Challenging the dominant narrative in ELT: A call for counterstories

Alison Crump

In last week’s class, we were talking about race, identity, and language education. We explored how identity is something that can be given to us (e.g., through Census categories, which define national identity possibilities and thus define access to things like education and resources) and something that we can perform and negotiate. We talked about how where you are can shape the possibilities for who you can be. We talked about stories that make our hearts feel heavy – people who are denied jobs on the basis of their accent or skin colour. By talking about the racism that is embedded in English language teaching (ELT) hiring practices and perpetuated through the white native speaker myth we were acknowledging the power of what critical race scholar Richard Delgado (1989) called “stock stories” or dominant narratives. These are the stories that tell us that “white” people who speak English are better suited for English language teaching. Yet, talking about race and the racialization of ELT can be discouraging for individuals who do not benefit from the (not always deserving) privileges that come with being able to identify with the invisible yet audible majority. The ideologies of nativeness and whiteness in our field of language education have real material and practical consequences for real individuals. How can we ensure that we are not repeating or perpetuating systems of inequality and racism in our teaching? How can we empower and validate language teachers and learners and challenge problematic discriminatory and racist practices in our field? How can we privilege all the stories of language teachers and not just those that reinforce the dominant narrative?

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