On truthfulness of a truism

truism (n. a statement that is obviously true and says nothing new or interesting.)

It is often said, with no hint of suspicion, that students learn language for communication. Is this truism true? Does it accurately capture current educational practices? Maybe not. Most of the students, at least in South Korean institutional contexts, learn English to be judged. — Judged to be an (in)accurate user of English, a low/high achiever, and a forever incompetent non-native speaker/a truly exceptional success. This suggests that each time we encounter a seemingly indubitable statement, we need to raise a follow-up question, one like this: “Okay, you just said we all learn foreign languages for communicating with other people. Then what kind of communication is happening in our schools? With whom and for what purposes? Are we actually creating the opportunities for authentic communication rather than following institutional protocols for ranking and categorizing students? Isn’t it an institutional monologue in disguise of interpersonal communications?”

Paradoxically, what makes a truism true is not truth; it is our dull sensitivity, numbed by routinized patterns of action.

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