I am an ESL teacher (English as a Second Language). While I was reading Fairclough's fine book, Language and Power
, I came across this:
Some of these (ESL) teachers already see their role in terms of empowering their students, in the words of one practitioner, to 'deal with communicative situations outside the classroom in which institutional power is weighted against them, preparing them to challenge, contradict, assert, in settings where the power dynamic would expect them to agree, acquiesce, be silent.'
It immediately resonated with me for two reasons:
- I teach international young-adults English. It angers me how much they are taken advantage of. Cellphone companies will let the students rack up enormous bills and never inform them that there are far cheaper packages. Landlords will require exorbitant payments up front, and their monthly rent will be unreasonably higher than their Canadian neighbors in the same building. Banks and other institutions will frequently lose their patience with these kids and tell them to go somewhere else. These are things that would never happen to fluent English speaking citizens. But because bureaucracies have all the power and know that the young foreigner in front of them are incapable of challenging, contradicting, or asserting themselves not just because of language but because of cultural confusion they will expect them to agree, acquiesce, and be silent.
- Fairclough's quote can be directly applied to many church situations. I've seen it in operation so many times and so persistently I am surprised people can't see it. The same thing happens between denominations and local congregations, as well as between local leadership and the people. In the same way, church members implicitly know, either out of fear or out of inordinate respect, that they must never challenge or contradict the leadership or assert themselves before their authorities. Everyone knows, not only in the church but in any organization, that it is often best to agree, acquiesce and be silent for the sake of your own survival within that organization.