05 December 2004

Polish Education

This is the weekend I have my classes at the university, in pursuit of my MA degree. 4 classes every 2 weeks, not a terribly demanding schedule, but there's a lot of reading. Anyway, 2 of the classes are lectures, in the true sense - the prof speaks, we write it down. No interaction, no discussion, a lot of "let's write it" and a slow repetition of the same thing 5 times so we can get it word-for-word.

Anyway, in my applied linguistics lecture the prof was talking about linguistic imperialism, specifically English. Apparently, the reason it's so difficult for me to learn Polish is because I view my culture (American) as dominant to Polish culture. It's easier for Poles to learn English because their culture is submissive. This was stated as a true fact, supposedly supported by research, though she didn't get too specific on that point.

But wait, there's more. She went on to talk about the attitude behind the British Council, which views itself as a savior of other countries, swooping in to share the English language and culture, and then mentioned Peace Corps in the same breath, completely omitting the major difference between the two organizations - Peace Corps was INVITED BY THE POLISH GOVERNMENT.

I managed to hold my tongue through the lecture, manily because I just wanted it to end, but I did go up & speak with the prof afterward, just to be sure she was aware of the difference. Turns out, she was, she just wanted to wake up the students & get them interested in pursuing the topic. Which would be great if we weren't dealing with Polish students, who write down everything they're told & memorize it. Sadly, the majority of students in this country don't know how to think for themselves & reason things out, they only know how to remember what they've been told & regurgitate it on the exam.

But now she knows I'm there - she had been unaware there was a foreigner in her class. I'm interested to find out what she says next time. And I'm actually kind of glad she didn't know about me before - it's interesting to hear what people say when they don't know you're one of the imperialists.


S. said...

Oh, please! I'm a Polish student, studying lingustics (The Institute of English Studies, Uni of Warsaw) and believe me, we do know how to think for ourselves... At least at the Uni of Warsaw ;-)
I guess you've just had a bad luck with that lecturer. We're not told that kind of stuff here :)
Btw, lectures r not classes. U just seat and write down, is that any different in the U.S.? We have lots of native speakers and visiting professors from around the world and when they give lectures we still have to seat, listen and write down ;-)
Anyway, enjoy Poland.

The Wendy Lady said...

You're right, I apologize for overgeneralizing. I happen to know lots of Polish students who are exceptional at thinking for themselves - probably better than a lot of Americans! (There I go again...) But then, a lot of my own students can't even figure out that they need to attend classes in order to pass them. (???) I'm definitely teaching in the wrong schools!

S. said...

:-) Where r u teaching, btw?
Is it your birthday today? All the best then :)

matchingtracksuits said...

I find that critical analysis is sadly lacking in many of my students here in southern Poland. I would agree that the dictation-style teaching is largely to blame.

Kat said...

This is SO true! I grew up in Poland (elementary and high)and then went to NYU, here in NY. The teaching styles are so different! Here, students are encouraged to think creatively, engage in discussions and solve problems. In Poland, all you do is write down what the teacher dictates and then memorize it. It took me a while to get out of the educational repression I experienced in Poland. Anybody who tries to argue with your point should come and study in the States for a while! Although I've lived in the US for 12 years, I'm still pretty patriotic, but this is one thing I will never defend about Poland!