I have found that many adult ESL teachers, although not all as we can see below, want to agents for social change as much as agents for language learning. This comes through loud and clear on the Listserv that I occasionally read. One head of a state adult education department in the US would not hire teachers who would not enlist their learners to lobby the state government for more funding for adult education under the guise of student activism.Terms like “respecting diversity” and “power relationships” are dear to the hearts of these teachers, yet I wonder if respecting diversity should not include respecting privacy, and whether a teacher’s concern to shape the social consciousness of an immigrant learner is perhaps not really an abuse of the position of power that a teacher has, especially in the cultures of many immigrants. I wonder if this really helps the learners improve their English. Here is an exchange from that listserv that is not untypical. 1) “Next week, I will be hosting a special guest discussion on domestic violence
in the adult literacy classroom. I am thinking that some of you may be
interested in joining us, as the impetus for this discussion was a study
that was conducted on the US-Mexico Border. Your ESL voice may be an
important contribution to the discussion. Here are the details: What: The Impact of Domestic Violence in Adult Education 2) I hope that there is not domestic violence going on in your adult literacy
classroom.?? 3) Well, while we all hope that, sad thing is that many of our students experience domestic violence. That is the reason we are having this discussion. 4) I would be interested to know how many of your students experience domestic violence. Is it a third, or ten percent or one percent, approximately. Is the rate higher amongst ESL learners than in the general population? Steve (me) 5) It’s not necessarily a question of numbers so much as an understanding that a number of adults – learners, teachers, administrators, – will have experienced violence and that it’s likely that a disproportionate number of adult learners may have experienced it. A sensitivity to that fact helps educators make choices that make learning safer, more accessible and more possible for all.