Marek from http://teflequityadvocates.com/ left a comment on my blog. Asked if I wanted to contribute to the discrimination in ELT discussion. What a great opportunity. But before I send in my ‘official response’, I thought I should collect some of my thoughts. So here goes:
First some vocab (PTV, amirite?)
NEST = Native Speaking English Teacher
NNEST = Non-native English Speaking Teacher
American’s Next Top Model
Thread 1: I will call the ‘better model’ argument. I present David Crystal. http://teflequityadvocates.com/2014/07/06/interview-with-david-crystal/ He says the definition of NEST is problematic. And when you look at the components of the English model (“phonology, orthography, grammar, lexicon, and discourse”), then you shouldn’t assume a native is better than a non-native, especially when you factor in socio-economics (and specifically, education level). Basically says that some NEST are not as good as NNEST when it comes to the ‘language’. I cannot disagree with David Crystal because he is David Crystal, but I can that this is a very academic argument. In practice, most native speakers who have an undergraduate are “good enough” with the language to teach it up to B2/C1 level. Let’s be honest, the language is not that complicated. So if you have a white guy who is ‘good enough’, then you take the white guy. It’s a no-brainer.
Thread 2: So you have a native and a non-native who are both ‘good enough’ with the language, why take the non-native guy? Introducing the ‘no spoon’ argument. Take the non-native because he is a better teacher (hypothetical). He does the rapport building, has good empathy, provides a good learning environment, etc. Skin color and passport are a red herring. You shouldn’t consider it at all. But let’s assume the non-native and native are both EXCELLENT teachers. How do you decide? No-brainer again, take the white guy.
No Country for Old Men
Thread 3: Assuming language skills and teaching skills are equal, the white guy will usually get hired. Why? Because he’s exotic. Of course, white guys are appalled by this. Question is, if you are in a non-white country, where else will you come in contact with a higher concentration of white guys other than an English school? (no brothel jokes please.) Fact is, non-white people REALLY LIKE white people. They like looking at white people and they like listening to white people. It is even a sort of status symbol to be in the company of white people. Some of this undeserved attention has led to what I will call the “white settler complex”. Needless to say, there is moral outrage, which has spurred on many posts about America’s Top Model and The Matrix.
Long story short, we can look at strengths and weaknesses of natives and non-natives all we want, but at the end of the day, there is no shortage of EXCELLENT white teachers who are GOOD ENOUGH with the language. So schools can be selective when it comes to hiring. It just so happens, many schools take white guys.
So how do we get out of this situation? More thoughts coming in part 2 of this post…