Perhaps I’m just not used to it

The new curriculum.

Just at the end of last term, we got sent the new curriculum which unifies the programme at all levels. For the past couple of years, we’ve had slightly different versions of the curriculum, one for each level. It makes sense to bring everything together under one aegis. At the moment (all right, earlier this afternoon between classes), I was trying to devise a term plan. Central Command does tend to want something that’s a little detailed, whereas I  know that I don’t know what I’m going to be doing until I get there, and the second term is usually a messy affair with May Holidays, practice tests for the NMET, and the NMET itself. Post-NMET June promises to be an interesting month, and by “interesting” I mean “month better avoided” because the school want us to then make up the classes the Senior 3s missed. If you happened to be reading back in about June last year, you’ll know that the school in Benniu pulled the same daft stunt, which ended up being a colossal waste of time.

Anyway, term plans really shouldn’t be more than a general suggestion of what unit is being done when. Certainly, it helps no one in a world where we have to be flexible to know what time we should be doing what exercise long before we get there. You might do it in foreign countries which have a history of long-term planning, but in China “long-term planning” means you’re thinking about what you might be doing in the next two to five minutes. I remember when I first came to China that I did try to work out roughly when I’d be doing what, but even at a general level, it never worked like that. The term plan, in my view, is merely a fig leaf which, if anyone tries to follow it religiously, is never going to work as it should.

I’m trying to use the new curriculum, although we don’t have to start using it until the start of the 2007-08 academic year. It doesn’t really matter whether I do so or not, because the material remains the same as last year and, therefore, the coverage remains the same as last year. However, I’m not much inclined to wait until then, so the new curriculum (I should say, “the ‘new’ curriculum”, because it’s not really doing anything significantly different) is being used.

The document itself is not well-formatted, even if the content appears all right. Nonetheless, it’s the content which bothers me and has me itching to do a critique of it. If only I was Kant. I could do the critique, although no one would understand what I was talking about. But I’m no Kant, of course. Who said, “Thank God for that”? Yeah, well you can sit at the back of the Internet.

The problem is that I’m looking at exercise, determining what the principal aim of it is, and frequently wondering which part of the curriculum is relevant. My biggest issue is detailed reading, which is conspicuously absent. It seems to have been subsumed by scanning, but scanning is the art of looking for specific information (I feel that I should be writing “ars petendi indicium certum”, but just as I am no Kant, I am no Dryden or Swift either), not detailed understanding of the text. It’s wrong, therefore, to be mistaking a detailed understanding of the text with detail (i.e., specifics) in the text. If I’m looking for “Carla Gugino” in the text, that’s specific information, but I needn’t understand anything further about her presence there. Detailed reading, to me, is kind of a combination of skimming (gist) and scanning, thus resulting in a fuller knowledge and understanding of the text.

Although I don’t want to enter into an extemporaneous discussion of the elements of grammar in relationship to the four areas of language acquisition, I can’t help but feel that amateurs shouldn’t venture into areas of linguistics where they are simply not competent to be. (I should add, of course, that I’m not an applied linguist[1] and probably shouldn’t be messing about with this particular branch of linguistics. Even so, I may come back to this some time.)

1. Syntactician: someone who found phonology too hard; applied linguist: someone who found syntax too hard.

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