Spirituality in Language Teaching

So when people say that they “use spirituality in language teaching”, what does this mean exactly?

As it is, I’m wary of people who use the word “spirituality” in a non-ironic fashion. Which is why imagining spirituality as part of teaching methodology kind of scares me.

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Michigan or Nebraska?

I’ve been trying to decide which conference to go to this year for a while but I can’t make the decision. I have a perfect presentation to deliver at both of them. The dates are about 3 weeks apart from each other. I just can’t decide and I can’t waste any more time thinking about this. So I’m requesting your help through voting. Feel free to leave any extra information in the comments. If you know anything especially scary (or especially attractive about either of these places), let me know.

And yes, I routinely select conferences based on their geographical location. It isn’t like I’m going there to socialize or anything like that.

Unhireable Housewives

People who willingly stay outside of the workplace for years lose touch with reality to a scary extent. Sometimes, they end up thinking that when submitting letters of recommendation for a professorial position, it is a good idea to send in letters from a childhood friend and a next-door neighbor with absolutely no academic affiliation whatsoever.

What Makes a Good Prose Style?

Jonathan says that my prose style has become a lot better than it was last summer. The truth, however, is that it hasn’t. What changed is that I now write every day, which means that I start every writing session by rereading the entire document. This means that I have read my most recent article 26 times.

Of course, every time I read it, I change something in it. As a result, the style improves a little bit with every change.

Maybe a good writing style is just that: a very polished kind of writing that the author has spent a lot of time editing, rereading, and then editing some more. People will now tell me that this is self-evident but, for me, this is a huge discovery. I always thought that people who wrote well just sat down and produced beautiful prose as a matter of course. A lot of editing, however, meant that a person had a bad writing style.

It’s like that joke:

“So how is married life?”

“Great! I like everything about my wife, except for one thing.”

“What is that?”

“She is very dirty.”

“Really?”

“Yes! She showers twice a day, so she must be absolutely filthy.”

Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Part II

The reason why I decided to stick with Ilan Pappe’s book and keep reading it even after the “greedy Jews” started making a regular appearance is that I do think that there is an important story to tell here. I kept hoping that Pappe would finally get himself together, get over the “sly, tricky, exploitative Shylocks Jews versus simple-minded, hard-working and trusting savages Palestinians” dichotomy, and start discussing this issue with the seriousness that it deserves. This never really happened, however.

The greatest problem I have with the book is that Pappe chooses the culprit for the entire conflict from the start and then massages the story to fit his predetermined explanation. This culprit for the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is Zionism. In his rush to pile every possible evil at the feet of this particular bugbear, Pappe often makes himself sound not a little ridiculous. The following quote made me practically weep with laughter:

It was one British officer in particular, Orde Charles Wingate, who made the Zionist leaders realise more fully that the idea of Jewish statehood had to be closely associated with militarism and an army, first of all to protect the growing number of Jewish enclaves and colonies inside Palestine but also – more crucially – because acts of armed aggression were an effective deterrent against the possible resistance of the local Palestinians.

I really wonder how all those other countries figured out that statehood requires an army without this hugely crucial Orde Charles Wingate character, whoever he is.

What I find very curious about the discussions about the formation of Israel is how scandalized everybody gets because Israel followed the exact same nationalist journey as every single other nation-state in the world. A journey towards nationhood is always – and I mean, without exception, always, toujours, siempre – bloody, miserable, filled with lies, rewriting of history, xenophobia, etc. That’s the nature of nationalism.

Before you get to wave your flag and feel all warm and fuzzy about doing that, a lot of effort needs to be made to endow that piece of fabric with meaning. The more disparate the elements that go into your particular imagined community, the more blood needs to be spilled to make the myth of a nation mean something.

So what do we have in the case of Israel? People from all over the world come together to create a myth of a nation. These are people who have been hugely traumatized very recently and who see themselves (not unreasonably, I might add) as having been abandoned by the entire world to a horrible extermination and needing to fend for themselves. In their project of construction a nation, they use the same tools as everybody before them used: violence, ethnic cleansing, falsification of history, etc. What is so very surprising about this story? And more importantly, what makes these people’s journey towards nationhood worse than yours? Except for the fact that yours happened fifteen seconds before, of course.

I believe that the story of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine needs to be told. But to tell it in order to condemn Zionism makes just as much sense as narrating the crimes of the Holocaust in order to condemn Hitler’s left pinky finger. Of course, the reason why nobody wants to look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of nationalism is that this would involve letting go of bashing the vile Jews (or the vile Arabs, whatever your personal preference is) for a moment and looking at how the nation whose flag you worship came into existence.