All Too Human

Most ESOL students will not complete the second language course they have enrolled in. A significant per cent–nearing 20 to 25–will not even show up the first day. Some say it is because the classes I am referring to are free. Humans being what they are–who they are–we cannot value what we cannot put a money label on? Is that true, or is it the baseness of our world overly determined by consumerism, consumerism, consumerism that disallows us to appreciate a free class. Yes, more than half will not finish the course for which they have registered. We devote a lot of time and effort from what we like to call sociology, but to no real avail in the way we respond or imagine correctives–as if a corrective for how people participate in government sponsored public agency programming designed (supposedly) for the benefit of the target group is possible. Do the People have a native fear of government sponsored programming, or is it a collective unconscious mistrust that finds itself manifest at about the same time the people in the group say to themselves that they need help, and that this programming seems as if it will meet those needs. I know I have an instinctive–learned instincts are the only instincts we have–mistrust of government help . . . and that is not rooted in a belief that the gorvernment does and is going to do anything nefarious behind the facade of help. I just imagine that no government bureaucrat at any level sees enough of what needs to be seen in the manner and the matter of helping the people to do enough or anything near what they think they are going to do. They rarely achieve what they say they are achieving. Most of government sponsored help has more to do with Ad men who are all nearly mad men–it’s not the product but the package, government, after advertising, says. This is as evident to me from a long experience with government and public agencies attempts to help people in need.

I have been teaching ESOL for most of the last twenty-five years and I can say that most students that come to free government funded programming do not have a clue what they need to learn or how they should go about learning English; and the programs do not help foster that. Too much of our current pedagogy as adopted the idea that schools are stores and students are patrons, and this leaves programming more in tune with asking students what they want to learn, pandering as a way of helping. I experienced the same from remedial writing students in CUNY for over a decade of teaching Freshman Composition as an Adjunct Lecturer. Most of what I teach, although not specifically and not always directly, is how to learn, ways of apprehending when they are not in the class, and not just the hyper-practical travel phrase book English the government would like us to teach.

Everything I teach is context driven and is limited in a way that fosters enough repetition along with several extensions are available in the time frame of the class. One class can be dedicated to In, On, At–where? Another, In, ON, At, when? Repetition in variegation is key. Yet, many students who progress but not far enough to advance to another level often drop the class because they imagine they know sufficiently what they are repeating. When a student gets the opportunity to repeat a class at a given level, that is a golden opportunity, but human hubris what it is, it remains an opportunity mostly squandered. There is no greater delusion than the one most humans suffer and that is being convinced they know more than they actually do or could know given the human penchant for such delusions.

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