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  1. #1
    Peter Goudge's Avatar
    Peter Goudge is offline Newbie
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    Default ESL Forums – should they be taken seriously?

    It seems to me that many of the ‘forums’ attached to English as a Second Language (ESL) websites have become the playground for people who purport to be teachers, but exhibit behavior more in-line with what you’d expect from your average, ‘garden variety’, school-yard bully.

    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.

    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.

    About the author - Peter Goudge is the Managing Director of the Australia-Vietnam School of English (AVSE) located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam:
    Last edited by bhaisahab; 18-Apr-2013 at 14:54. Reason: Remove advertising link.

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: ESL Forums – should they be taken seriously?

    There is a big difference between ESL forums where learners can come for help with their English and those where people discuss specific schools. I only really have experience of the former (this site). As far as the rest of your post is concerned, whilst I agree that there is little comeback for people who are wrongly criticised on the net, I would prefer to have the ability to search for information, sift through it and use my common sense to decide, on the balance of probabilities, what the truth is.
    It strikes me that your post is one of personal experience which is unfortunate. In the main, however, I find no overwhelming reason not to take ESL forums seriously.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: ESL Forums – should they be taken seriously?

    Hypothetical?

    The internet is a complex beast, but like TripAdvisor there is some wisdom in the crowd. A single bad review doesn't put me off, but a pattern of bad reviews from multiple sources over time may.

    Forums, and ours is not one for such issues, may have their shortcomings, but they also have their positive points- there are utterly fraudulent schools out there, run by out-and-out crooks.

    We delete anti-school posts that cannot be proved, just as we delete adverts. If we have missed something, please let us know. We're not that sort of site.

    Your solution is simplistic and pointless- how can a site that only has an anonymous email possibly know if John Smith is a real person- you would need more identity like a passport/ID card.

    If the Can Tho incident occurred on our site, then please get in touch by Private Message and we'll move from there. If it didn't, then please regard your post for what it is- a plain opinion no more worthy of respect than many others.

    Should managing directors of Australia-Vietnam schools be taken seriously? I'm open to discussion, but the thought that you are the fountain-head of wisdom because you came across a b*llsh*tter with dodgy papers and versed in the internet and that is enough to think freedom of speech should be shut down or disregarded is, frankly, weak. They have their flaws, but they have their pluses.
    Last edited by Tdol; 18-Apr-2013 at 14:28.

  4. #4
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: ESL Forums – should they be taken seriously?

    This discussion is a silly irrelevance, and a total waste of time. I'm not playing any more.

    b

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