Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Tales from Behind the Firewall

So a friend of mine, who works for now as a teacher in a somewhat authoritarian/totalitarian (is that still considered a meaningful distinction?) foreign country (I'm trying, though probably failing, to be oblique as to the identity of both, since I don't want to be the proximate cause of him having electrodes attached to his gonads). He IMs me this morning with an amusing story.

Seems he teaches a "business English" class, the goal of which is equip his tutees with the English/negotiation skills to successfully bargain with their American counterparts. The texts are all American, and presume Western-style business situations, which clash somewhat with the culture of the country. The texts also include various role-playing scenarios.

The funny thing is that, because the scenarios are so Western, the students are afraid that if they do to well in them, they'll get in trouble with the Party, represented by a Party monitor who sits in on the class and whose principal duty (other than insuring that no subversive ideas are disseminated in the classroom) is to clean the blackboard.

There was one instance that he relates in which they were going to argue whether the jails should be privatized. None of his students would argue that they should. He attempted, he says, to explain that it was just a game, and assigned teams, but they still refused to argue it. A bright 18-year old offered to argue the point, but one of his elders stopped him and warned him it wouldn't be smart.

Ahh, totalitarianism: it's a laugh riot.

Anyway, in order to make his class not a total bust, he's in the process of rewriting his scenarios to make them more compatible with the local culture. I'm told there's a swamp named after me in one: the Angusglades Municipal Swamp. Frankly I'm touched.