Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, March 10, 2006

Beautiful, Unique, Meaningful

by AJ

"For business, it's no longer enough to create a product that's reasonably priced and adequetely functional. It must also be beautiful, unique, and meaningful, abiding by what author Virginia Postrel calls 'the aesthetic imperative.'"

--Dan Pink

Might education find itself in the same situation? I think so. Functional is no big deal. Students will figure out they can get adequate grammar-translation & skills building from a software program.... at a far cheaper price. They can join sites like The LInguist, at only $39 a month, for a wealth of authentic content, on-demand translation, and even Skype conferences. How long before Indians & Filipinos start offering online English courses for a fraction of what cram schools charge?

Of course, PUBLIC education is insulated from the big wave of change... but not completely. Theyll feel the pressure later than private schools... but they will eventually feel it. And then what?

Then its lower wages for most traditional TESOL teachers. In fact, this trend is already occurring. The gold-rush days are over. Wages are not generally rising... and are falling in some countries. "Professional" TESOL teachers often complain about the trend. They complain that "non-professional" teachers drive down wages... that most schools are content to hire any native speaker with a degree.

But why not? If all you do is work through a textbook, play a tape, give standardized tests, and do pre-set "communication activities"... whats the need for advanced education and training? We like to imagine that such tasks demand serious training, but they dont. Truth is, any stable native-speaking individual with a degree CAN do those things quite easily. School owners arent stupid... why more for a boring traditional teacher who is loaded with "credentials" when they can pay much less for a boring native-speaker with any old degree?

In other words... what DRAMATIC DISTINCTION do the "professionals" offer? Most, sad to say, dont offer any.

Which brings us back to Dan Pink's quote. For a moment, forget everything you know about teaching. Forget conventional wisdom. As yourself, "Is my teaching beautiful, unique, and meaningful?" Thats the standard you should be aiming for.

The same goes for schools. Most are content with rather low standards-- to be functional and "professional". Held to Pink's higher standard, how many would get an "A"? None that I know of...

Where are the beautiful English schools? Where are the unique schools? Where are the schools that have meaning, purpose, passion?

Is empathy part of your curriculum? Is aesthetic beauty a requirement at your school? It should be.

San Francisco, CA