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And I have a life too .....
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Any communist regime is, at best, a controversial form of social order. It has a lot of drawbacks such as drabness and uniformity. However, it’s hard to deny that there are some positives related to this political system which ultimately compensate for deficiencies such as the lack of freedom of travel, speech, religion, political expression and other such ‘trifles’. The thing is that life in a communist country is pretty safe; it protects all souls from evil and dangerous ideas. It protects them from confusing diversity and complicated variety.
Back in my teenage years, when I was thriving happily under a mild version of the communist regime, I had no idea what Halloween was. You couldn’t see any images of pumpkins in English coursebooks (there weren’t many visuals anyway – just the black and white pictures of the ideal Prokop’s family), you couldn’t buy scary masks and bloody costumes in the supermarkets (there weren’t any supermarkets – only shops that sold stuff in fifty shades of grey), and you couldn’t watch loads of American horror movies where people die of fright when they see a ghost (ghosts and life after death weren’t supposed to exist). At that time, anything imported from or related to America (or developed western countries) was considered filthy.
A quarter of a century later I can claim that things have changed. What I can’t claim is that it’s 100% to the good. We can travel wherever we want and we have glossy, colourful English coursebooks with images of plump pumpkins. We can spend a fortune on a Halloween costume or scary decorations if we can afford it. That’s fine. Every school kid knows what Halloween is but few of them know why we have a public holiday on the 28th of October, for example (Independent Czechoslovak State Day). That’s less fine. There are lots of spectacular events taking place on the last October day while very little actually happens three days earlier. We barely mention this day in English lessons and apart from national flags hanging wearily from schools and bureaux, one will notice nothing out of the ordinary outside the school building.
Personally, I don’t really care about Halloween very much. If it weren’t for the huge promotional event we do for other schools each year to attract potential students, I wouldn’t probably do anything at all. However, the media massage is irresistible so I sporadically incorporate some Halloween-related stuff into my lessons provided I come across something I find useful from a language point of view (This Halloween lyric is an example of a great activity aimed at pronunciation practice). The question that bothers me is why we let ourselves massaged so willingly by the surroundings. I’m convinced that some people over here genuinely like Halloween, St. Valentine’s Day, or Christmas with Santa Clause and I don’t blame them. I also understand why English teachers mention these holidays in their lessons – they are fragments of English speaking countries’ cultures after all. But I sometimes feel resistant to doing something just because others do it.
In the past we were an enclosed country isolated from the wonderful, colourful western world. Nowadays we’ve reached another extreme – we are exposed to so much variety that we sometimes find it difficult to distinguish the good from the crap. It seems there’s no way to stop globalization but it’s up to us educators to see what is worth passing on to our students and what to throw in the imaginary trash can.
PS.: This post was inspired and prompted by Mike Griffin’s ideas on a hot issue.