Chew on This…

A teacher is a man who must talk for an hour.

— Ezra Pound, in (I think it was) Guide to Kulchur.

And he is, gender-exclusivity aside — plenty of women must talk for an hour too — quite right in this observation. The teacher must talk whether talking educates, or does not educate. The teacher is employed as one who “teaches” and there are all kinds of expectations that may make teaching a rather different endeavour from educating.

Not that one should take Pound at his word all the time; he was a nut. But he also claims somewhere in the same passage or section of that book that the educational quality of the French university system dramatically increased when the length of classes was reduced, I think to forty or fifty minutes instead of an hour. It’s a polemical flipping of the bird to universities and all that, but when you are next looking out into the eyes of students who seem to see themselves as empty vessels, waiting for you to pour out your vast wisdom, it’s worth pausing and asking yourself whether that last ten minutes will be educational for those students, or just a person talking till his or her quota is met.

Meanwhile, I have a cowboy story to tell… but not in this post.

2 thoughts on “Chew on This…

  1. Kevin,

    Nobody in Pound’s time was, especially in Romance-language literary studies (his major) where much academic effort was focused on translation and straightforward historicized readings of the text. (Much like the majority of professional educators in Korea in a range of fields, not just literature — though I have the impression that this approach dominates in that field. And mind you, I’ve had more than a couple of Lit Profs who did the same thing back in Canada, though they were more the throwbacks than the norm.)

    I’ll let you in on a belief of mine, by the way: the whole claim that this or that TEFL methodology is “student-centered and task-oriented” is, I’ll say it out right, a sham. What we have is the simulation of student-centered, task oriented approaches to education, enshrining the simulacrum of language use, of communication, and of the context of both.

    Realistically, faking it till you make it doesn’t always lead to making it. In Korea, it seems to have led to a particularly extended, socially damaging major-industry-scale brainwashing effort on the part of, well, hakwon owners, book publishers, and TEFL professionals to keep convincing the whole society that pretending to speak is a better way of learning than actually speaking.

    More in a forthcoming paper… heh. Wagers on publishability?

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