Dogme Blog Challenge #9 Being Critical

One of the greatest problems I have personally found, from an attempt years ago, to bring in the then topical subject of weapons of mass destruction into our classroom - the war in Iraq was gearing up  - was that politics can be a very dangerous and difficult discussion. 

However, does it pay to always avoid the difficult?

Do you believe that everything we read, write, watch or hear in the media is always true?   Have we ever been lied to or misled by those in positions of political authority?

We know the answers to these questions lie in layers of greyness, layers which are often unpercievable by second language learners - yet how often do we challenge our students to think about these issues?

Should we be teaching our students to think critically about the materials/opinions/news items we bring in to class with us?  That they bring in?

What has been your experience - how have you handled critical thinking in your dogme classrooms?

The Blog Posts Challenge #9
This is a critical update by Diarmuid Fogarty
Critical Thinking, we aim at it by Sabrina de Vita
Thinking in a crisis by Candy von Ost
A reflection on teaching critical thinking by Tyson Seburn

      Read previous Challenge blog posts:
      What is all this about? 
      The Dogme Blog Challenge + links to the blogs discussing Dogme
      The dogma of Dogme - background info & links
      Dogme ELT - other stuff I've written on Dogme

      How to share on Twitter:  use the #dogmeme hashtag

      How to share your fellow teachers' blog posts with each other?  Add/link to the blog(s) written on the subject on your post so they form a ring and your readers can travel on from post to post!

      How to respond?

      Comment below with short thoughts
      Go to your nearest yahoo!group and share your opinions
      with like-minded teaching colleagues

      Blog it:
      Write a list or tell a story, 
      compare lessons: dogme and non-dogme, 
      relate an experience, a contrary opinion,
      quote research, your own theory,
      submit mere musings, rant...
      share an idea, a paragraph, a dictionary's definition
      come up with a clever sentence,
      a beautiful photograph,

      a video-log
      an article or draft the bones of an essay, 
      share examples from your own classroom experience...

      In short, be dogmeic: personalize  your response!)

      Important URLs to quote/link to in your post (if necessary):
      • Teaching Unplugged:
      • Scott Thornbury's website + articles:
      • Scott Thornbury's blog:
      • Luke Meddings' blog:
      • Luke Meddings' on the Delta blog:
      • Dogme ELT in Wikipedia:

      5 Responses to “Dogme Blog Challenge #9 Being Critical”

      • Tobius says:
        December 04, 2010

        I'm not a dogme-ist, but I'm a treat-students-like-people-ist and so I feel authorized to respond.

        I treat my students like I would anybody I respect but don't know well: I listen, poke fun when I think it's okay, ask critical questions if I feel like they're going to react well to it, and back off if I get the sense I'm making them uncomfortable.

        I commented here before on the fact that I don't think it's my job to persuade students to do anything but speak English better and, ideally, more often. If they have opinions that are far off from mine or the norm (and mine aren't the norm), I try to treat them the way I treat any respectable person: I poke fun in a friendly way, or I avoid the subject.

        The thing is this: I'm technically a teacher, but we've gotten this mentality that a teacher's job is to brainwash as well as instruct. (And, I think it's pretty bad in public schools.) It's part of why I prefer 'language trainer,' I just train language, not morals.

        Here's a good rule of thumb: would you be comfortable with George Bush (or any figure you privately loathe) using a LANGUAGE classroom the way you're using it? If you would, then you're fine!

      • KALINAGO ENGLISH says:
        December 04, 2010

        hi ya, Toby - I thought you might pop by for this one! I suppose, when it comes down to the wire, I really truly believe we live in a world where people no longer question those in positions of authority: no matter how often we experience being lied to.

        I'm not really sure if it is the right thing to do, to teach critical thinking skills but I'm not really sure it isn't either.

        I guess I take it like this - say an event happens in the news that's everywhere e.g. the oil spill in the gulf earlier this year and right now the Wikileaks situation.

        As I'm a dogme teacher when in classroom I might never bring it up myself but ask the students what's in the news... and the pursue it asking the standard


        questions, following perhaps with a little of the "have you ever... "in your opinion... "can you justify... "compare this to a similar... "have we seen this sort of situation occur before... "what might (s)he have to gain by making this sort of claim..." etc- etc-

        It's tough to do but it's not so much brainwashing as brainstorming :-). While I agree with you that it's our job to speak English better, the question is, of course, what is "better English" -

        Personally, one of the things I have difficulty doing both in Spanish and German is forming a logical argument (and those who know me at all should know (by now) that I do not shirk a good wordfight) and I guess, from my own perspective, the ability to express one's opinions clearly is a deep skill... one my adult students in Business and upper management tend to need!

        But, of course, like you when I'm working with students who don't need to incorporate this skill in their L2, then am just as happy to talk about soap operas, movie stars and football scores!

        Dunno if that answers your q?


      • Tobius says:
        December 05, 2010

        I one hundred percent agree with you: if students bring something up, I don't think teacher's are allowed to shirk. . . as long as they understand that they're also not allowed to 'teach' their point-of-view, either.

        If students ask me about anything, I'll give them my honest opinion, and often I have to start by prefixing it with 'I know this sounds crazy to most Germans, but. . . I have no problem seeing shotguns in half the trucks in my hometown' or whatever my weird opinion is.

        And, you're right: students should be able to say and argue for their opinions in English and helping them do that is part of our job. But, I don't think that it's as important as the 'safe zone' where you can say and do what you want.

        I don't know what I'd do if a student came in and said something truly shocking: "I think all foreigners should leave Germany" or whatever. I'd probably say "most of us really want to" or something along those lines.

        Blah, I'm rambling. (I never learned to be succinct in my native language, you can guess how I am in German.) What I want to say boils down, I think, to this: I give my students a human reaction to their human opinions, and I'm not shy about presenting my own human opinions. The extent to which I 'brainwash' is limited to, I hope, being a model of tolerance when people are different.

        As for critical thinking, I teach that a lot when we do 'textbook dialogues.' ("Is this how people speak? Would you have this conversation in German?") A classic example comes from New Headway B1 Part two, the police officer who works long hours but has a business on the side and travels the world surfing: "Does this sound realistic to you? How many hours do you think he has in a day?"

      • KALINAGO ENGLISH says:
        December 05, 2010

        No! Tell me you are making that up! You couldn't possibly be telling me the truth. Now I will have to go and verify that statement for the masses...

        Lord, Toby, you've given me such a giggle, this might end up being an okay day after some very grey ones.

      • KALINAGO ENGLISH says:
        December 05, 2010

        (I mean of course about the police office who surfs and runs a business)

        That'd have to filed under "highly creative thinking"


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