Black Education in English Language Teaching
Dr Robin Leslie Usher Ph.D wrote a doctoral thesis `Jungian Archetypes in the work of science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein`, 1992. Teacher of English language and literature since 1994 in Hungary, Poland, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Oman, Libya, China, Turkey, the Czech Republic, and Azerbaijan. Science fiction writer, 'All For Naught Orphan Ufonaut' in Shelter of Daylight, Sam's Dot Publishing (2010). Published in the British SF academic journal Foundation, `Male And Female He Created Them Both: Beyond The Archetypes` (112), and the Hungarian Institute for Educational Research`s Educatio, `Learning To Study`. E-mail: email@example.com
Many English language teachers in the foreigners` classrooms have experienced failure, for the simple reason that the students wanted to learn English, not English language, which is a means to understand the socio-economic `ins and outs` of a system loosely definable as `black English`. In Hungary, researcher Gabor Halász described how a system of primary and secondary education might consider aspects of the `black`, or `second economy`, if it wasn`t for the problem of elitism. A student's entrance into Eastern Europe`s secondary, or Gimnázium education, rather than vocational training, was 'high risk' because, although success might open the door to higher education, failure brought the gloomy prospect of struggling for survival in a labor-market without qualifications, that is, a loss of potential to satisfy the hunger of/for what has always been understood as `higher education`. In other words, although elitism encouraged upward ascent through education, the `black economy`, for which a knowledge of `black English` was indicated, both for native speakers and foreigners, wasn`t a `poverty trap`, whereas falling into the trap of seeking higher education, like the monied classes, but without the possibility of obtaining better prospects through nepotism, and `the old school tie` of private secondary education, etc., was.
US` cognitive scientist, Noam Chomsky, `the father of modern linguistics`, observed that the question was always, `What can we understand?` Results of surveys on learning achievements called attention to the need for greater 'evaluation and monitoring', as Dr Halász`s research suggests, so the appropriateness of what was taught could be examined, that is, society`s requirements, which mightn`t be so orthodox as educationists`, or those of native English speakers in the foreign language laboratories abroad. For cognitive science, human activity was based on memory and recognition, rather than learning, that is, remembering things, places and people, were at least as important as education and/or the training needed to pursue a profession or trade. For foreign students, the objective was to know and remember the lingua franca of the `black economy` of English speaking nations, that is, a knowledge that the orthodox native English speaker mightn`t be qualified to impart, and so was deemed unsatisfactory or inadequate because of his/her seeming reluctance to `fess up in the course of the students` interrogations over the meanings associated with the various idiomatic traditional `sayings`, proverbs, nursery rhymes inculcated in primary school, and `old wives` tales`; for example, the traditional folk song, `Pop! Goes the weasel` (1853), was originally transmitted orally as what the people were able to communicate through succeeding generations on the theme of surviving dispossession:
`Up and down the city road,
In and out the Eagle;
That’s the way the money goes:
Pop! Goes the weasel.`
Drinking alcohol in the public houses in London; like `the Eagle`, costs money and, although it isn`t advisable, if the drinker wants to continue, they can take their coat, that is, `the weasel`, to the pawn shop, and that`s minimalized `black English` survival knowledge, which is that, if he/she wants to live in England, any student of the `black economy` might find it useful to learn what `popping a stoat` is, so as to avoid it. In Halász`s research, Hungary`s 'second economy' competed with education as a means of `social ascent`. In any system, where it`s attractive to avoid payment, people haven`t incentive to contribute. Because education and the economy is symbiotic, people support it and, in return, society benefits. As those in the `black economy` can`t contribute, so examining their role has become a societal taboo preventing the dissemination of `black English` so that a more realistic understanding of socio-economics was discernible for learners. Halász`s research in Hungary emphasized `training for work`, so `What can we understand?` For an orthodox English language teacher, it was evident that those who work in the 'black economy' correspond to necessity, or they wouldn`t have that role. The solution was for educators and economists to be incorporative with regard to training, and what works. Consequently, foreign English language teacher employers in Hungary and elsewhere wanted memoried `black English` trainers.
Many native English speaking teachers don`t comprehend the dissatisfaction among students in the classroom when what they`re doing should be acceptable from the perspective of what they`ve been taught to teach, and their fulfilling of that requirement. It`s because they`re not supplying the students with enough `black English` to satisfy either their employers at home, or foreign employers, and/or their students. For the wealthy, education and economy is incidental, which means that those for whom it isn`t an ancillary activity are either `black workers`, or deluded into believing that official education affords a step beyond death, and taxis on the runway preparing for a takeoff that isn`t going to be. For most ELT professionals, that`s where they are, which makes it difficult to satisfy the thirst among foreigners for that `black English` which they anticipate will confer that less orthodox means of upward mobility in English speaking countries commonly envisioned by them.
As Halász has written, `After WWII, secondary education was seen by the ruling political forces as an influential tool to transform the mind and composition of society`. Of course, those forces were Russian and communist, which meant that the `black` or `second economy` in Hungary, as in all of the other `satellite` Eastern European nations under the sway of the Russian `soviet` system, became a strong alternative rivalling the success and importance of the `first economy`. After the beginning of the ostensible withdrawal of communist Russia from Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, a different `class of 'go-ahead' people with driving ambition` were wanted from Eastern Europe`s education systems. For the West, Europe`s 'second economy' was represented by `that rugged entrepreneurial spirit of individualism familiar to us from US` television programs such as Dallas,` (Usher, R. p. 550) that is, `ruthlessness of character` displayed by Texan, J. R. Ewing, `I wouldn’t give you the dust off my car.`
Without `a Darwinesque ' survival of the fittest' environment, as English poet laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson, observed, 'red in tooth and claw,' that is, one in which the many are preyed upon/exploited by the few` (p. 551), rather than have eternal youth conferred upon them by advanced medical science, there`d be no death and taxiing on the fashionable runways of the clothing industry, before the partially clad models took off again in quest of a permanent home to relinquish, when the estate agent, in his role as `grim reaper` after the murder, came to put the house on the market again; to ensure a fresh influx of new models looking for taxis: so they could `runway` and try to avoid being reaped.
The realism of Eastern Europe`s `second` or `black economy` might have provided a less cutthroat and more tolerant atmosphere. Conducive to a more genuinely healthy and universal upward mobility, the incorporation of the `black` economies of formerly occupied Europe, independent of the soviet `satellite` system of client nations, was preferable to its being grimly reaped. Successfully incorporated within the `first economy`, that is, `nationalized`, the `second economies` of Eastern Europe could have resulted in a more generally successful life for the economy of Europe.
What many English language learners in Eastern Europe and elsewhere wanted to know from their teacher was how to survive in England`s (America`s, Canada`s, etc.) `black economy` with their knowledge of English language, which required from the ELT professional some personal knowledge of `black English`. Otherwise, the teacher was inadequate from the perspective of the foreign learner, which placed the educator in a difficult position, `What can we understand?` Or even, ‘What are we allowed to teach of what we know?’
Hungary has `a powerful sense of community, according to Halász`s researches, that is, a feeling of solidarity or togetherness`, and `which seemed to contain the memories of generations.` (p. 551) Those memories that existed, because of differences in education, wealth and status, contributed to the establishment of communism; after Hungary`s support for Germany in WWI and II resulted in successive defeats. To retain memoried `social co-operation`, `the work of the Hungarian Institute for Educational Research (HIER), in exploring the 'hidden curriculum' in the classroom`, was invaluable in perceiving `a humanitarian ethos behind what was taught`:
`Behind what is taught is the way that it is taught, which suggests that (overtly not covertly - once we're conscious of how the 'hidden curriculum' operates then there's no need to hide our use of that knowledge) we can inculcate a value system of a humanitarian type into our students, which will offset the problems associated with that 'too rugged' approach we often see in the less-than-caring face of Western Europe and elsewhere.` (p. 551)
Part of the `hidden curricula` is that, as a German, Karl Marx, devised communism. As Hungary`s support for Germany in WWI and II effectively resulted in success for German communism, so the memoried `black educated` were better equipped to teach. As incorporators, the role of economists and educators was to combine humanism with dynamism. The role of the creative economist and educator was innovative which, as Halász argued, was a legislated possibility. Though public financing was an indirect means of steering, it included `black education` based on the requirements of private wealth, and directives associated with core curricula were the symptoms of that, which caused native English language teachers, who weren`t cognizant of `black`, difficulties.
Monied people were `black` insofar as they were paying for a teacher to cater to their particular taste which, to a greater or lesser extent, meant interactions that were social, rather than language learning oriented. As native English speakers, particularly in England, were trained to abjure relationships with students, because of concerns about employing pedophiles, teachers of adults weren`t trained to `think black` overseas and provide extra-linguistic tuition to business people. Of course, if they attempted to, and failed, because they`d only been trained to teach English language, they ran the risk of being pulled up for extra-linguistic `black English` activities that weren`t on the curricula. In that `no win` situation genuine opportunities for intercultural discourse, and constructive exchanges conducive to progress, were dammed.
Although there was a need for a spirit of 'creative individualism' among students to 'think for themselves', Universities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere had been used to producing memorizers that regurgitate, `later when required` (p. 550), or rote learn someone else`s analysis and regurgitate that, because the spirit of the memoried `black educated` was realistically pragmatic, rather than hidebound. Consequently, native English language speakers would be expected to have `savvy` to contribute from their own country`s linguistic development in order to be able to practice the `communicative method`; or indeed any other.
Linguistic analysis requires imagination, so it`s the essence of creativity in the language laboratory; especially with advanced levels. Apart from the business expertise met with by the native English language speaker and teacher, and therefore the necessity for a knowledge of Business English, innovativeness is the sine qua non of teaching language as well as in economic success in capitalism, which was the socio-economic rival to the spread of German philosopher Karl Marx`s communism, originating with his Das Kapital (1868), and adopted by Russia after the October 1917 Revolution subsequent to defeat in war against Germany. With some knowledge of these historical determinants, the ELT professional could have learned `black abroad`, but the price was reciprocity, and so the native English speaker teaching `business` terms faced embarrassment at proving to be insufficient in terms of his/her capacity to satisfy or, as North Americans colloquially say, `put out`, because they`ve only been taught/trained to impart `first economy` vocabulary and orthodox terms to satisfy examiners at home, and that`s actually a disability in practical terms when teaching in foreign climes.
Although the German Empire ultimately lost its First World War (1914-18), its Second World War (1939-45) resulted in the Russians implementing Soviet Communism, that is, the Marxist ideology of `workers controlling the means of production`, rather than capitalist entrepreneurs, after capturing the German capital, Berlin, and taking control of Eastern Europe. Just as that showed Marx to be a stronger German than either WWI`s Kaiser Wilhelm II, or WWII`s Chancellor Adolf Hitler, so it suggested that memoried `black` education was more realistic, because it accounted for actual historical circumstances, which were needful for an advanced exponent of English language teaching abroad to perceive; so as to be adequately meaningful. Money, as Halász`s research in Hungary shows, shifted the emphasis away from according importance to entrance exams, because the wealthy wanted to have better things to remember their time with. That accorded with the thinking of the new German capital in Bonn, which had seen the emergence of its communist economic philosopher, Karl Marx, as the world`s capital mesmerist; in contradistinction to the generally held belief that English language was the lingua franca of the Earth`s peoples: what the world hadn`t learnt was `black German`.
In the major capitalist societies conditions were created for students to use their imaginations, rather than rely on memory, that is, the German, or `Prussian method`, of `rote learning`, which was the essence of communism; for example, `the state owned the means of production, because it was the workers`, is a logical sorites, but nonsensical. From a `black education` perspective, a more realistic statement is, `The state owns the workers.` As Karl Marx was a German economist, so Russian economics was conceivably `black German` and, trained in the orthodoxy of ELT communications, native English language speaking teachers in Eastern Europe and the rest of the world weren`t equipped to understand the exigencies.
The sorites form was made famous by `symbolic logician`, Charles Dodgson, under his pseudonym, Lewis Carrol, in Alice`s Adventures In Wonderland (1865), for example, which was written for children, so those kids knew what he was writing about, whereas the modern world would need a literary analyst, if not a Freudian, to explain, 'I have tasted eggs, certainly,' said Alice, who was a very truthful child; 'but little girls eat eggs quite as much as serpents do, you know.'7 Serpents produce boy sons for which they need eggs, which Alice wasn`t required to respond knowledgeably to. In the same way as the sorites, which is a series of propositions logically leading to an often bizarre conclusion, English usage of idiom afforded the speaker a tool, whereby others could be kept in ignorance, if they didn`t comprehend, even if they were English language experts. To be aware of that is a part of the English language teaching `hidden curricula` for the native speaker. In global terms, `black` isn`t disseminated in the classroom, because English language teaching is largely a `fictitious England concern`, which is deleterious to the intelligence, and socio-economic well-being of the teacher who, ignorant themselves, need to know `black English` better.
Despite appeals for value for money (VFM) in education, the more prestigious Universities and Colleges at which students receive grants, that is, who`re paid, retained their entrance examinations as an enticement to the slavish, whereas a `choice system` affording self-satisfaction is more encouraging to financial success, which the wealthy elite perhaps mightn`t want for the merely educable. A typical instance of `black English` is `up the apples and pears,` (stairs) where the meaning of the idiom relates to socio-economic upward mobility by means of the meaning attributable to the `identifiers`, that is, the `apples` and `pears`. If those being educated weren`t taught the meaning of the idiom, they`d remain blindly ignorant of the means to upwardly ascend in `black` socio-economic terms, which was in the interests of those in the `first economy` who didn`t want the educable to see how, whereas `black English` for those in Europe`s `second economy` would doubtless be invaluable and so, for the euphemistically blind native English speaking teacher, education and training in the imparting of such vision, that is, the meaning of the idiomatic usage of `apples` and `pears` identifiers, for example, is what their equally metaphorically blind foreign students want.
A sign and symptom of English language students` dissatisfaction with their native English speaking teacher was that they wanted to learn `idiom`, that is, the local `black English` colloquialisms and vernacular necessary for entry into basic European Union economics; for instance. Failure to know that English idiom was the essence of `black English` likely resulted in the teacher`s being disquieted at seeming unrest among students. Arriving wanting to know how to get ahead, which for many constituted a `black` system of flattery and evasion, foreign students of English language rather expected something akin to a description of the rules for Mokshapat, originally devised by the ancient Indians in the subcontinent for the education of their children, that is, `snakes and ladders`, or how to see to go up, and how to avoid being blinded, so as not to be led astray, and `downed` after takeoff on the runway; attempting to escape from death and taxis.
Carroll, Lewis, `Advice From A Caterpillar`, Alice`s Adventures In Wonderland, Chapter 5, 1865.
Chomsky, Noam, `What can we understand?`, Lecture 2, Columbia University, New York city, N.Y., Manhattan, 530 West 120th Street, Schapiro Center, Davis Auditorium, 4th Floor, 6.15 p.m. - 8.15 p.m., Thursday, December 5th, 2013.
`Pop! Goes the Weasel`, 1853, Roud Folk Song Index # 5249. Weasel is derived from `weasel and stoat`, which is `Cockney rhyming slang`, that is, `black English`, for those born within the sound of the bells of St-Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside, London, http://www.rhymes.org.uk/a116a-pop-goes-the-weasel.htm .
Hagman, Larry, as J. R. in Dallas (1978-91), `The Sting`, Season 6, Episode 22, Lorimar, March 11, 1983, # 125.
Halász, Gabor, `Changes in the Management and Financing of Educational Systems`, European Journal of Education, Vol. 31, 1, 1996, pp. 57-71.
Topsfield, Andrew, `The Indian Game of Snakes and Ladders` in Artibus Asiae, 46, 3, 1985, pp. 203-26.
Usher, R. L., 'Learning to Study' in Educatio; Quarterly Review of Social Sciences Focused on Education, Hungarian Institute of Educational Research (HIER), Budapest, Autumn 1995, pp. 549-52.
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