8/05/2007

Scott Sommers Censors Me on Blog - Talk about Hogging the Last Word

The weirdest thing happened to me tonight - I was censored on Scott Sommer's Taiwan Weblog. I was questioning whether or not "trained teachers" were actually doing a better job than, as he put it, "untrained native-speaker teachers that are ubiquitous in Taiwan's commercial language market".

http://scottsommers.blogs.com/taiwanweblog/2007/08/the-taipei-time.html


This is what Scott wrote about me: "Patrick in all honesty, this is not forumosa.com or Dave's ESL Cafe. Ranting about your prejudices against teachers and then saying 'I spent my life in school, and I know..." may cut it at the Brass Monkey. But here on a blog devoted to education, it's...well...a little inappropriate. So please, if don't have anything more than a variation on the theme of 'teachers are all bums', there are places to post where this appears to be more than trolling.'

Thinking I should have a right to respond, I put up this response on his blog: "I'm not calling all teachers bums. In fact, I'm standing up for them, especially 'untrained teachers' as they might hold an academic degree that is more meaningful than the kind of degree a 'trained teacher' holds.

I am offering a different point of view. Where you see 'trained teacher', many of us see 'someone willing to waste a couple of years writing a thesis that isn't really academic or because they don't understand that they have other options'.

You're the one that is ranting. Once you peel the soft science clutter off your writing, it isn't more than just a little common sense."

I thought wrong, because Scott deleted the darned thing. He says I'm trolling and that I'm prejudiced, but he won't let me respond. Since he's censoring my response on his blog, I'll make one here.

25 comments:

Paul said...

I don't know Scott Sommers, but most of his opinions are nonsense. Being able to explain things improves with practice. Learning the jump shot doesn't require a theoretical approach. All that's required is someone with the skill and patience.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Sommers has it all figured out. He has clearly broken everything down into neat little boxes in which 'TEFL cert. teachers' are excellent...and 'TEFL uncert. teachers' are crap.

One thing I know for sure: Dr. Sommers does not have a degree in communications...If he did, we wouldn't all be so completely confused by what he's saying.

Question for Scott?

Are there different types of TEFL classrooms? Are they all of a standard size, demographic and skill level?

He noted that there are 'no' studies on untrained language teachers...I was wondering if he has any studies on 'trained' TEFL teachers? How does culture shock impact their performance?

If there are differences in classrooms, and differences in the levels of performance for 'trained' TEFLers...are we to assume that one form of training is sufficient for all teachers in all environments?

Richard said...

LOL - Scott Sommers sits back like he's Yoda until someone says something he doesn't like and he has this kind of knee jerk reaction. He also says he'll leave you to your prejudices. Then, he tells for you to save your banter for the Brass Monkey. That's beautifully ironic. Why does he take it for granted that you're down at the Brass Monkey?

Patrick Cowsill said...

"He also says he'll leave you to your prejudices. Then, he tells for you to save your banter for the Brass Monkey. That's beautifully ironic. Why does he take it for granted that you're down at the Brass Monkey?"

Because Scott's assuming, based on my skin color, I'll have a certain behavior - going down to local pub (the Brass Monkey, for example) and running my mouth on a regular basis. This is typical of the soft science approach: very broad, unverifiable generalizations speckled with certain vocab and tools. In his terrific "The Nature of Prejudice", Gordon Allport writes: "Prejudice is an antipathy based on faulty and inflexible generalization. It may be felt or expressed. It may be directed toward a group or an individual of that group". This kind of attitude is all over Scott Sommer's blog, mainly directed at "foreigners" (they're not even entitled to their nationalities) who teach English in Taiwan.

MJ Klein said...

i guess i don't get why you guys are arguing about this. hey, i'm a trained guitar player. does that count for anything? lol

Patrick Cowsill said...

Deep down, I don't give a crap about about teachers in Taiwan - I work for a publishing company. What bugs me is that the guy won't let me respond. It seems to counter the spirit of blogging.

Anonymous said...

Poor, poor Scott. He has such a hard time. First its talk about how we're just building a 'culture industry'. Now he's concerned about pedagogy. Which is it my friend? Teaching people to deeply desire to be 'western' or teaching people.

Scott, Scott, Scott. I'll help you. This is how it works:

Some people in Taiwan are enlightened. I mean this in the classical sense of the term. They have literally been educated abroad, or been exposed to education that is not based on exams. They're 'internationalized'.

These people want their children to be 'internationalized'. They will send them to school abroad, but not until they can feed themselves. Until then...they must be educated here. Such people send their children to smaller, more professional kindergartens and pre-schools.

Then there are other people who are not well educated. They might have PhDs but they are stuck in the rut of China's 5000 year cultural history. These people basically act like nouveau riche. They want to show off skills, not have skills. They are the type of people who use all three English words they know in random conversation as soon as they see a foreigner.

These people want to tell their neighbors and colleagues that their children go to 'English School'. These people send their kids to Hess or Giraffe, etc.

In short, the private nature of the buxiban industry means that a range of schools exist...to meet a range of demands. Many teachers are excellent, even the un-certified ones. I'd stick my kids in their classes in a second. Some schools have scary teachers...I wouldn't put my kids there...but then, that's the point isn't it.

English Villages meet a niche. They’re not supposed to teach you anything...they’re supposed to make you feel good, let you spend some time with the family and let you do something you find interesting...on the cheap.

Patrick Cowsill said...

It just shows how absurd "educational theorists" are to take something like an English Village seriously. When did education get hijacked by social (soft) scientists anyway?

Are there elementary or high schools that do focus on hiring people with academic degrees (post-graduate degrees in history, physics, biology, literature, etc.) these days?

6/8/07

MJ Klein said...

Patrick, you said: "Deep down, I don't give a crap about about teachers in Taiwan - I work for a publishing company. What bugs me is that the guy won't let me respond. It seems to counter the spirit of blogging."

i would like to respond to this, if i may.

i used to do national talk radio in the States (not on politics). there were people who would call my show (thankfully only one or two) and would insist upon using my show to promote their viewpoints. i cut them off. some would call the business line and complain about "constitutional protection" of "free speech" rights, etc., clearly not understanding that those protections apply to government censorship and not the private sector. what it came down to is that those callers have the right to think and say whatever they want, but not on my show. i control the content of my show. freedom of speech is one thing, the right to be heard simply does not exist. you cannot make people listen to you no matter how hard you try.

as for the "spirit of blogging" the truth is that very little of what is written in so-called blogs is actual blogging. nowadays everyday people use blog sites for free webspace to spout their political viewpoints. back in 1997 i blogged on my daily activities on a paid site hosted at my own expense. today, my blog today is largely the same in that regard but i can host if for free at blogger.com. my blog is about what i do and my views, but if anything i avoid politics. if someone posts political stuff on my blog i am very likely to not publish it because i don't want that kind of content in my blog. its not about that.

i do not know Scott. i read his blog once and not since because nothing on it concerns me. it's Scott's blog and if he wants to disagree with you and prevent you from using his forum to promote your views, that is his right. my suggestion is to use your own blog to promote your own views. promoting your viewpoint in the comments section of other's blogs doesn't always get the point across. i hope this comment doesn't fall into that category though, lol.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"my suggestion is to use your own blog to promote your own views. promoting your viewpoint in the comments section of other's blogs doesn't always get the point across"

I couldn't agree with you more. That's exactly what I'm doing: I'm interested in changing the direction of his debate. I'm not happy with how he's moderating it either, so I'm liberating it by bringing it over here. My focus on this post is on how education has been hijacked by "educators" with backgrounds in the social sciences. I'm also wondering if an education degree especially qualifies someone to teach over another kind of degree.

I don't censor people on my blog because I flat out don't like censorship. That is why annonymous can post on my comments and why I don't screen the posts first.

MJ Klein said...

Patrick, there are some great points coming out in these comments. perhaps a post on censorship might make an interesting discussion.

if i don't moderate the comments, the nutcases come out! during the 5371 incident i got posts from China like "Taiwan is a part of China and you'd better get used to it" etc., etc. i censored them.

i like censorship. i like to censor the audio on all TV ads with my remote control. i censor stupid TV programs with my remote control by changing the channel. i censor the neighborhood dog when it barks at 06:00 by shouting at it to shut up. i like to censor the above kind of comments on my blog. i like it when private citizens have, and exercise the right to make their own judgement values by accepting or rejecting things through their individual powers. i don't like the notion that i must be open to all viewpoints and opinions just because they exist. many groups try to paint people who think for themselves and reject certain realms of thought as "closed minded" or "unenlightened." those people forget that "freedom of" also means "freedom from."

what i am against is government censorship. i disagree with a government's right to dictate content.

Richard said...

When I read over Scott Sommer's blog, I thought "Now this is Chinese education." Teacher Scott talks, Student Rich accepts. The COMMENTS section might be more appropriately AGREE WITH ME BELOW.

But I agree with MJ Klein, "it's Scott's blog and if he wants to disagree with you and prevent you from using his forum to promote your views, that is his right." If you don't like it, get off his friggin' blog and go somewhere that you feel is more conducive to a free exchange of ideas!

Patrick Cowsill said...

Rich, calm down and have a look around at the surroundings.

MJ, it's one thing to play around with your remote control, push the mute button or to skip TVBIS. It's quite another to go on and on, and then when people want to respond, say: "Nope, I'm not gonna listen" and cling rigidly to a stance. For someone who professes to be serious about "education" and who could already be a "teacher", this is indeed a very bad attitude to have.

I don't like censorship. For me, it's not about changing the channel or throwing a shoe at a dog. It's deliberately eliminating other ideas or discussion so that you can ram your own through. I don't know; I guess I'm just more sporting than that.

Richard said...

We're saying the same thing, about the right and wrong way to teach.

There's definitely something to "i don't like the notion that i must be open to all viewpoints and opinions just because they exist." Don't we have the right to say "enough already?" How about "I don't want to listen to you anymore because someone else more interesting could be talking?"

MJ Klein said...

"I don't want to listen to you anymore because someone else more interesting could be talking?"

people say that to me all the time!

Anonymous said...

Of course it's everyone's right to run their blog how they want but generally most people who run blogs are not autocrats, not self-appointed experts, and don't present themselves as knowing it all, and everyone else doesn't know jack (aka Mr Sommers). I would have thought that it's in the interest of most people with blogs to encourage discourse but the problem Mr Sommers has is that debate is defined solely on his terms in accord to his knowledge. Anyway, don't lose any sleep over it as his obstinate nature just means he ultimately cuts off his nose to spite his face.

Prince Roy said...

'it's his blog so he can allow/disallow whatever comments he likes'.

Sure, I guess. But I find that reasoning somewhat disingenuous. If a guy is publicly making an argument and he invites response, then he should have enough confidence in his ideas not to cut the mike on those with opposing points of view.

Obviously, this does not apply to abusive, ad hominem comments, but I don't think that was the case with Patrick.

I'm a big believer in the 'marketplace of ideas', and this kind of censorship is, if not an act of intellectual cowardice, one of intellectual dishonesty.

Anonymous said...

Oh, surprise ... Scott Sommers (whose MA in Criminology and Gender means he is the sole arbiter of truth on issues of education in Taiwan/Asia/the whole planet) has got huffy because someone else has either a) challenged him or b) as Patrick says, noticed that his stuff isn't rocket science (though kudos to anyone who can bear to read his dense writing style, elliptical and tenuous argument structure.)

What Scott specialises in is largely unsourced and unreferenced soundbites. probably which he doesn't entirely on his own garner from the Chinese language press. That's not a sociology PhD, and it doesn't excuse his attitude.

Cue hissy fit on some blog or other which is, clearly, far more valid than people discussing this down the Brass Monkey. Slightly ironic, here, as it's not like Scott isn't fond of the old pub chat.

Anonymous said...

So, does Sommers have a:

1. PhD
2. Criminology M.A.
3. Sociology M.A.
4. Education M.A.

What are his quals?

Anonymous said...

"You're the one that is ranting. Once you peel the soft science clutter off your writing, it isn't more than just a little common sense."

Scott Sommers also blocked me after I questioned some of his attitudes. I told him how I found the foreigner distinctions repugnant; what I wanted to get was where he put himself, and what ground he was serving in his categorization of foreign teachers considering the trouble many of them go through.

I agree with Prince Roy "I'm a big believer in the 'marketplace of ideas', and this kind of censorship is, if not an act of intellectual cowardice, one of intellectual dishonesty." But Scott Sommers's blog has a different mandate, and he should be called on it. Keep us updated. You've brought up some important issues on the spirit of blogging and done well through this post.

Anonymous said...

Scott Sommers has an MA in Sociology, in which he specialised in gender and criminology. No PhD. No educational qualification. And yet is word is law. Intellectual dishonesty, yes. Intellectual cowardice? Possibly. Intellectual? No.

Anonymous said...

I only stumbled upon your blog today. This entry is absolutely HILARIOUS because I've also been censored by Scott! It was eons ago about a posting on accreditation and he insisted on telling me that I was wrong & misinformed about Canadian education even though I live, work, and breathe it everyday while he left Canada decades ago. OMG, we need to start a support group. Way too funny! I work in academia and, let me tell you, Scott sounds far more pompous than many PhD holders I know. And doesn't even have a PhD!

I've resigned myself to reading his blog only for educational developments in Taiwan and NOT for his views. His views are so black & white (not interested in gray areas or open to possibility of alternative explanations) and at times misinformed.

As for the issue of teaching credentials, I don't think a teaching certificate/degree is the holy grail. However, I also wouldn't put down a teaching degree unless you've been thru a teacher training program yourself (I haven't). To me, teaching is an ART. Like any art, there is nature vs nurture. Neither alone will make you a good teacher. I have seen amazing educators with and without teaching credentials. I wouldn't mock those with degrees even if in areas such as sociology and anthropology. Teaching is a discipline that is far beyond just pedagogy and the technical aspects of "doing."

Anyway, love your blog! I'm a Taiwanese expat living in Canada. Might be moving to Taiwan soon. Back to the motherland! :)

Jack
ubahn2@hotmail.com

Patrick Cowsill said...

We probably all have memories of great teachers. I remember my grade 12 lit teacher Mr. Swenunson. He was amazing. He could quote any poem ever written, and act it out too (we used to look up stuff in the library just to test him). He would send us coded messages in the school announcements on where to meet for class, signed "Swen again". And once, he was chided by the principal for letting us drink slurpees in class. After that day, we had slurpee tests - you couldn't attend without a slurpee in hand.

Swen became a teacher because in his wanderings. He saw a sign on little school in New Zealand saying "teacher needed." I went on to major in English literature in university; I should probably be cursing him for that right now. I don't know. But I do know he'd take a big metaphoric crap on that kind of blog.

Anonymous said...

Scott Sommers has a record of censorhip as long as your arm. his jusitifications for it are flimsy to say the least. His blog is really only of value for the comments/debates he stirs up with his pseudo-intellectual, but hornet's nests stirring, posts. Privately, his veneer of respectability slides into sneer, which says a lot about him. I wouldn't worry about too much Patrick, and keep on blogging regardless.
Gary (formerly Gary EFL Taiwan)

Patrick Cowsill said...

I was wondering about having a blog, why Scott had one; you put an idea out there but you don't want people to respond unless it backs up what you're saying on the post. Talk about lacking onions or an imagination for that matter. Nonetheless, I have enjoyed some of the comments on his blog, plus I believe the blog raises some reasonable points. That's why I am over there periodically.

I couldn't understand why Scott was censoring comments. What's the point of having a blog and then doing that? What's his blog mandate - it seems a bit fuzzy. What's the good in being a teacher, but censoring people - does he have this autocratic style when he teaches? The teacher is God, written by a teacher here in Taiwan: that would be a blog post I'd like to read. Of course I was going to respond when he said I "was trolling" or painting me as some guy who runs his mouth a the local pub. In fact, I was just having a different point of view, and was certainly not a student he could bully.

That he did censor me led to an interesting conversation on "Patrick Cowsill, Wanhua Taiwan", a blog that does not censor. I was happy to bring the talk over here, to liberate it to all commentary.