c. 1600, “to be jovial and boisterous,” also “to talk bombastically,” from Dutch randten (earlier ranten) “talk foolishly, rave,” of unknown origin (compare German rantzen “to frolic, spring about”). Related: Ranted; ranting. Ranters “antinomian sect which arose in England c. 1645”.
On coursebooks, CELTA, conferences, gender equality, NNS-issues and more, criticism of mainstream ELT is labelled a rant.
Errant voices become ‘enemies of the ELT people’. The good ELT people. The GELTs. The GELTs who get to feel good. In the words of US president Donald Trump, the ranters are ‘bad, very bad’.
I’ve heard this many times. Previously on Facebook, recently on Twitter from Tyson Seburn, and now Sandy Millin accuses ELT Advocacy of the same crime. Even Scott Thornbury once accused TaWSIG of “hectoring rhetoric” and he’s like, a jedi or something.
Criticism = Rant. And nobody likes ranters because they’re crazy, right?
‘Loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke. Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the poor that are cast out (both of houses and synagogues) to thy house.’–Abiezer Coppe
Historically, the real Ranters were, granted, a bit over the top. A radical group of leaderless commoners who emerged in the rebellious wave of dissent during the English Commonwealth (1649–1660) they were dedicated to exposing and overturning the oppression of their day, along with another group you might have heard of – the more well-known Levellers. Sharing the egalitarian outlook of many radical groups at the time, the Ranters believed in free love, they thought property was theft, and they hectored people while nude. (Not a bad idea that…)
Naturally they were denounced by the Puritans for their “monstrous opinions and wicked and abominable practices”. What caused such hostility to the Ranters, who were essentially peaceful mystics, was that they challenged the hierarchies of the established church, one archbishop writing that “the ministers of the world are become contemptible in the eyes of the basest sort of people.”
But what happened to sects such as the Diggers, Ranters, and the Levellers? They were imprisoned, their books were burned, and leaders of the Levellers were killed by Cromwell’s army in Burford Churchyard. Their murder is commemorated with a plague on the building.
Sorry, I mean a plaque. Freudian slip. I know because I’ve been there – it’s deep in Tory England – David Cameron’s home is not far away.
Royalty was restored. Parliament and the aristocracy reached an uneasy truce which characterizes English politics to this day. (Remember how many years it took to ban fox-hunting?)
So a rant has different meanings, depending on where and how you look. But nudity of revolutionary sects aside, the important question is this: what is the ‘work’ involved in labelling someone’s words a rant. What is the function of such a gesture?
It’s simple. Labelling something a rant means dismissing someone’s experience, their beliefs, and their reality. And it’s a way of dismissing and deferring a real debate about power; about who has it; about how it is exercised; and most importantly, what to do about it.
And it’s a way of blocking the real dialogue that needs to happen within ELT. A dialogue that people are trying to bring to the table – but that keeps being blocked by individuals and institutions.
And I’ve tried dialogue. I’ve tried talking to IATEFL about working conditions and starting a SIG, with considerable teacher support. Blocked. I’ve written to Jeremy Harmer and asked him to write for TaWSIG. No response to my question. (And mysteriously I can’t respond to his blog post.) Blocked. And I responded to Sandy Millin’s blog post. I’m still waiting for my comment to appear. [UPDATE: comment located in Sandy’s spam folder. Not blocked. Just waiting to be posted one week later.]
Is this a symptom of what anthropologists call ‘social silence’? (Thanks Geoff Jordan for tweeting the pic below.) The fact that no matter how hard people try to raise concerns – the default option of elites is to ignore dissent or dismiss them, because they find the conclusions that follow from these concerns taboo or unthinkable? But surely this is a logical error, because the strategy of ignoring and dismissing dissent comes from elite thinking, it’s completely separate from the concerns raised by people who feel discriminated against or shut out of power. And all it proves is the dialogue-phobia of elites, because they’re afraid of where that dialogue will lead.
Or am I just ranting?
Perhaps sooner or later, mainstream ELT will realise that what they label ‘rants’ are not really the problem; they are part of the solution to the problem. But for that to happen a lot of people need to have a conversation with themselves before they label and dismiss others. Perhaps we all need to have conversation with ourselves about what ELT is, and who it serves, and our place in it. I know that I have and I’ve come to the conclusion that leaving the industry is probably the best option, because why would I want to belong to an industry that crushes teachers under its feet?
I know that many people in and out of TaWSIG are tired of their reality being ignored; and of systemic problems being dismissed. So call that a rant if you like. But if there’s a grain of truth – then why not listen? Neoliberal capitalism individualizes problems and downplays structural inequality; and when that inequality is highlighted – guess what happens? A cocktail of dismissal and silence.
As the Brazilian educator Paulo Friere once wrote: ‘If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed’.
Is he a ranter too?