TSR Newsletter

TSR Newsletter, Volume 5:1 (January 2005)

by User Not Found | 11/01/2011
TSR Newsletter In This Issue...
  • Articles and Information
    • TESOL Peace Forum Expands Definition of Peace
    • Feminist Pedagogy and TESOL in a Postfeminist Age
    • From the Journals
    • Review of Two Online Environmental Education Games
    • From the Bookshelf: Review of Global Issues
    • Seeing Iraq Casualties in a Different Way
    • Why Isn’t This the Headline in Every Newspaper Every Day?
    • Veal: Fughedaboutit!
  • Community News and Updates
    • Note from the Editor
    • About the TESOLers for Social Responsibility Caucus
Articles and Information TESOL Peace Forum Expands Definition of Peace

By Mary E. Latela, M.Div., e-mail: latela4@yahoo.com, University of Hartford & Teikyo Post University, Wethersfield, Connecticut, USA.

Peace is the issue of our times. Many people become discouraged that so much is wrong with our world, that so many people are in conflict, whether it be inner turmoil, relationship struggles, or global fighting. As a result, they take on helplessness. They ask, "What can I do when the world is a mess?" and "What can I possibly do to make progress in establishing world peace?"

The 2004 TESOL Peace Forum, held on Friday, October 8, 2004, at Pace University in New York provided tools for this ongoing challenge by introducing an expanded definition of peace. The theme for the event was "Integrating Language Teaching and Learning with Social Responsibility," and a selection of compelling workshops invited participants to ponder and discuss this perspective.

Michele Sabino, president of TESOL, opened the conference by reflecting that the goals of this organization align with the Millennium Goals of the United Nations. She emphasized that communication is core, as human beings are the only "links on the food chain" able to articulate peace and violence.

Provost Joseph Morreale of Pace University, who welcomed the group, announced that the Nobel Peace Prize had just been awarded to Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan female environmentalist who led women to plant 30 million trees in Africa in an effort to build ecological peace and sustainability in Kenya. This striking choice corroborates the importance of ecological peace in the process of building peace. Peace in the world, said Dr. Moreale, includes four elements: sustainable development of the environment and use of resources; human rights, particularly for women and children; using nonviolence to resolve conflicts; and dealing with the vast inequalities between the rich and the poor.

Keynote Speaker Anita Wenden, director of peace education and research for Earth and Peace Education Associates International (http://www.globalpe.org/), led participants in reflecting on the relationship between peace and ecology. She demonstrated the link between social and ecological violence, as opposed to social and ecological peace. She asked how we might achieve a culture of ecological peace and how can integrate these links into language teaching. Looking at peace through the lens of not only social but also ecological perspectives expands understanding, as well as individual and community responsibility for the earth and all who inhabit it.

I was pleased to chat with Frans Verhagen, codirector of Earth and Peace Education Associates, who attended my workshop on "Teaching a Vocabulary of Peace in the International Classroom." Dr. Verhagen, who had spoken earlier on "Contextual Sustainability Education," pointed out how vocabulary and grammar hold clues to our attitude toward the Earth, with a capital E. For example, calling our home Mother Earth instead of it personifies and dignifies our habitat, and plainly reminds us of our connection both to other Earthlings and to the biosphere. Dr. Verhagen noted that using phrases such as "killing two birds with one stone" has a clear meaning to human beings, but also may demonstrate a lack of concern for those unfortunate flying creatures.

Other presenters carried the theme through a number of perspectives. Alison Milofsky, program officer of the U.S. Institute of Peace, led a discussion on "Teaching Conflict Management and Peacemaking in the ESL Classroom" and provided resources for educators. Meghana Nayak, assistant professor at Pace University, facilitated a session on "Multiculturalism and Diversity in the Classroom." Jennifer E. Bradner, professor at Strayer University, explained the "Newsweek Education Program for Bringing the Real World into the Classroom." Elise Klein, president and founder of Teachers Against Prejudice, offered ways of "Confronting Prejudice Using Film, Television, and Print Media." Eileen Mattingly, director of World Wise Schools, the Peace Corps, narrated "Uncommon Journeys: Classroom Materials for Understanding Culture." Additional sessions included "Toward a Meaningful Understanding of Arabs and Islam" with Zeina Assam Seikaly, outreach coordinator, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University; and "Presidential Convention 2004: Political Literacy, Civic Engagement, and Diversity in Large Scale Simulations" by Christopher Malone, assistant professor at Pace University.

Participants were sent off with a closing address, "Speaking the Peace We Seek," by Cora Weiss, president, Hague Appeal for Peace. Laura Bryant, member relations coordinator, and John Donaldson, director of Educational Programs, TESOL, coordinated the event with the assistance of staff at Pace University.

Awareness is the starting point for any shift in perspective. Awareness is a foundation for building ecological peace, which complements social peace. In classrooms, in boardrooms, in forums such as that held at Pace University, we are invited to see peace as possible, for the cosmos, for cultures, as well as for individuals.

Peace is not passive; it is active, it is demanding. We are responsible for whether there is peace or whether there is war-socially and environmentally. Social responsibility hinges on awakening to these realities now and on implementing practices to work toward peace in every setting.


Feminist Pedagogy and TESOL in a Postfeminist Age

By Stephanie Vandrick, e-mail: mailto:vandricks@usfca.edu, University of San Francisco, California

(Note: This article is a revised and much shortened version of a paper given at the TESOL 2004 Convention.)

Introduction

Feminist pedagogy involves bringing the dramatically changing larger world into our ESL classrooms. Specifically, feminism, and the role and status of women, have changed dramatically. Feminism—a belief that all people, female or male, should have equal rights and opportunities, and a social/political movement to ensure such equality—has made a difference in the world. But there are still huge inequities.

There have indeed been large changes in ESL classrooms. When I started teaching in the 1970s, there were generally one or two female students in a class of 15 or 20 international students; now, my ESL classes are at least half female. The women in ESL classes were generally quite quiet and unassertive in the past; now, they are very comfortable with themselves, are very confident, and participate actively in class discussions and activities. And certainly there has been attention to gender in language, in applied linguistics, in second language teaching, and in TESOL, but not enough.

Postfeminism: Definitions

For one possible explanation, I take note of the phenomenon in society at large, at least in the United States, of the many pronouncements, starting in the late 1980s, that we are now in a postfeminist era. Scholars state that postfeminism parallels postmodernism, poststructuralism, and postcolonialism; in an age of uncertainty, where nothing can be said to be definitively true or absolute, feminism is, along with everything else, questioned and problematized. A variation of this view is that feminism has been too monolithic, and now in this time of multiculturalism, has been fragmented into numerous offshoots, diluting the original force of 60s and 70s feminism. Feminism, especially academic feminism, has also been criticized as elitist; this claim ignores the reality that feminist scholars are still often marginalized. Another strand of the postfeminist claim is that feminism is too earnest, too strident, too repressive. Some young women focus on women’s freedom to be sexual, to dress ultra-femininely, to be “bad girls,” and they believe that feminism does not allow these behaviors. Some younger women are also impatient with perspectives viewing women as victims. The theme of these various definitions of postfeminism is clearly that feminism has served its purpose and is no longer relevant or necessary.

Postfeminism: The Larger Context

As media critic Susan Douglas (2002) argues, we should be suspicious of the motives for postfeminist claims, given that big business has a very real financial stake in denigrating feminism and declaring the end of feminism, which it presents as “irrelevant and even undesirable because it has made millions of women unhappy, unfeminine, childless, lonely, and bitter.” Along the same lines, Geneva Overholser (1986) calls postfeminism “sexism [under] a subtler name” and believes that it encourages people to “go back to the old ways” and take a “breather” from feminism (p. A34).

Curiously, some pundits and media reporters take the position that we are postfeminist because the feminist movement has largely succeeded, whereas others, in contrast, indicate that we are postfeminist because the movement had its chance and failed, stating that women were misled by the feminist movement to think they could have it all. The first position is astonishing; although enormous progress has been made, even cursory consideration will note that women have not yet achieved equality. The second position is also disturbing; women’s struggles with their dual roles in the home and in the workplace are caused not by feminism, but by society’s failure to put into place accommodations that allow women (and men) to blend work and family life.

Postfeminism in TESOL

With regard to TESOL, I speculate that perhaps something similar to this popular belief in postfeminism may be occurring in our field. Perhaps attention to gender issues—including feminist pedagogy—is already considered passé. I do not imply that scholars and teachers in our field are anti-feminist. However, gender in general, and feminist pedagogy in particular, seem not to be issues at the forefront of most TESOL professionals’ agendas.

ESL Students’ Views of Feminism

Interestingly, the same female ESL students I alluded to above as being more confident and comfortable with themselves also profess a lack of interest in feminism and gender issues. They state that they themselves have not experienced sexism. (Granted, the answers of women students less privileged than mine may be different.) The issue seems to them to be one of another time and another place. Students also continue to have negative impressions of the word feminism itself, associating it with women who hate men and women who are unfeminine. Perhaps because students have grown up in an era and place where they take equality for granted, they do not understand the connection between the activism and vigilance needed to promote and maintain equality.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I urge that we in TESOL reject the negative definitions of postfeminism that assert that the need for feminism, the need for attention to gender issues, has passed; I urge that we include serious attention to gender and feminist pedagogy in our research and in our teaching.

References

Douglas, S. J. (2002, May 13). Manufacturing postfeminism. In These Times. Retrieved December 10, 2004, from http://www.inthesetimes.com/issue/26/13/views1.shtml.

Overholser, G. (1986, September 19). What “Post-feminism” really means. New York Times, p. 34.


From the Journals

1. Soares, C. (2004, November). Learning about prejudice and discrimination. The Internet TESL Journal, 10(11). Retrieved fromhttp://iteslj.org/Lessons/Soares-Prejudice.html.

In an article in the November 2004 issue of the online journal The Internet TESL Journal, Colleen Soares (mailto:csoares@hpu.edu) of Hawaii Pacific University describes a unit in which students learn about the concepts of prejudice and discrimination and about some of the history of civil rights struggles in the United States, and also share with classmates situations of prejudice and discrimination in their own countries. Read the entire article to find out more about what Colleen’s students do.

2. Ewing, V. L. (mailto:vanessaewing@hotmail.com), Stukas, Jr., A. A., & Sheehan, E. P. (2003). Student prejudice against gay male and lesbian lecturers.The Journal of Social Psychology, 143(5), 569–579.

The authors examine whether gay men and lesbians are evaluated more negatively than are individuals of unspecified sexual orientation when attributional ambiguity surrounds evaluations and whether they are evaluated similarly to unspecified others when no attributional ambiguity is present. One male and one female lecturer delivered either a strong or a weak lecture to students who either (a) believed that the lecturer was a gay man or a lesbian or (b) did not receive sexual orientation information. Contrary to predictions, the quality of the lecture did not influence the ratings of known gay male and lesbian lecturers, although lecture quality strongly influenced ratings of lecturers whose sexual orientation was unspecified. After strong lectures, participants rated known gay male and lesbian lecturers more negatively than they did lecturers whose sexual orientation was unspecified. After weak lectures, participants rated known gay male and lesbian lecturers more positively than they did the others. The authors discussed the possibility that students might moderate their ratings to avoid discriminating against gay and lesbian lecturers.

3. Robinson, D. T. (mailto:dawn-robinson@uiowa.edu), & Smith-Lovin, L. (2001). Getting a laugh: Gender, status, and humor in task discussions. Social Forces, 80(1), 123–158.

Humor is a quintessentially social phenomenon, as every joke requires both a teller and an audience. Here the authors ask how humor operates in task-oriented group discussions. They use theories about the functions of humor to generate hypotheses about who jokes, when, and in what situations. Then they use event history techniques to analyze humor attempts and successes in six-person groups. The results combine to suggest an image of joking as a status-related activity, with men, high participators, frequent interrupters, and those who are frequently interrupted all showing status-related patterns of humor use. Substantial time dependence was found in humor use, in which humor may serve to form a status hierarchy early in a group’s development and to dissipate task-related tension later in the discussion. The authors use these results, in conjunction with core insights on status and emotion from the group processes literature, to develop a new theory of humor use in task-oriented groups. The new theory generates predictions about the content of humor episodes, which are examined with additional data from group discussions. Consistent with the theory, a higher proportion of men’s humor is found to be differentiating, whereas a higher proportion of women’s humor is cohesion-building. The authors find the same general pattern with the other status variable, participation.

4. Linzey, A. (2004, June). “The powers that be”: Mechanisms that prevent us recognising animal sentience. Essays in Philosophy, 5(2). Retrieved December 11, 2004, from http://www.humboldt.edu/~essays/linzey.html.

Andrew Linzey is a professor and senior research fellow in ethics, theology, and animal welfare at Oxford. His online article referenced above explains four ways that humans avoid seeing what science has made clear: that is, that other animals, even ones deemed to be lower animals, are, like us, sentient. In other words, they think and feel too.

The four mechanisms explained in the article are as follows:

  1. Misdescription: labeling nonhuman animals as beasts, beastly, brutes, snake in the grass, ratting on someone. This is similar to the names used to describe people of an opposing nation in times of war, such as gook or wop. “In order to kill or abuse we need to create an artificial distance from the one who is to be killed or abused.”
  2. Misrepresentation: claiming that other animals cannot think or feel, that they are basically things incapable of feeling pain or other mental acts, deserving of no more consideration than a basketball. All this is despite a growing body of evidence as to the mental capacities of our fellow animals, dating back at least to Darwin’s 1872 book The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals.
  3. Misdirection: acknowledging that other animals also suffer but minimizing and obfuscating this suffering. Obfuscation takes such forms as declaring a need for more evidence about fellow animals’ mental processes or stating that claims that fellow animals think and suffer amounts to anthropomorphism.
  4. Misperception: perceiving other animals as objects on earth for humans’ benefit, not as beings with intrinsic value. We need to “make the moral discovery that animals matter in themselves, that they have value in themselves, and that their suffering is as important to them as ours is to us.” This discovery “is as objective and important as any other fundamental discovery, whether it be the discovery of the stars or the discovery of the human psyche.”

Related articles by the same author can be found at http://www.godandanimals.com/PAGES/edits/linzey.html.


Review of Two Online Environmental Education Games

By Sean Cambage, e-mail: Sean.Cambage@canberra.edu.au, ELICOS teacher at The School of Languages, University of Canberra, Australia, and Janpha Thadphoothon, e-mail: janphaact@yahoo.com, EdD Candidate in TESOL, University of Canberra, Australia.

We asked five international ESL students to try two online games that teach about the environment. Then, we interviewed them to obtain their feedback. Here is a summary.

Game 1: Eco Quest from GreenPeace, /http://activism.greenpeace.org/eco_quest/index.html. The game was easy to use. It wasn’t too difficult for nonnative speakers at a pre-intermediate level and up and was even manageable for beginner learners with some guidance. Some nonnative speakers who tried the game found it to be easy for children but a waste of time for adults. Requirements are a computer with Internet access and Windows 2000 or higher. It does provide reading practice, but the reading is very peripheral and not essential to playing the game. It has some vocabulary that is explained. The game was fun, but the challenge was a physical one, not mental. It contained very little violence and, thus, would be suitable for all ages. It was fun to play but a little repetitive.

Game 2: Vermi the Worm from the California state government, http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/kidstuff. The game was very guided and structured and didn’t allow for a player to play at his or her own speed. The instructions were very clear and easy to understand. This game would be suitable for people of all ages but is specifically aimed at young teenagers. Most trial players found it easy to use. It would be suitable for native and nonnative speakers, but some teacher–peer guidance would ensure players get the most out of this game. Players have to concentrate on listening and reading skills together. Requirements include Macromedia Flash 5 as well as Internet access; and the game must be downloaded. As it was structured, it contained a lot of listening that students may find boring after a few minutes although the graphics and sound effects were very good. This game had a cartoon quality about it that helped the students to learn about the functions and life of a worm.


From the Bookshelf: Review of Global Issues

By Stephanie Vandrick, e-mail: mailto:vandricks@usfca.edu, University of San Francisco

Sampedro, R., & Hillyard, S. (2004). Global issues. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Global Issues is a volume in the Resource Books for Teachers series, edited by Alan Maley; according to the back cover, this series offers practical guidance to teachers and future teachers. The back cover further states that the book “focuses on real-world issues to encourage communication skills, reflections, and critical thinking.” The appeal of the book is that it does, in fact, provide very usable and interesting activities, and at the same time allows teachers to focus on important social and political issues that cannot be ignored in light of current world events.

The introductory material includes a foreword by Alan Maley that provides a lucid rationale for focusing on global issues in ELT/ESL classes, along with a clear-eyed assessment of possible hazards (such as over-familiarity with certain topics and over-zealousness on the part of teachers) in doing so; Maley—and the authors—obviously decide that the positives outweigh any possible negatives, especially when the global issues discussions and activities truly serve language education. The foreword is followed by an authors’ introduction focusing on interactive teaching and learning, developing critical and creative thinking, and student research.

In the body of the book, over 80 classroom activities are described, divided into four main areas: awareness raising; personal experiences; major global issues; and music, drama, and communication skills in global issues. A small sampling of the activities gives a sense of the book: “Your footprint on the Earth,” “Reading the labels,” “Biking for clean air,” “Crossing out violent toys,” “Deconstructing bullying,” “Endangered languages,” “Gender roles and you,” and “Pop idol.”

Each activity is outlined clearly, with introductory material, step-by-step instructions, photocopiable (permission is given by the publisher) worksheets and prompt boxes, follow-up assignments, and resource lists. Each activity includes variations, so teachers can adapt activities to their specific pedagogical settings.

The book is intended for teachers, not students; the instructions are addressed to teachers (“Ask the students to . . .”). At the end of the book is a section titled “Reference library,” which includes lists of publications, organizations, websites, and other useful materials, and a section titled “Glossary,” which explains such terms as fair trade, indigenous peoples, and sustainability. The table of contents and the index are also helpful in that they indicate which activities include practice of certain grammar points (e.g., adjectives, gerunds, modals) and certain skills (e.g., argument skills, opinion expressing, persuading, asking for advice).

The authors do not explicitly state which age or type of students they have in mind, but in the introduction they allude to students 11–16 years of age, so perhaps this is the target level. However, the activities could be used in high school, adult school, Intensive English Program, and university settings. As for the level, most of the activities could be done by high intermediate and advanced students; they would be too difficult—unless, perhaps, they were carefully adapted—for beginning/basic or even intermediate students. As for geographical settings, the authors state that the activities have been tried out in classes around the world, including Singapore, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and Spain; in some settings, teachers would likely need to adapt some activities and would need to explain some specifically British terms (such as “Agony Aunt”).

Although some topics are, as is inevitable in a book on global issues, culturally sensitive (e.g., “Behind the veil”), the authors attempt to be nonjudgmental and respectful of all ethnic groups and religions. Despite the controversial nature of many topics, the tone throughout is one of sharing information and ideas, researching and thinking critically about situations, and coming to one’s own conclusions.

This book is user-friendly; the activities are clearly laid out and explained. Teachers can easily pick and choose among the activities. I suspect that the most common use for this book will be as a source of supplementary activities rather than as the main focus of a class. The photocopiable worksheets are a boon, in that students do not have to buy a text, but the need for the worksheets could be problematic for teachers with limited access to copiers or a limited budget for copying. However, many of the worksheets are short and simple enough that they could be written on a blackboard and copied by students.

Another useful feature of the book is an indication of the approximate time each activity will take. Some activities suggest the possibility of a field trip outside the school (e.g., to a shopping mall). Other activities include the option of real-life activism, such as collecting signatures for a petition or carrying out a campaign in one’s school against pollution.

Though many of the activities are genuinely engaging, a few seem overly earnest and perhaps will not gain the interest of students. A few others seem overly complicated and perhaps overly time-consuming. However, overall I find this book extremely admirable and useful, in that it combines attention to important social and political issues with attention to critical thinking and the practice of language skills. It is a book that many teachers, and especially TSR members, will want to find space for on their bookshelves.


Seeing Iraq Casualties in a Different Way

This online posting from September 22, 2004, by Juan Cole (mailto:jricole@yahoo.com), a history professor at University of Michigan, comes from the website of Code Pink: Women for Peace (http://www.codepink4peace.org/index.shtml). The post can be found athttp://www.codepinkalert.org/News_and_Insight_Real_News.shtml.

If America Were Iraq, What Would it Be Like?

President Bush said Tuesday that the Iraqis are refuting the pessimists and implied that things are improving in that country.

What would America look like if it were in Iraq’s current situation? The population of the United States is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the past week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing weekly or monthly toll.

And what if those deaths occurred all over the country, including in the capital of Washington, DC, but mainly above the Mason-Dixon Line, in Boston, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco?

What if the grounds of the White House and the government buildings near the Mall were constantly taking mortar fire? What if almost nobody in the State Department at Foggy Bottom, the White House, or the Pentagon dared venture out of their buildings, and considered it dangerous to go over to Crystal City or Alexandria?

What if all the reporters for all the major television and print media were trapped in five-star hotels in Washington, DC, and New York, unable to move more than a few blocks safely, and dependent on stringers to know what was happening in Oklahoma City and St. Louis? What if the only time they ventured into the Midwest was if they could be embedded in Army or National Guard units?

There are estimated to be some 25,000 guerrillas in Iraq engaged in concerted acts of violence. What if there were private armies totalling 275,000 men, armed with machine guns, assault rifles (legal again!), rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar launchers, hiding out in dangerous urban areas of cities all over the country? What if they completely controlled Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Denver, and Omaha, so that local police and federal troops could not go into those cities?

What if, during the past year, the secretary of state (Aqilah Hashemi), the president (Izzedine Salim), and the attorney general (Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim) had all been assassinated?

What if all the cities in the United States were wracked by a crime wave, with thousands of murders, kidnappings, burglaries, and carjackings in every major city every year?

What if the Air Force routinely (I mean daily or weekly) bombed Billings, Montana; Flint, Michigan; Watts in Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Anacostia in Washington, DC; and other urban areas, attempting to target “safe houses” of “criminal gangs,” but inevitably killing a lot of children and little old ladies?

What if, from time to time, the U.S. Army besieged Virginia Beach, killing hundreds of armed members of the Christian Soldiers? What if entire platoons of the Christian Soldiers militia holed up in Arlington National Cemetery, and were bombarded by U.S. Air Force warplanes daily, which destroyed thousands of graves and even pulverized the Vietnam Memorial over on the Mall? What if the National Council of Churches had to call for a popular march of thousands of believers to converge on the National Cathedral to stop the U.S. Army from demolishing it to get at a rogue band of the Timothy McVeigh Memorial Brigades?

What if there were virtually no commercial air traffic in the country? What if many roads were highly dangerous, especially Interstate 95 from Richmond to Washington, DC, and I-95 and I-91 up to Boston? If you got on I-95 anywhere over that 500-mile stretch, you would risk being carjacked, kidnapped, or having your car sprayed with machine-gun fire.

What if no one had electricity for much more than 10 hours a day, and often less? What if it went off at unpredictable times, causing factories to grind to a halt and air conditioning to fail in the middle of the summer in Houston and Miami? What if the Alaska pipeline were bombed and disabled at least monthly? What if unemployment hovered around 40%?

What if veterans of militia actions at Ruby Ridge and the Oklahoma City bombing were brought in to run the government on the theory that one needs a tough guy in these times of crisis?

What if municipal elections were cancelled and cliques close to the new “president” quietly were installed in the statehouses as “governors”? What if several of these governors (especially of Montana and Wyoming) were assassinated soon after taking office or resigned when their children were taken hostage by guerrillas?

What if the leader of the European Union maintained that the citizens of the United States are, under these conditions, refuting pessimism and that freedom and democracy are just around the corner?


Why Isn’t This the Headline in Every Newspaper Every Day?

By George Jacobs, e-mail: george@vegetarian-society.org, Broward Community College, Singapore

Here are some quotes from page 6 of The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2004, produced by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (http://www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=/docrep/007/y5650e/y5650e00.htm):

1. “Every year that hunger continues at present levels costs more than 5 million children their lives.”

2. [O]ne child dies every five seconds as a result of hunger and malnutrition. . . .”

3. “On a global scale, every year that hunger persists at current levels causes deaths and disability that will cost developing countries future productivity with a present discounted value of US$500 billion or more.”

Let’s say that the United Nations is wildly exaggerating by a factor of 10 in a desperate effort to get more money for itself. Let’s say the real figures are only 500,000 children (one every 50 seconds) dying each year as a result of hunger and malnutrition. Has anyone seen anything in the headlines of any newspaper anywhere that seems more important than this story?

Fortunately, there is some good news. The UN report cites evidence of improvement in some countries. Another positive, on a much smaller scale, is that a favorite project in ESL classes is to raise funds or use other methods to help children in need.

Just one example of where to look for such projects is an organization named Plan, also known as Childreach (http://www.plan-uk.org;http://www.planusa.org). This group was featured in the 2002 Jack Nicholson movie About Schmidt (http://www.aboutschmidtmovie.com). The way it works is that for a certain amount per month, such as US$22, the class sponsors a child in need. The money goes to programs in the community where the child lives and the class exchanges letters with the child.

What I did one time was to show a class of university ESL students the information Plan had sent me about a child in Ethiopia whom my family was sponsoring. Plan sends a photo of the child, along with background on the child and his or her family, community, and country. This gave my students a face and a place to associate with information they saw about poverty.

Next, I explained the sponsorship process and how letters can be written to the sponsored children via e-mail or on tree-based products. Staff in the country translate the letters and help the children with responses. However, communication is normally very slow, given such factors as the state of postal services in the areas where the children live and the busy schedules of the adults who help the children in communicating with sponsors.

I asked if any of the students in my class would like to write letters to the sponsored child and a few volunteered. As far as I know, none of the students in the class sponsored a child on their own. If anyone has experiences with similar activities, please share them on the TSR List or write to the new TSR Newsletter editor, Amanda Johnson, at mailto:minnie_themooch@yahoo.com.


Veal: Fughedaboutit!

This humorous short Flash cartoon about a very unfunny subject is a takeoff on Mafia movies. In this one, the Godfather comes down on the side of the cows: http://www.noveal.org/forgetaboutit/index.htm. This movie is similar to an earlier movie takeoff, The Meatrix (http://www.themeatrix.com).



Community News and Updates Note from the Editor

I’m a big fan of quotations, and while surfing the Net recently, I came upon a good one, cited by Anita Krajnc of Queen’s University in Ontario: “To know and not to act is not to know” (http://www.tribeofheart.org/heartbeat/details/Anita-Krajnc.htm).

We live in the Information Age. What happens anywhere in the world can be on our TV or computer screens within the hour. It is now easier for us to know both the good and the bad about what is happening around the planet.

But does having more opportunity to know mean that people do know more, or do the same devices that can increase our ability to know also allow us to hide our heads in the multicolored, glowing, interactive electronic sand? And, most important, when we do know, do we act?

Fortunately, educators’ organizations such as TSR encourage our members, our colleagues, and our students to know and to act. So, please have a look at this issue and please participate in TSR. Perhaps they can be part of your own path toward knowing and acting.

Finally, please welcome the new TSR Newsletter editor (beginning with the 2005 TESOL conference), Amanda Johnson (minnie_themooch@yahoo.com).

Cooperatively yours,
george jacobs


About the TESOLers for Social Responsibility Caucus TESOLers for Social Responsibility Caucus (TSR)

The TESOLers for Social Responsibility (TSR) caucus comprises TESOL members who are actively engaged in integrating language teaching with social responsibility, world citizenship and an awareness of global issues such as peace, human rights and the environment. The caucus aims to promote social responsibility within the TESOL profession and to advance social equity, respect for differences, and multicultural understanding through education.

TSR Community Leaders, 2004-2005

Chair: Thomas Schroeder, tsr@tesol.org
Chair-elect: Irma Ghosn
Editor: George Jacobs

Web site: http://www2.tesol.org/communities/tsr/

Discussion e-list: Visit http://www.tesol.org/getconnected/ to subscribe to TSR-L, the discussion list for this community, or visit http://lists.tesol.org/read/?forum=tsr-l if you are already subscribed.