As a language teacher I believe in bringing real content to the classroom, and getting students talking about things that matter to them, whether they be perennial ’issues’ or ones related to current events. As a coursebook writer (Speakout, Pearson) I’ve had to work within certain constraints normally imposed by publishers to ensure that no content ends up in a coursebook that might offend someone, somewhere in the world. There’s even an acronym for this (’PARSNIP’—don’t ask me what each letter means but as you might guess sex, narcotics and pork are among them), either to give authors a handy reference or to make the notion of taboo topics easy to refer to. The avoidance of potentially sensitive topics is one of the main criticisms made of major coursebooks, and I can see the point, but I also understand why publishers feel they need to play it safe.
When I was a fulltime English teacher, coursebooks never prevented me from including real, potentially risky content in my lessons where I felt it was appropriate. I made mistakes at times, for example using an article on sexual harassment in the workplace with a group where 1-2 Read more