The Foreign Language Educator in Society: Toward a Critical Pedagogy

The Foreign Language Educator in Society: Toward a Critical Pedagogy

The Foreign Language Educator in Society: Toward a Critical Pedagogy

The Foreign Language Educator in Society: Toward a Critical Pedagogy


This text brings together two significant domains of educational practice: foreign language education and critical pedagogy--linking them in a way that can help foreign language educators develop a critical awareness of the nature, purposes, and challenges facing foreign language pedagogy. Unique among texts in the field, this is the first to deal explicitly with the social, political, ideological, and economic aspects of language, language learning, and language teaching in our society and to connect the practice of foreign language education with these critical, and crucial, aspects of language and language use. The Foreign Language Educator in Society: Toward A Critical Pedagogy: *emphasizes what teachers and future teachers of foreign languages in this country ought to know and understand about language-- language attitudes, practices, rights, and policy-- and related issues; *focuses on helping students to move beyond pragmatic pedagogical concerns to the social and political concerns relevant to their teaching; and *provides students with the opportunity to develop critical perspectives on the central facets of the language education process. Intended for foreign language education programs at both basic and advanced levels, as well as courses in critical pedagogy, critical language awareness, sociolinguistics, and social and cultural foundations of education, the text provides helpful pedagogical features to direct the reader in applying the content of each chapter to his or her own context.


If we want to improve our teaching through reflective inquiry, we must accept that it does not involve some modification of behavior by externally imposed directions or requirements, but that it requires deliberation and analysis of our ideas about teaching as a form of action based on our changed understandings.

—Bartlett (1990, p. 203)

There has been a long-standing debate among educators and those interested in education about the nature of teaching. This debate usually takes the form of a dichotomy, with the basic issue being presented as whether teaching is best understood as some sort of artistic endeavor, with the teacher's role seen as roughly comparable to that of the painter or creative writer, or whether teaching is best conceptualized as an application of particular scientific principles in specific settings. At its heart, this dichotomy is concerned with whether teachers are born or made—or, even if some (relatively few) teachers are indeed born, whether others (the vast majority) can be made. This is a very important matter, because most classroom teachers are probably not born teachers. As Van Doren (1959) once insightfully commented,

Good teachers have always been and will always be, and there are good teachers now. The necessity henceforth is that fewer of them be accidents. The area of accident is reduced when there is a design which includes the education of teachers. Not the training—a contemporary term that suggests lubricating oil and precision parts, not to say reflexes and responses. (pp. 170–171) . . .

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