He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.
(Lewis Carroll: The Jabberwocky)
There is a maxmome foe stalking the ELT hinterland: an ELT Jabberwock; and it needs a vorpal sword to off its head and leave it dead. It is, of course, the dreaded coursebook.
The Jabberwock of ELT, the cousebook, is a lumbering, huge, oppressive, mind-numbing, life-sucking monster.
The ELT Jabberwock certainly burbles, but it doesn’t have eyes of flame; rather, its eyes are horribly hooded; they’re myopic, void of sparkle, mean, narrow, blighted and unblinking.
The ELT Jaberwock is a huge beast. Its hulky bulk strides through the world of ELT, carelessly flattening dissent as it plods its steady, purposeful way on towards its food supply – the bank.
The ELT Jabberwock’s brain is the size of a pea. It lacks any trace of critical acumen, it stomps mindlessly on, carelessly ignoring reasoned criticism.
The ELT Jabberwock’s habitat is big cities. London, Oxford, Cambridge, New York, Boston, Chicago, Amsterdam, Sydney, Hong Kong, Bejing. Here are the centres where decisions about the different facets of the multi billion enterprise of ELT (publishing, testing, acrediting, ELT training, even representation of teachers’ interests) are made.
The ELT Jabberwock sits slimy and slothful at a table meant to be shared by all, slobbering over duck’s livers, lark’s tongues and other people’s dreams. It sleeps under duvets stuffed with the duck’s feathers, serenaded by the lark’s song, oblivious to the dreams it daily destroys. It lives in luxury. It luxuriates in an atmosphere of smug self satisfaction. It wallows, stuffed to bursting, smothered in excess, in its protected lairs.
The ELT Jabberwock stinks. It gives off an offensive smell of decay, complacency and corruption. It does dirty deals in China, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Australia, Vietnam, Hungary,South Korea, Mexico, Canada, and Kazakstan, for example, ensuring the use of a particular coursebook through wining and dining, favours and bribes.
The ELT Jabberwock takes possession of its owner’s home, like some huge, now unmoveable, untrained, out of control domestic pet, naively brought in by a gullible, well-intentioned family, to brighten things up.
The ELT Jabberwock is reluctant to move, It sits there, defiant, unlistening, too big to be challenged, suffocating development towards a more liberal, a more humanistic, a more shared way of doing things.
The ELT Jabberwock snarls at any attempt to challenge it. It insists, through silence and bad tempered grunts, that things be done its way.
The ELT Jabberwock insists that each unit of its cousebooks should contain a test what’s been learned. The content of each dead, pre-dissected corpse of language contained in each awful unit should be tested, as if its rarified content could be learned without respect for the learners’ non-linear development of their interlanguage. And each external test of proficiency, run by the Cambridge Examination Board, or by the truly awful Pearson wing, or by anybody else, should fall in with the fatally flawed Jabberwocky agenda.
The ELT Jabberwock presides, like a flatulent, overweight, dying old beast, over teacher education. It breathes its noxious fumes into CELTA and DELTA courses, encouraging students to use couesebooks and to believe the crap peddled by coursebook writers. It bankrolls the IATEFL and TESOL conventions; it promotes the superstar agenda that typifies these conventions, and it does everything it can to stifle objections to its rotten view of ELT.
I’m tempted to re-name this blog “The Tumtum tree”, a place to rest by, there to indulge in uffish thought, but it’s a tad too contemplative. We need to slay the Jabberwock.
And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.