ESL Forums – should they be taken seriously?
Visit almost any ESL ‘forum’ world-wide and you’ll see an array of vitriol from so-called teachers directed at ESL schools and people who work at ESL schools. Those who occupy the unenviable position of Director of Studies are common targets, although school owners – who are often named – cop a lot abuse. In stark contrast, I’ve been unable to locate a single post on an ESL ‘forum’ anywhere in the world, attacking an ESL teacher.
ESL schools are purely profit driven?
If you believe what you read on ESL ‘forums’, ESL schools are purely profit driven and those who own them are the pit of humanity, have little regard for students and even less regard for teachers. Think about it for a minute. It just doesn’t make sense. Students and teachers are what make a school tick. School owners have a vested interest in keeping their students sufficiently motivated to continue building their English language skills and holding on to good teachers – and from my own experience – most schools conduct their affairs accordingly.
Sure, there’s occasionally something undesirable malingering at the bottom of a swimming pool, but precisely who was the responsible (or irresponsible) party, isn’t always apparent. History is littered with examples of the guilty person being the one who ran around shouting the loudest and pointing their finger with contrived contempt at others. You don’t have to look any further than what’s happening right now on the Korean Peninsula.
The truth of the matter is, many ESL teachers with an ‘axe to grind’ head straight to the internet and ‘anonymously’ post all kinds of rubbish about schools where they used work, comforted by the knowledge that their targets have absolutely no recourse.
Let’s look at a hypothetical situation. You own an English language school in the beautiful city of Can Tho, located in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region. You dismiss a Canadian ESL ‘teacher’ because you find out they have bogus qualifications. The next day your name is all over the internet. You’re portrayed as the employer from hell. What can you do? Nothing! If you choose to defend your good name, you simply add fuel to fire and 100 negative reviews becomes 200, although you know – and people who know you know – you’re too generous for your own good. With a rush of blood to the head you might come out with something like – I’m going to report the offender to the police – or perhaps – I’ll see them in court! Yeah, right! Then it dawns on you, they posted anonymously and no doubt have long since departed the dodgy internet café where they did the deed. Most likely, you wouldn’t have the resources to track them down anyway.
I understand the ‘freedom of speech’ line that’s often rolled out to support the kind of characters that I’m drawing attention to in this article. Any ESL teacher worth a grain of salt, however, understands that freedom of speech entails a range of responsibilities. In a civil society you can’t have one without the other. Anonymously attacking institutions and people on the internet has nothing to do with freedom of speech – and has no place in a civil society.
It seems to me that it would be really easy to resolve this issue, through any number of means. Perhaps the people who run the ESL ‘forums’ can be more mindful that those who are under attack have mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children and so forth – scrutinise what appears on their site and remove what’s simply personal abuse. Another option might be, require people to post under their real name. Boy, oh, boy – if this happened, the less scrupulous ESL forums would fold over night – and our industry would be a better place.
Getting back to the original question – ESL forums, should they be taken seriously? I think the answer is, it depends on how seriously you’re prepared to believe comments from anonymous people who live in cyberspace. Personally, if I want to know something, I’m sufficiently confident to make my own enquiries.
What do you think? Please leave your comments below.