Tut! Coursebooks with their PARSNIP policy. You’ve literally given me nothing this term – not even a shred of controversy.
First, there was that unit on travel and ‘responsible tourism’. As usual, full of affluent looking Westerners with aspirational lifestyles, backpacking around Europe or cycling at the Golden Gate Bridge. I mean, I guess the publisher did shoehorn in the odd reference to illegal trade in ivory, plus the dangers of plastic waste and the carbon footprint of tourism. But these are hardly ‘political’ topics. After all, it’s not as if I live in a country that has taken an active stand against the environmental impact of excessive tourism, by closing one of their most popular tourist attractions for the foreseeable future. Nope, no springboards for robust discussion here…
Nope, absolutely none…
As I said… nothing at all. Nothing politically or ethically worth discussing…
Then we had that ‘Developing Speaking’ section where students had to prepare a presentation on a celebrity they admired. I couldn’t see any of the prompts connecting to politics or –isms at all. How… sanitized.
Then there was that whole module on citizenship that introduced various types of government and some political terms. It moved on to consider social issues, a reading on the UK Youth Parliament, and then the task of producing a political speech about the key issues that are important to young people.
I suppose there was that life skills section on ‘Globalisation: are you prepared for it?’ that I could have made more of. After all, it did mention the production of everyday goods in economically disadvantaged countries where workers are exploited. Political enough to justify the acronym becoming ARSNIP? Maybe SPRAIN would be better…
The debate on banning smoking, as appearing the unit entitled ‘Big Brother’ did relate to narcotics I guess, but come on… I hardly think a debate on whether there should be an outdoor ban on a drug that is responsible for half a million deaths in the US each year is enough to say ‘actually, this coursebook does mention narcotics’.
I know, I know. I’m just being facetious.
Yes, I do think that coursebooks can be fairly sanitized. Who knows why, but I had a flick through my 2011 copy of Cutting Edge last night and honestly, you couldn’t get more vanilla. By that, I mean the really synthetic vanilla in Neapolitan ice cream, not the nice stuff you can get during the interval at a theatre.
Still, have you taken a look at any new coursebooks recently? Mine was published in 2016 and it seems quite different to that vanilla one I was using five years ago. There are still plenty of topics left out, and of course there are cultural sensitivities to consider too. Plus, I’m only focusing on topics here – we can call into question the whole approach, lack of non-native speaker representation in listening, use of the careful speech model, etc *insert whatever grievance(s) with coursebooks you have here*.
But… topics/general content-wise… am I the only one who thinks that actually my coursebook isn’t as sanitized as some people make out? Sign of the times…?
Maybe I’ve just developed as a teacher and learnt how to better exploit/adapt/supplement a coursebook to address the topics it doesn’t cover.
No, I just think the books are better and less PARNSIPy than the ones I was using before.
All photos taken from © Gateway/Beyond (Macmillan).
Feature image: thespruceeats