Home > Commentaries on TTC > In Taiwan, “38” is slang for stupid/idiot.

In Taiwan, “38” is slang for stupid/idiot.

Breaking rocks in the hot sun, I fought the law and the law won…Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! The Tao Te Ching lays out the order of things! It tells you what’s what and what’s not! It appears to be a member of the A.C.A.B. collective. You’ll have to look that one up yourselves, I’m afraid. I’m radical, but not that radical.

In brief, we are told that Number One in our hearts sould be the Way, or, as I’ve suggested before, the natural way. When the way cannot be found, we often find goodness. When goodness is absent from the world, we find righteousness. When righteousness is away from her desk, we find obedience. When obedience is tip-toeing off quietly, we find the police officer’s truncheon. I think Lao would just about have been able to tolerate goodness, but when we stepped over the line into righteousness, I think that was probably when he loaded his things onto the ox-cart and thought, “Sod this for a game of soldiers. I’m off before Plod starts doing a windmill impression.”

Ahem! Sorry to intrude – but we don’t actually give a monkey’s about some Eastern esoteric ramblings. We’ve come here to find out what the tao of teaching might be. Do you think there is any chance you could GGGEEETTT OONN WWIITTHH IITT!!!???!!!

Sweet Jesus! There is no patience in the world. Let’s see…we could be talking about motivation today. When it’s there, it’s the best; when it’s not, it helps by being a good student. It’s not as good, but it’ll help. When you’re not a motivated student nor a particularly good one, it helps if you’re a bit of a goody two-shoes who resents doing the homework, but does it just the same. But the student who is going to learn the least is the student who turns up to class and sits there because of a fear that the parents will go crazy if she doesn’t; or the teacher will belittle him; or the local education authority will bring the might of the State down upon her family. These students are probably going to learn least of all. Obedience is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Google it, and you will find the first billion pages are about choking dogs into submission or laying yourself down at the feet of one god or another.

So, that’s the learner’s perspective. From a teacher’s perspective, this verse also has something to tell us. In the last post I railed against the righteous teachers; teachers who do the right thing because that is what teachers do. Lao sighs, “It is the beginning of folly.” Which is a nice way of saying, “That way madness lies.” NO MORE BLIND OBEDIENCE TO THE SHIBBOLETHS OF LANGUAGE LEARNING AND LANGUAGE TEACHING! With a revolutionary slogan like that, I can’t fail (but I’m probably not going to sell many t-shirts). Yes! Earl of Gloucester, I’m talking to you! [ Literary references, darling, by which I hope to exhibit my learning.]

This is what all the DOS's in Paris will be wearing this Fall.

What are the shibboleths of language teaching and learning? Oh borther! Oh sister! They are legion! Uncover some of them in your next class. Every five minutes, stop and quietly ask yourself, “What evidence is there that what I have just said or done is an effective way of learning or teaching a language?” Every time you hear yourself use a word like, shudder, communicative, ask yourself to define that a little bit more carefully. In fact, if you’re really with me here, I dare you…no…I double dare you…to write a little essay about your teaching and your students’ learning and then to go through and underline all of the bits that you know to be objective and true. Send the results to the comments page (it’ll be nice to hear from somebody for a change). The next time somebody says to you, “Oh yeah. We have to use the book. The students get upset if we don’t because they’ve paid for it,” say back to them, “REEEEEEAAAAALLLLLYYYY??? Has anybody asked the students this year or are we just making blind assumptions that this is what they will want? Has anybody actually tried teaching them in such a way that they couldn’t give a toss about the book? Are learners so stupid that they would prefer to use an uninspiring, depersonalised bucket of puke  just because they’ve shelled out a few quid for it?”

The chances are that you will uncover many shibboleths and few supporters. It may have been time to move on anyway. Unusually, I am going to give the last word back to Mr Goody-Lao-Tsu, who wrote [in his sexist prehistoric ways]:

When a truly kind man does something, he leaves nothing undone.

When a just man does something, he leaves a great deal to be done.

When a disciplinarian does something and no one responds,

He rolls up his sleeves ina n attempt to enforce order.

[…]

…the truly great man dwells on what is real

and not what is on the surface,

On the fruit and not the flower.

Therefore accept the one and reject the other.

Sod it. I’m going to give the last word to Joe Strummer.

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