Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dodgson, Dogme and an impossible quest. Macmillan ELT publishes definitive guide to the ELT blogosphere.

Firstly, apologies to David Dodgson, whose excellent ELT blog Reflections of a Teacher and Learner is recommended reading. I guess your heart stopped when you saw the title of this post, David. But fear not, the Dodgson I am referring to is perhaps your ancestor, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson better known as Lewis Carroll. The guide I refer to is my favourite of his works, The Hunting of The Snark published 125 years ago in Oxford by the good people at Macmillan.

Previously proposed to be an allegory of anything from society to Carroll’s own life, it has now become apparent to me that Carroll was in fact writing over a century ahead of his time of the world of ELT. That it has taken this long for reality to catch up with his vision only confirms my opinion of his greatness.

I won’t spoil the tale but suggest that anyone remotely interested in matters ELT get over to the University of Adelaide’s free version of the poem here and enjoy the read.

Finished? Well even a superficial reading of the Snark will no doubt have made everything clear. I mean, who could fail to recognise Scott Thornbury (the Bellman) and Luke Meddings (the Banker) striding masterfully through the surf (itself a metaphor for the internet) in the first of Henry Holliday’s wonderful illustrations?

The Bellman himself they all praised to the skies Such a carriage, such ease and such grace! Such solemnity, too! One could see he was wise, The moment one looked in his face!

Who could not but recognize Dogme ELT in the following:

He had bought a large map representing the sea  Without the least vestige of land: And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be A map they could all understand.

“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,  Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?” So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply  “They are merely conventional signs!

“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!  But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank: (So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best — A perfect and absolute blank!”

And who could fail to see the uncanny physical resemblance between our favourite blogger down under and the Butcher literally with an axe to grind, whose uneasy relationship with a Beaver must make the people at Longman (your place, your space, your lace) really nervous.

But it goes deeper than that. How could we have all missed this obvious reference to the quest for the perfect language teaching methodology?

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care,  They pursued it with forks and hope; They threatened its life with a railway-share;  They charmed it with smiles and soap.

And is there a course book author out there at the beck and call of a publisher who doesn’t feel like the Baker sometimes. Oh, tragic figure!

He would answer to “Hi!” or to any loud cry,  Such as “Fry me!” or “Fritter my wig!” To “What-you-may-call-um!” or “What-was-his-name!” But especially “Thing-um-a-jig!”

I rest my case with an image that many of you will find chilling. Behold a nightmare vision of the ELT blogosphere! As some of you reading this are probably ELT bloggers I invite you to try and identify yourselves and your friends. I am sure you can have fun however I do strongly suggest that anyone who has any smart ideas about “the JubJub, that desperate bird”, keep them firmly under their hats.

I have probably offended enough people for one morning by now and will go and do something useful like write a decent textbook . “Sure, that’s a Boojum!” I hear you cry.

[Apologies to any of my friends or relatives not involved in ELT who may stumble on this and surmise that I have finally lost the plot completely. Further apologies for the lay-out of the stanzas in this posting. I really can't spend any more time trying to get them right.]


Jason Renshaw said...

Patrick, this is sheer brilliance! I do worry a little that anyone outside a certain circle of the ELT blogosphere may miss some of the digs here and perhaps be tempted to think you've gone completely barking mad -- but the stuff about Dogme in particular was fantastic.

You should blog more often, mate. You're better at it than you may realise, and we certainly need more of this stuff to offset the stale offerings coming out of places like the raven's nest these days...

Great post - still chuckling and snorting!

Patrick Jackson said...

@Jason You're a sport! Thanks for dropping by. One thing about blogging that I failed to appreciate before I tried to write more serious posts like this one(!). It takes time! Good grief, man! Respect due to everything you've done over at the Raven's Nest (which is never stale by the way, far from it). I must also let you know that in fact you (and Windows) came to mind first when I read about the Bellman's blank map!

DavidD said...

I have to admit, you got me with the title! I was thinking "I haven't written that much about dogme recently, have I?"

I'm not sure if there's any connection between myself and Lewis Carroll though it did provide an interesting way to introduce a reader version of Alice in Wonderland we used at my school last year!

I definitely second Jason's comments. Although I've only recently discovered your blog, you should definitely be doing more posts like this.

And now you'be got me thinking of members of my PLN that I can 'name' in the titles of my posts ;)

Patrick Jackson said...

Yes, I thought it would give you a surprise. As for doing more posts. Well, we'll see what comes out of the swamp. Thanks for the kind comments though. I'm look forward to your next video.

Anonymous said...

Patrick, we miss you! Your comments are fodder to keep us satisfied but for a moment. Nagoya needs a visit from its Irish wayward son. You were missed this evening, and your name was passed around with fond smiles. We hope to see you soon! Thank you, always, for your support. :)

Patrick Jackson said...

Sarah. That's made my day. Looking forward to our double date in December!