Tag Archives: Racism

ESL Students ~ Don’t Underestimate Their Intelligence

24 Apr

There is a clear problem in the world of ESL teaching (both language and content), and it comes primarily from the side of the ESL teachers. I would almost say it is a unique type of racism that is beginning to show. And it is concerning me on behalf of the students.

The Problem ~ ESL teachers tend to believe that any student who cannot communicate the idea in English cannot understand the idea itself.

While it is certainly true that there are students we teach who are intellectually challenged (primarily because they are 18-20 and really care more about Basketball or Dance right now), it would be well for ESL teachers to remember that they are often teaching some of the most intelligent and educated students in the country. Students in ESL programs are rarely ever stupid ~ different, and perhaps driven to less academic pursuits perhaps ~ but not stupid.

And it is time we stopped planning our lessons around this concept.  

Just look at most ESL websites ~ we are taught to teach students at a very low intellectual level. It’s all fun and games ~ very little actual intellectual-level learning. And they are carrying this pattern over into content-based classes.   Students tasked with learning about deep content (Macroeconomics) are being taught very simple “here’s how business people say ‘hello!'” lessons.  It drives me crazy.

There is a belief among the ESL teachers that Asian students are incapable of doing Critical Thinking. That they are taught only to memorize and can do no more.  0_0 How condescending can you get? 

I have watched my students soar into the world of Critical Thinking, marching through complex questions and speaking for hours about their ideas of applied philosophy to Economics, Art, Culture, Science, and the World.  I was given the class “Business Ethics” and then told by other teachers that the students would never understand the concept ~ it was “above their comprehension level.”  By the end of my class, they all managed a 30 minute conversation where they not only explained complex Ethical theories, but applied them to current problems that they felt were important. I didn’t chose the ideas for them, they took the knowledge and ran with it on their own.  

I once had a student that other teachers warned me about because they were “slow” and “just couldn’t understand.” Admittedly they made poor grades at first (I wasn’t grading those assignments, another teacher was). But then they came to me in tears about why they were graded so low when they had spent “5 days without leaving the dorm just to do this.” After looking over the paper, I was blown away. They were using resources, quoting law books, bringing in the national Constitution. They were using appropriately huge words like “Deconstruction” and “Rehabilitation.” They could explain their paper to me, and it was way beyond even many US student’s levels. The only problem? A small issue of not knowing how to use the small connecting words of “for, an, to. . . ”  That’s all. Together we sat down, and I explained those words to them. Their next paper, they got a 100 and were applauded by the senior teacher. It had never been a lack of comprehension ~ merely a difficulty in explaining it to others that was the problem.

And this has happened over and over in schools all across Asia.  

There is an instinctive racism that happens to westerners when they confront people who don’t speak native English. It’s like if a person can’t speak English, they must be stupider or less competent than us.  We do it without thinking, without realizing. High-level communication is difficult so we think they must not be able to comprehend the ideas themselves. But this is fundamentally flawed.  

Stop treating the students like idiots and teach to their level.  If they don’t understand you the first time, try again.  And Again, and again. Because they are fully capable of understanding the ideas. It is simply your communication of the ideas that leaves something to be desired.  

The students are smart ~ be respectful and remember your own college language days. How good are you at that college French still?  

Pet Peeve: “White” is not Me

2 Apr

Dozen Eggs

Out of sheer curiosity (and annoyance), why is “white” the only color listed under race on forms?  I kid you not; I have applied for 19 positions in the past week, and “white” showed up on 17. The only reason it didn’t show up on the last two is because all they asked was whether I was a citizen or foreigner.  And just stop right there with the whole “Decline to Comment” answer–that’s an assumed “white.”  Again I ask, why “white” of all terms?

Let’s back up.  How long has it been since you saw forms that appropriately used “red,” “yellow,” or “black” to describe those of other skin tones.  Uhhuh, that went the way of all bad things like saying “fa****,” “n*****,” and other derogatory terms–we admitted that they were inappropriate and cutting at best, illegal at worst.  In fact, I won’t even put them in this article as an example of bad words (note the asterisks!)  We all know why the other races have abandoned the color-basis; the fact that judging by color is racist was settled ages ago.  (Seriously for those who didn’t get the message; don’t use these terms).  But with that history as a background, I’m pretty offended whenever the term “white” pops up in turn. Why are my people the only ones who can be defined by our color? 

Let’s get the first possible answers out of the way. Is it because “white” automatically says we are better than anyone else so nothing more is needed? Nope. Not true.  Is it because “whites” are  automatically the lessor race and thus no more information is needed? Nope. Also Not true. Conclusion: Whether or not someone is white, pink, purple, or blue  has no bearing on their value as a human.

Now perhaps, the answer is that “white” tells the reader something about my personal background.  This seems more plausible since every time I have to choose “white” on an application form,  I can immediately guess the reader’s response–“Ooh, goody! Another one of those privileged white girls who grew up with a Smartphone, a Trust Fund, and No Work Ethic!”  Appealing image, amIright? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I have never been able to afford a Smartphone. Trust Fund? — Trust me, I’m typing as I roll on the floor with tears of humor streaming down my face.  I grew up in a single-parent home, and I don’t think we ever had more than $7,000 a year.  We didn’t take food stamps, and we didn’t get welfare; we just learned to have fun with what we had.  Silver spoons? Plastic spoons rather.  Now don’t get me wrong; this is hardly a complaint.  Because of where I came from, I’m very motivated and innovative. I cut my business teeth young, using new and improved ways of selling sand-cakes to the neighborhood children (I’ve always had a bit of the car-salesman in me).  Today I can slap onto my ever more desperately distributed resume the terms “inventive,” “creative,” “analytical,” and “industrious.” You name it, I’ve tried to make money at it (stop your dirty minds, “legal” activities only).   I can sew my own clothes; I know how to use spices and 99-cent macaroni like a pro; and I can proudly state that  I have worked hard non-stop to get to where I am today.  The only privilege I grew up with is the fact that I came from an amazing, hard-working, social-work minded mother who loved me dearly and never stopped telling me that I could achieve anything I set out to do. Conclusion: “White” doesn’t say anything about my financial/family’s background.


Since the presumptions that come with the term”white” don’t reflect my background, maybe it shows the culture I was raised in?  Wait. . . “White” isn’t really describing a culture–the Italian culture is pretty significantly different from the English culture.  So “white” can’t really tell them much about me from a cultural standpoint. I’m a cultural historian, meaning that I thrive on immersing myself into a bunch of different cultures, and I have always successfully collected a mis-matched group of friends from other races.  Probably 80% of my closest friends hail from non-“white” cultures, and their ways of thinking and living have rubbed off on me.  Plus, My grandfather was accepted as an honorary member of a local Indian tribe because he devoted so much time to preserving their history and supporting their rights.  Translation: I spent time playing with their kids at the meetings, adding to that “non-white” cultural background. To adequately use “white” as a definition of culture, it’s going to have to be expanded to “white (from a German/Scottish heritage with bits of African, Asian, and Native American thrown in).”  Conclusion: “White” doesn’t explain my background (and even undercuts all of my different cultural traits).

Maybe “white” is supposed to reflect me personally somehow? Perhaps I do particularly “white” things?  Fine, you pulled it out of me; I’m “white” enough that I refuse to eat bugs. . . but isn’t that really more of an American/Mid-west thing than a “White” thing?  I’m Christian, but so are people from other races. I like music, nope not really a “white” thing either (in fact I really enjoy Asian and Middle-Eastern traditional music – by definition not “white”.)  I’m smart. . . I like to write . . . I went to a good college . . . my passion is travel and history. . . I grew up without a dad . . . I think a confident man who can dance is hot . . .  I’m introverted . . . Bright colors entertain me . . . still not finding the “white” thing in me here.  There are a lot of other ways to define me, but “white?”  Conclusion: You get my point.

Well, I’m going to have to go with the “physical description” use (even though that is by definition asking about my SKIN COLOR), which plays no role in anything and should not be allowed to be a question.  Still, that doesn’t actually work.  I’m personally very, very pale. But my Greek friend is pretty dark.  My mixed friend is very dark, but he was still required by the school to register as “white.”  To tell you the truth, if this is the proper use of “white,” I don’t fit here either.  Because I’m actually very, very spotted cause of my silly Scottish heritage and their massive freckles.  And the parts that aren’t freckled turn red in the summer thank’s to sunburns (I am not so lucky as to tan, but many “whites” are actually brown by the end of swimming season).  If you saw me walking down the street in July and needed to report me for my almost illegal hotness, you’d have to describe me as something in the realm of “that stunning brown-spotted red lobster.”   Conclusion: It doesn’t even work as a “descriptor.” 

Other people are defined by their geographic history, the accomplishments of their ancestors, and their pride in their culture–“African Americans”, “Latin Americans,” “Native Americans.”  I get the derogatory “color.”    Why not “European-American, German-American, Scottish-American, or just plain AMERICAN?  Even the official name for my race, “Caucasian,” would have been better. Get it right people.  Besides, in the name of the world moving away from racism, shouldn’t that question be somehow unnecessary? Why do you have to know if it isn’t going to impact my chance of acceptance, my rights, my opportunities, etc.?  RACE DOESN’T (or at least shouldn’t) MATTER, so QUIT ASKING. Or at least ask appropriately.

US & Canadian laws have been D***S to Chinese Immigrants

16 Nov

I’d like to start by stating that US and Canadian laws have been ashamedly horrible to Chinese immigrants. Yep, and that’s really Horrible with all caps, lots of exclamation points, and a few “WTFs” thrown in.   I mean seriously. . . I’ve never read such racially loaded piles of SH**.  I mean, the legislative discussion behind these laws covers everything from racism to victim blaming to sexism to placing them at the bottom of the freaking “Caste” system. I mean, when have we ever even had a caste system!   Here are some of the key descriptions of the Chinese used in excusing such terrible racist legal movements:

  • “Culturally inferior”
  • “Racially unfit”
  • “Of the lowest orders”
  • “Or the lowest castes”
  • “Virtually Pariahs”
  • The “Dregs of the population”
  • “Lepers”
  • “Slaves”
  • “Yellow faces”

The list goes on.  They even mention that, of the Chinese women in the US in the late 1800s (after the Civil War was fought), most were “in a state of servitude, beside which African slavery was a beneficent captivity.” They talk about how many of these women were being forced into sexual slavery, but promptly use that as a reason to banish the population as a whole from American shores! Canada, with no just cause outside of racism, even taxed every Chinese immigrant $500 throughout the early 1900s, took away many of their rights (include the right to vote, own property, own a business, etc.) and eventually outlawed Chinese immigration almost completely (only 15 immigrants from China were allowed in from 1924 to 1944).  This continued even when Chinese-heritage soldiers rose up to fight with Canadian forces during WWII.  They were our allies, and this was still going on! NO SUCH LAW WAS IMPOSED AGAINST EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS. The Chinese residents and natural citizen already there even had to get a special permit to alert the government of their residency and alert the government of any traveling plans they had.  

   I mean, come on!!!  The governments’ treatment of these poor immigrants was just a pile of SH** And this type of conversation and treatment went on clear up through the late 1900s!!! How sick is that?!?  Some of the laws were in place as late as the 1980s!  Seriously, that’s basically within my lifetime — less than 30 years.  I have young friends who were alive then!

Now, excuse me.  I think I’ll go scream at the ignorance of idiots right now. . . 


%d bloggers like this: