though with a serious point. Enjoy:


How to think things in the 21st century (a guide for beginners):

1) believe in X(ism) and define it as you choose.

2) compare EVERYTHING to your definition of X – all opinions, people, news, documentaries, politics, perspectives, science, EVERYTHING

3) denounce EVERYTHING that is not EXACTLY “X” as you define it (and all people who do not exactly believe this X as you define it) as wrong/stupid/ignorant/immoral/evil

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the climate emergency: trajectories and options

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.

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a story about racism from my childhood

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).

Katharine Lady Berkley’s School, photo taken by me in 2017 – by complete coincidence this photo is almost the exact location of an incident I describe below.
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I’m considering deleting my social media accounts…

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.

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Greta Thunburg Austria World Summit Vienna 2019 Speech

(ごめん、日本語訳を探しきれない)

(Scroll down for English)

Greta Thunbergがもう一度、混乱を切り取って、要点をついています。全ての人がまだ気候危機の対策に取り組んでいない理由は、危険性を感じていないからです。危険性を感じていない理由は、私達の社会の(いわゆる)リーダー達が説明をしていないからです。

最近私の活動によって友達はコメントしています。「皆はスマホ、車、買い物の生活が好きから、サイモンが言っている大きな社会変更は承認してくれないよ。」でもこれはただ、具体的な選択肢の説明を聞いていないからです。

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Facebook (and all social media) has to go…

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:

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T4:地球温暖化3: 私達の生活の全ては地球温暖化を起こしている / Everything we do causes Global Warming!

動画原本 / Video Transcript:

前の動画で説明したとおり
As I explained in my last video

地球温暖化が進んでいる
global warming is continuing apace

気象の変化は既に起きている
and the climate is already changing

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