ELT Writers’ Manifesto

Scott Thornbury’s post this Sunday is M is for Manifesto .  At the end of the post, he gives the original 10 Commandments of Dogme, which prompts me to offer something similar for those like him who profess to tell teachers how to better do their jobs. There is a band of ELT  writers who write  books on how to teach, or how to pass exams, or coursebooks, or  books on grammar, pronunciation, how to use your mobile phone, etc., etc.. When they’re not writing, they’re touring the world doing conference appearances and giving teacher training workshops, or they’re doing much the same thing on blogs and other social media. This band includes Harmer, Thornbury, Underhill, Scrivener, Maley, Graddol, Ward, Dellar, McLoughlin, Wogan, Ur, Larsen-Freeman, Soars, Johnson, Hadfield, Mercer, Richardson, Clare, Mercer, to name but a few.


Manifesto for ELT Writers

  1. Advice on teaching should be given using only the resources that the writers bring to the task – i.e. themselves – and whatever they actually know about. If a particular piece of advice contains material that is not part of their own rescources, it may only be included by taking the intended audience to the location where that material can be found (e.g. library, resource centre, bar, students’ club). This is perhaps the most important item of all, intended to drastically reduce the amount of hot air and general baloney currently on offer.
  2. No recordings of conference talks, workshops or training sessions should be made public unless 12 just men and women drawn from the ranks of independent teachers (i.e. not employees of the British Council, IH, Bell Schools, etc.) have certified that the recording contains at least the germ of one, half-way interesting, original idea.
  3. When addressing an audience, the writers must sit down at all times that their audiences are seated, refrain from prancing around the stage, and above all, refrain from toe-curling attempts to mingle with the audience.
  4. All the writers questions must be “real” questions (such as “Do you like grammar presentations as much as I do?” Or “How much do you think I’m getting paid for doing this talk?”), not “display” questions (such as “Is the Pearson PTE test crap?” or “Are we overpaid?”)
  5. Slavish adherence to a method (such as Dogme, the Lexical Approach, and all those recommended in Thornbury’s The CELTA Course) is unacceptable.
  6. A pre-planned book or conference talk where the content is made up of pre-selected items taken from a bank of stuff written 20 years ago is forbidden. The Larsen-Freeman Limitor restricts the use the first person singular to 10; and The Harmer Humbug Restrictor bans the use of ill-formed sentences.
  7. Topics that are of genuine interest and use to the audience must be given priority over the usual dross that writers are publishers “value” (i.e. think will make the biggest profit).
  8. Charging readers and audiences different prices for the same product is disallowed. Furthermore, punters should be given maximum access to library copies of books and recordings of sessions. As in other forms of human social interaction, the capitalist way of doing things should open to criticism, better still, proscribed.
  9. No writer will even mention testing procedures until they’ve risen above their current state of abysmal ignorance on the subject. The same goes for SLA research.
  10. Writers will be evaluated according to only one criterion: that they are not hypocritical bores.

6 thoughts on “ELT Writers’ Manifesto

      1. Thanks Geoff. I thought as much.
        Tom Wogan is my husband so I am in a position to correct you. As he has two jobs, working for Cambridge Language Assessment on top of teaching 20 hours a week, It’s hard enough to get him to write a Christmas card, let alone a book. If he were travelling the world giving conference presentations I think I might have noticed! No, as it is, he presents at local conferences as part of his Cambridge duties.
        There are other names in the list I don’t recognise (no disrespect to them) so I feel you may be exaggerating their importance for còmic purposes.


      2. Hi Jessica,
        Thanks for putting the record straight and my apologies to Tom. I’m afraid I put that list together far too quickly; I’ll check it today.


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