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I can’t be arsed…..

In the last two days I have read some fairly earnest posts sort of dissing “dogme” in a kind of earnest way, earnestly. Initially, I got all bristly and slitty-eyed. But now….? Well let’s put it this way….

Here are some of things that were written – and I quote:
– dogme is “vacuous, anti-educational and bourgeois”(

– dogme is a “pleasant way to spend an afternoon” (
– dogme is a “hollow non-method” (

– dogme is “elitist”(

– it’s “conservative”, emerging from the “well-heeled environs” of tapas and beer in Barcelona.(

Ho -hum. If that’s what people want to think, that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to some sort of opinion – informed or not – and expressing it isn’t going to change much.

Then there was something about teachers falling flat on their faces because “thinking on your feet is too difficult”, (
and somewhere further along there was something about teaching unplugged being “impossible” and the lesson “descending into a lame string of stilted, repetitive teacher-led” (
something or other.

You know, at the end of the day, I honestly can’t be arsed. If that is REALLY what people think, then just carry on. If falling on your face because doing it differently is too difficult, please, do it whichever way makes you feel comfortable, or whatever is easiest. I’m not going to proselytise. As old as I am, I have realised that changing people’s minds – particularly people who have dug their heels in – is a thankless task and I wouldn’t presume anyway.

But I would like to say a couple of things – read them if you will, or not, as you like:

– why does teaching have to be in inner-city slums to be worthy? and as an aside, I have taught bleeding, infected, desperate, weeping, homeless refugees how to speak English, using nothing but their experiences and the emergent language and let me tell you there was nothing pleasant or conservative or vacuous or bloody bourgeois about that.

– bored students (
= boring teaching and there, for any of you who have got this far, is the rub. I have taught for more years than many of you have been alive and I have NEVER had a bored student. And neither have my classes “descended into a lame string of stilted, repetitive teacher-led”(
whatever it was. That kind of statement tells me a hell of a lot more about the teacher than about any method he or she may be using or about the way I teach – dogmetically and unplugged, whichever word you care to use. I have taught business English for 12 years and I have been using this so-called “hollow non-method” (
of teaching all that time. It works for my clients – elitist and spoiled and conservative as they may be. That doesn’t make them less entitled to bloody good teaching – and that’s the bottom line.

So, if it is too difficult – do it your way; if you dare not venture down the road of falling flat on your face, but actually learning something about how to do it better next time, please, be really conservative and get someone else to do the “thinking on your feet” for you. And in the name of all of us, if you are boring your students, get the hell out.

Gosh – I guess I CAN be arsed after all!!

P.S – quoted texts referenced to avoid confusion.


22 responses »

  1. Of all the insults that could be thrown at Dogme, boring is the one I thought I’d never hear. In fact, of any method or approach to teaching, boring and demotivating are the last things that come to my mind. If this is the case, the fault is the teacher’s. End of. Do it your way, but make it engaging.

    Strange how attacks on Dogme come and go. How they are articulated from the what-you’re-doing-is-plan-wrong camp or the that’s-what-we-do-anyway camp. How does the Dogme community react? Repositioning in the EFL world? By getting touchy? Ignoring it? I’ve got to thank the latest deliverers of criticism, they’ve made me rethink my approach – why I do what I do – and have made me even more convinced that it’s best for me and my beliefs about learning, and best for my students and the way they learn.

    Thanks a lot guys.


    • That’s why you’re the coolest teacher on the block, Dale: self-reflection and a critical look at the whys and wherefores. And THAT my friend is what sets dogme teachers apart – the continual self-assessment, the struggle with the moment, the ongoing readjusting, reframing, refocussing. Give me us any day….. 🙂

  2. Wow, that’s quite a personal invective but you have misquoted me, misrepresented me and missed the point.

  3. Came from Barcelona, huh? My friend and colleague Danae Kozanoglou in Athens was teaching ‘dogmetically’ and advocating the approach years before anyone thought to call it dogme. It must have occured to loads of people around the world to teach in this way. What very strange accusations those are.

  4. PS I notice the post you are quoting here contains the statement: ‘The amount of thinking on your feet makes it just too difficult for most people to do well without any direction or structure.’ I find this odd as an objection to dogme. I’ve been training teachers for 20-odd years and there’s not a single approach that you cannot screw up for want of ability to think on your feet. So it’s hardly a criticism of dogme (or PPP or Suggestopedia or Silent Way or CLL or Grammar Translation or whatever) to say that it can be done badly.

    • Hi Steve – amen to all that. I too was teaching “unplugged” for many years. It was good when Scott Thornbury, as a recognised voice in EFL gave it a name which gave it credibility. I’m just astonished at the narrow view most people have of teaching this way and how they “blame” it for any inadequacies they may have in the classroom.
      Thanks for stopping by – as always 🙂

  5. I know the term ‘dogme’ is taken from Lars Von Wotsit et al. and referred originally to a philosophy of film-making, but isn’t it rather unfortunate in its connotation of rigidity?

    • Yes – hence a move towards calling it “unplugged” teaching, which is equally misleading. Both these terms are probably the reason for the firmly held, but totally erroneous beliefs surrounding the practice. See the two quoted blogs which possibly encapsulate all the misunderstandings about what “dogmetic” teaching actually is. We all do it – just some of us prefer to do it all the time and at the expense of most other “ways” of teaching.

      • Steve – I completely agree. Thinking on your feet and making decisions in the moment makes up a principle part of any approach to teacher, whatever ‘school’ you come from – be it the Barcelona tapas-and-beer school or whatever teaching theory/methodology/practice/approach/mindset – However hard one plans and analyses, it’s never enough to be ready for the real thing. Thus why we think on our feet. This is how much I’ve understood.

      • Decided I can’t be arsed either… apparently, my use of 28 years experience of training and observing teachers to reflect on language teaching methodology is irrelevant and constitutes an ad hominem attack if I appeal to that experience. Moreover, my experience serves merely to cloud my judgement and render me hidebound and inflexible, so in future I shall pass opinions only on matters I know fuck all about. He feels under no obligation to say how he knows dogme is such a crock and any requests for evidence also constitute an ad hominem attack. What you do, my dear, is NOT dogme, so you’ve been deluded all this time. Dogme is what he says it is, not what you think you do. I really do feel like dumping a great steaming pile of real ad hominem on him, but will forbear.

  6. Steve
    Oh dear – it’s that kind of smug intransigence that holds this industry back. But just take it from whence it comes….
    Love having your support, however, – many many thanks. Your 28 years of experience – hidebound and inflexible though it makes you – is something I have come to value enormously.


  7. Chillax Candy. This will make you feel better 🙂
    This video might help first:

  8. Pingback: LETBites Challenge « language garden

  9. Pingback: it’s a bloody pen « ELT BITES

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