Regarding activities about social issues
May 2, 2023
This has become the most disputed issue on the site recently, so I thought that I need to step in and clarify what the site's policies are.
To give some background, an activity was posted last week regarding the modern issue of gender identity. The larger topic of gender identity and how it relates to language has become one of the most heated and debated topics in the English-speaking world. Like other modern issues, I think the nature of advertising-based media has fostered intense polarization and made the debate difficult to engage in without the participants getting extremely angry.
I never intended ALTopedia to be the place where people debate this issue, but I suppose it was eventually going to come to the site at some point.
The activity represents a viewpoint that is generally not represented often in younger, education-related online spaces in that it disagrees with the concept of gender identities. I discussed the activity with the user and they're sincere in their beliefs, which they believe aren't yet represented in the material that has already been posted to the site. From their perspective, they disagree with the existing activities on the site regarding gender identity and pronouns and wanted to post an activity that engaged in the debate from their perspective.
I should probably mention here that I see a lot of comments in the moderation queue on pronoun-related activities that are extremely critical of them, but I haven't let any through yet because they don't contain positive or productive feedback, which is the rule that I've set for comments. But I think it's safe to say that there's a range of opinion on this issue among the users of the site.
This new activity has attracted a lot of comments, both positive and negative, but I haven't let most of them through since they're either incendiary or dismissive in a way that I wouldn't allow on any other activity.
I'll be upfront and say that I don't plan on removing this activity, because:
- I don't exercise editorial control over users' activities, and I don't give that editorial control to anyone else. If people thought that their activities could be modified in ways that they didn't agree with, there wouldn't be nearly as much material on the site as there is now. It's one thing to post something and have someone else make their own version of it, but altering or removing an original activity is like putting words in someone's mouth, and nobody's happy with that.
- I cannot claim that the site is neutral on the issue if I only allow one side of it to be presented.
- It's always been a tenet of the site that nobody is required to use an activity. I'm sure everyone who's used the site has come across activities that they wouldn't use, but there are almost 3000 activities now, so there are almost certainly other options.
- My email discussion with the user indicated that they were sincere and felt like it was important to be able to speak their mind on this issue. They pointed out that other users had already been doing the same with their activities.
Removing it because of the volume of negative comments, or because it stands on the opposite side of other peoples' beliefs on this issue would set a precedent that I don't think the site could ever recover from. If I did it this time, it would become a cudgel for other people to wield on this issue or other issues, and it would lead to endless fighting.
I'm going to draft up new guidelines and rules for comments and activity submission soon. My intent isn't to retroactively apply new rules or prevent similar activities from being posted in the future, but I suppose that the size of the site now will necessitate clearer guidelines on what's acceptable and what isn't. I'll also build in functionality to freeze comments on an activity that is attracting too many contentious comments.
There's no decision here that will make everyone happy, but I'm trying to operate the site in a way that gives teachers the most latitude in what they can use in their classes.
I'm using the new comments freeze feature (which still needs a little more work) to freeze comments on this post and on the activity, since they've turned into people just arguing with each other. I'll build more features like this as they become necessary, as unfortunate a use of my time as it is.
I think it’d be slightly different if it was presented as a debate showing both sides of views (still wouldn’t use it myself, esp for kids) but instead it presents a lot of blatant misinformation and erasure as fact. Plenty of other activities (namely culture related) are corrected by the creator when they’ve been told they’re wrong. We’re facing the paradox of tolerance by being “neutral.” I think a line needs to be drawn, how that is done is definitely a difficult problem to solve.
I can’t imagine being one of their queer students thinking they’re going into another normal English class and then the ALT gives an entire presentation brutally disempowering and dehumanizing them. And then probably not even having anyone to talk to about it. I just really really feel for the students at this time.
A lot of these comments seem to think this gender ideology is grounded in fact when it is actually not, it is not grounded in reality whatsoever. What you think is fact is actually just your own opinion. Nothing here needs to be corrected, the resource at hand reflects reality much more than these opinions giving by anyone here trying so desperately to censor it.
@Gaijingaidan one of the ways bullying is defined in Anti-bullying seminars is when children isolate other children. The personal political manifesto posted by Gordy1 advocates that. For example by strongly stating that kids should only play in traditionally gendered sports. I doubt it’s his intent to be pro-bullying but advocating alienating kids who don’t fit the mold is pro-bullying.
Given that it is apparent that the ALT community is so politically biased makes me concerned for the children. It seems so many of the teachers here want to push a false gender ideology narrative that is not a part of the truly conservative Japanese culture and doing this is simply imposing your own beliefs onto Japanese society. The average Japanese perspective comes much more closely to what is presented in this presentation, none of this would be alarming or concerning to them whatsoever.
I think it's important to keep in mind that Japan is a fairly conservative culture, and that the modern western concept of gender largely doesn't exist here. The activity in question spoke about pronoun use in an everyday sense, and encouraged children to ask authority figures if they had further questions. To allege that the author's lesson engenders bullying is a real stretch.
None of this presentation would be any different from what Japanese people would hear or experience in their day to day lives no matter how they identify. They are culturally comfortable this way. Your job as an ALT is not to push radical gender theory on to students. Honestly if you feel that passionately about it I don't know why you are here. That is not a part of their culture and they have no interest in it. Feel free to discuss your post modern takes on gender with other ALTs.
I’ve pointed out on the activity that its language and message runs contrary to the guidelines that the ministry is giving schools regarding this issue. Guidelines meant to keep kids in school and keep them safe. Milamber and basedalt, you or anyone expressing those views outside the school is what it is but using your platform in class to do so is a case of an ALT acting like they know best ignoring the guidance other teachers are given.
I personally wouldn't feel the need to run a class on this topic mostly because I think it is already fairly obvious information to the Japanese students already. But there is another infographic on this website pushing radical gender theories and that definitely goes against the guidelines of what we are supposed to be teaching as ALTs. My point is if you're not going to remove that from this website then it's only fair to have a post with the other side as well.
“Should we use takeout boxes to prevent food waste?” is a debate topic. “Should people have exotic pets?” is a debate topic. “Do nonbinary people exist and should we regard them as silly Westerners?” is not a debate topic. Trans students exist in so so many of our schools. There are hundreds of trans ALTs. Your lack of tolerance is the anomaly in Japanese culture, not the supposed cultural conservatism. To post this so soon after Japanese pride is sick.
I also don’t feel that the opinion of “basedalt”, who has observably posted no activities on this site and contributed nothing other than to comment on this situation, is anywhere near as pertinent to those of UonumaRobert who pretty consistently contributes dozens of useful activities all the time. Same with any of those who have created accounts seemingly in the past 24 hours just to comment in support of something that is demonstrably hurting and alienating so many people.
I am a transgender woman who came out and transitioned in rural Japan. My board of education complied with MEXT standards and my students and coworkers are not confused about my identity. Strangers refer to me as "onee-san" despite me not passing as female. Gender non-conforming students are common here, and I have a Japanese coworker who is non-binary. While ALTs are entitled to their opinions, I think it is important to recognize that Japan is also moving towards greater LGBTQ+ acceptance.
And basedalt all this has come out because Gordy1 feels the need to push his gender agenda. He is the one that feels this is a good use of lesson time. He’s just hitting push back here. He might not hear to his face at work. However I’d appreciate a link to the guidelines you’re talking about.
basedalt Have you spoken to Japanese people on their beliefs on this topic? Have you spoken to people who are directly affected by issues regarding gender identity? I feel like it's not a good idea to speak on topics you have not researched enough. It doesn't matter if a culture has no interest in it. It's the kids sitting in the back of your class wondering why you think they shouldn't exist.
My early contracts had notes about not pushing political or religious agendas at school and certainly both Gordy1s lecture and those earlier posts do that. However the contributions that are pro-education about LGBTQ are in line with the materials the boards put out for the well-being of the students. The currently debated political speech runs firmly against those MEXT sanctioned materials.
Thank you for your post here. I am sorry that you have to defend youself on this stance - it must be a stressful process seeing all the hateful comments on this acadamia post. I just wanted to say that I found the post extremely resourceful. Many children in my class have been extremely confused when it comes to the new worlds perception of gender, and being that I teach 4th grade and younger, I found that keeping this topic to the fundamentals is the best way to educate my class. ty!
@marumaru - nothing in my presentation says anything or promotes anything of non acceptance. I talk about how pronouns normally operate in society. As I told Jake one of the reasons I shared this resource was because I disagree with the countless other pro LGB resources and instead of angrily commenting I shared my own.
Hello again, I have no problem with what people do in their time in Japan outside of their job as an ALT. My messages were purely about the classroom and they still stand. You cannot push a political agenda to students and clearly you all are, I don't see why this isn't obvious. What I've contributed to the website has nothing to do with anything, I work this job and deserve a voice as well.
This is harmful and confusing to students and yes I've spoken to many Japanese people about this and this is the general consensus. The trans/non-binary community here is incredibly small, gender non-conforming students are not common and those that are can seek help outside of our English classes. Japan is not a openly tolerant country and they don't have to be, it's great the way it is. Glad you're having a good time in Japan but your personal anecdote changes nothing about the class time.
Wow, so basedalt believes Japanese people are ‘intolerant and thinks that’s great’ and anyone who’s had a different experience is just spouting ‘anecdotes’. The ‘don’t know why you are here’ comment seems pretty close to ‘if you disagree with me you should go back to where you came from’. Solid way to get your point across not that anyone will be changing hearts and minds here.