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Equity, justice, and responsibility in ELT

A holiday break for me tends to come with a mixture of unwinding from a demanding term, but also an opportunity to reflect on ELT issues over the past year that have come up. Some of these I’ve just pushed off because of lack of time or desire to bother getting involved in. Others I’ve partly joined a discussion but just gave up because of discourse involved (sometimes platform on which the discussion started). Still there are others that I’ve thought and written about fairly extensively, but begin to reevaluate my position on. These are some thoughts/questions swirling in my head:

  1. Is copyright when sharing resources with other teachers a primary concern?
  2. Do I read past the bold and dig into the content before I share?
  3. Should knowledge be completely open access for everyone?
  4. Do I adequately support those who fight for better conditions?
  5. How effectively do I encourage diversity and representation?
  6. Do I interact in discussion online appropriately and fairly?
  7. What are my new professional and personal goals?

Is copyright when sharing resources with other teachers a primary concern?

Every so often, I come across a post on Linkedin or Facebook where a contact shares a link to a website that includes PDFs of many copyrighted ELT books. I am compelled to point out the illegality of it. I’m appalled that any self-respecting teacher, particularly in EAP where part of our mandate is to teach and model academic integrity, would share it. However, this brings up questions of intention of sharing and whether those who ‘like’ the post actually investigate what they’re liking.

This brings me to question #2.

Do I read past the bold and dig into the content before I share?

It’s so tempting just to engage superficially with content through the easy avenue of ‘liking’ without clicking through or merely skimming the info. I try very hard to critically evaluate before I share, but I know not everyone does. Some ‘like’ as a sort of bookmarking strategy for later reading. I get that. I do wonder how many times in our fast-paced-headline-read-only culture we share things without actually knowing what’s being shared or what’s being said. This goes back to the last consideration above. Our engagement can lead to vast misunderstandings. Also, I hate to perpetuate misinformation. Snopes often saves me this embarrassment.

Should knowledge be completely open access for everyone?

Connected with #1 & #2 and with a #netneutrality focus lately, the idea that different payment levels equate with different levels of access isn’t actually so new. Research articles in ELT are often limited to those that can access them through university library subscriptions. Is this wrong? Is it justified to share it with teachers who don’t have access? It’s all so blurry, particularly when you consider who profits vs who shares. In the case of books, I’m torn, having published myself. I’d be lying if one reason I did so weren’t to earn a living. On the other hand, I feel I balance this out with a number of free work here on this blog. So messy this…

Do I adequately support those who fight for better conditions?

There are many who complain about low wages, insecure contracts, lack of benefits, etc., and rightly so. What are realistic and rationale approaches to positive change? ‘It’s too hard.’ ‘It’s just the way it is.’ ‘I need to survive so I can’t afford to sacrifice my own situation for my principles.’ Where am I on this scale? College faculty in Ontario, Canada took a 5-week union strike as action. I RTed support. I engaged in discussion. And really, did it or the strike improve things? Short term, nope. It caused a bunch of problems. Long term? Hope so. In the end, are your problems still my problems? What does my privilege afford me now? This made me think.

How effectively do I encourage diversity and representation?

How far do I support gender equality or second-language plenary speakers in ELT events, really? How effectively do I call out discrimination in job postings? Do I contribute to equitable practice in the classroom? Each of these social justice issues deserves its own heavy consideration. Would I choose not to attend events if representation were not recognised? As one who is just beginning to be invited on the plenary speaker bandwagon, I would find it a difficult choice to refuse a plenary spot. Is our own success at the expense of others? How can speakers act as a result? Do we quit our jobs in protest of inequitable practices? It all can be so exhausting.

Do I interact in discussions online appropriately and fairly?

I think so, but I sometimes wonder about the tone of how we come off and present ourselves in more controversial discussions online. I’ve known a few people who did or planned to give up social media as a result of how they felt treated in these discussions. This made me very sad, but I won’t quit myself. I want to be rational; I want to remove emotional judgment as much as possible. I wonder how well I do this. I suppose I could just by blocks or unfollows or yelling at me.

What are my new professional and personal goals?

I am a goal-oriented person… always have been. When I set them, I achieve them, though I know it takes time, often years. There’s a bit of a crossroads for me in the last couple years. Do I want to stay where I am? Do I want to try life in the UK? Is that even possible? What will make me happy? Where am I going? Am I really comfortable to try out the new speedo shorts bathing suit in public? Ahh the existentialist angst of it all…

Honestly, I struggled a little with framing this as ‘I’ or ‘we’, but in the end, I don’t want to speak for anyone else but myself for the most part, except when I know I’m doing thing in the way I feel is right. Maybe one or several of these will resonate with you, if you’ve read all the way through this post (see #2). Do you have thoughts on any of these things? Otherwise, maybe we should all–myself included–just take a break from it all.


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Brett Reynolds

Books are one thing, but journal articles are something else. These things where the government and/or university funds the research, the researcher does the work, and the publishers reap the rewards by impeding access is a broken model. Yeah

Did the college strike improve things? Sure, there were a lot of down sides, but even in the short term, there were positive outcomes. We’ll get a good idea this week about what the final terms will look like. In the mean time, part-timer college support workers have won the right to have their votes counted and will likely join OPSEU.

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