Monday, 29 January 2018

Guest Post: Korea isn't the worst place to teach English

When this blog first started I saw it as being something like a Private Eye kind of blog for ELT. I initial wrote posts on things like London MET losing its highly trusted sponsor status or criticisms of the British Council. One of the first posts I wrote was about whether Korea was 'the worst place to teach English.' The title of the blog post came from a google autocomplete 'is Korea...'. 

The post wasn't very serious, and as I note, I've never set foot in Korea in my life. That said, it was, like much on here, just me thinking out loud. I posted it when I'd just started using twitter and I remember someone writing that the post was racist or discriminatory or something like that, and promptly blocking me. 

I was quite alarmed by this reaction and thought perhaps twitter wasn't the place for me. Around that time, Michael Griffin who back then had some amazing number of followers, (like 700 or something!) retweeted the post and engaged with me about it. I think a lot of people on twitter have had the experience of being encouraged by Mike and I'm grateful to him. 

Anyway, as time went by the post (5th most viewed of all time) started to look less and less at home on this blog. So I asked Mike to write a rebuttal of it and I'm really please to add him to the roster of guest bloggers on Evidence Based EFL. 

One of the first times I read this blog (which I later came to know and love) was a provocatively titled post “Is Korea the worst place to teach English?” I should mention the post was about South Korea (the Republic of Korea) and not North Korea (the…ahem Democratic People’s of Korea). I’d guess that North Korea is among the worst places on earth to do much of anything. If you are interested in learning more about teaching in North Korea I can recommend the (in my view at least) flawed but interesting book, Without You There Is No Us  which the New York Times called “a chilling memoir.: If you are interested in reading one man’s thoughts about teaching English in Korea and why there used to be many complaints please read on. I want to be clear that this is truly just based on my own thoughts and experiences and is much more anecdata than any sort of evidence-based anything. I’d also like to offer the usual caveats about generalizations. Please feel free to imagine the words “sometimes” or “typically” into any sentences that jump out at you as a step too far towards a generalization. Also, in this post I write about the experience and situation related to “native speakers” which it should be noted is actually a very small minority of those teaching English in South Korea. I am also just focusing on the private sector (which means I’m not focusing on public schools or tertiary education).

My first full-time (I hesitate to use the word “real”) job was at a small family-run language school in South Korea (hereafter Korea) way back when. In the era I started, (before the 2002 World Cup) I considered the private education system to be something like the Wild West. Young folks from all over the world (well, actually, not from all over the world, just from the 7 countries deemed to be populated enough by “Native-speakers” of English) were seduced by the  chance of quick, stress-free, and easy riches. There were extremely low barriers to entry which might partially answer Russell’s question about why so many teachers went to Korea in the first place. Korea was in the midst of a push for globalization (and in the aftermath of a financial crisis) and English skills often made a major difference in an extremely competitive job market. Further, the testing and thus teaching (hello washback!) had previously been laser focused on grammar and reading/writing and now there was a sudden push for speaking and listening skills. The belief was that native speakers could fill this gap and thus teachers were hired by the planeload. The idea was that “free-talking” with “native speakers” would be the panacea for any and all ills related to English education.

The element of making a quick buck was also present for language schools (hagwon) and their owners. I got the sense many hagwon owners rushed into the business without much interest, knowledge, or acumen related to running a business or educating people. Korea was gripped by English Fever and it was easy for hagwon owners to make a bunch of money without caring much about what they were doing. I often thought if it was not English education it could be a coffee shop, software, plastics, or some other trend. So, we had a case of easy money with a lack of sincere competition or a desire to change. Hagwon owners were not always known as the most scrupulous people around and the boom period helped keep them afloat.

To my view, in the past, Korean students of English were not very sophisticated consumers of English education. They knew that English was important and accordingly spent time and money in various directions in order to get a leg up on the completion. So, there was a situation where inexperienced and ill-equipped hagwon owners were hiring inexperienced teachers to teach English to students who didn’t really know what they needed to learn (among those who were not forced by their parents to go to class.) That doesn’t sound like a recipe for success does it? For good measure we can add in cultural differences and language barriers to the mix. Again, those involved were not always life-long teachers or managers but rather people quite new to it. I think there was also the element of hagwon owners sort of resenting their “cash cows” who they didn’t value as professionals but rather hired just based on their native tongues and not their skills or knowledge. Many of those hired to teach were not only working full-time for the first time in their lives but were also living abroad (and with the exclusion of college, maybe living away from home for the first time.)  Since these teachers were given limited training and very little in the way of support it’s no wonder there were so many problems.

I think there were bound to be disagreements and challenges. If we squint a bit we can see these as growing pains in an industry that was growing rapidly without a chance to consider where it was going. There were certainly a lot of mismatched incentives and goals.  

Readers with a keen eye for detail will have noticed I used the past tense above. I don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture but I do believe things have changed for the better. I think much of what I wrote above is actually in the past. I don’t think things are perfect but I think they are not as bad as the past or as bad as South Korea’s lingering reputation for TEFLers. I truly believe the industry as well as the parties involved has matured.

In the 2012 post mentioned above Russell wondered why he was hearing and finding so many horror stories about teaching in Korea. My simple thought is and was that those who are generally happy and fine with things and getting on with their life don’t have the energy, time, or inclination to get on Dave’s ESL café (or wherever) and bitch about a whole country or the private education system of a nation they find themselves in. I’d also posit that perhaps the availability bias was at work and the emotionally charged and scary nature of some reported experiences in Korea made them stick out and thus be more memorable. Hopefully with the changes and development I’ve alluded above to the horror stories will become just another memory. 

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Me, my wife and I

Should you say 'me and my wife went to the party' or 'my wife and I went to the party?' 

Most people who are likely to care at all about this kind of thing will tell you that 'my wife and I' is correct and anything else makes you sound uneducated or impolite. There are three reasons given for this:

1. The words 'Me and my wife' are in the subject position (at the start of the sentence) and so we should use the subject pronoun 'I' . 
2. Removing words from the sentence indicates that 'my wife and I' is correct. 
3. It is polite to put other people before ourselves. 

In this post I'm going to attempt to convince you that the pillars holding up the 'my wife and I' position are unsound. Most of what I will write about comes from John McWhorter's lexicon valley podcast (link). I would strongly recommend listening to that instead of reading this. 


Many defenders of 'my wife and I' will tell you that this is a 'rule'. You always have to be a little bit weary when someone tells you that something is a grammar 'rule' because they're often talking about arbitrary prescriptions or personal taste. This is the case with 'my wife and I' which is one of those 'rules' that people need to be taught like 'double negatives'. I've talked at length in this post about how if you need to constantly explain to native speakers that their language use is wrong, then maybe it isn't. Also, like double negatives, other languages have no issues with 'me and my wife' construction. As McWhorter notes, in French 'moi femme et je' would not be a possible construction and the correct  'Ma femme et moi' clearly has the object pronoun 'moi' in the subject position. 

so without further ado, let's have a look at those arguments. 

1. The words 'Me and my wife' are in the subject position (at the start of the sentence) and so we should use the subject pronoun 'I' 

English sentences usually start with subjects. so in 'I love you', I is the subject. If it were the object it would change to 'me' such as 'you love me'. The sentence 'me and my wife went to the party' seems to flaunt this rule because 'me' is in the subject position and so it should be I. 

The problem with this argument is, were it true, the sentence 'I and my wife went to the party' would be a perfectly proper sentence, after all, the subject is properly 'I'. However, 'I and my wife' sounds a bit off to me. So is something else is going on here?

McWhorter makes the rather bold claim that 'me', not 'I' is in fact English's subject pronoun and that I is a rather special word that is only used when there is only one subject before the verb. Therefore 'I went to the party' sounds OK, and 'me and the lads went to the party' sounds OK, but 'I and the lads went to the party' doesn't sound right because there is more than one subject. I'd never heard this argument before but I'd welcome some disconfirming evidence. 

McWhorter defends his idea by noting that the sentence 'Who did it?' is normally answered by 'me'. To explain why this is a problem for the 'my wife and I' crowd I need to explain a bit of grammar. 

'Who did it?' is what is know as a 'subject question' because the question word 'who' is replacing the subject word of the sentence and so the answer would be the subject of the sentence. It might be 'John did it' for instance. This is in contrast to an object question like 'What did John eat'. You can't answer this by simply swapping out the 'what' with the answer (*pizza did John eat'). 

The answer to 'who did it' should therefore be 'I' because it's the subject of the sentence. However people don't say that. They say 'me'. So 'me', McWhorter argues, seems to be acting as the subject here. You could, I suppose, try to make the case that this is an abbreviated form of 'It was me'  but this just seems like convenient hand-waving to me.  Besides, the 'my wife and I' crowd would surely also insist on 'It was I', not 'it was me'. 

2. Removing a word will indicate whether the sentence is correct. 

A second pillar of the argument is that If we remove 'my wife' from the sentence 'me and my wife went to the party' we end up with 'me went to the party' which is incorrect and therefore it must be 'I' not 'me'. I have two objections to this. 

Firstly, if you remove any word from a sentence there is a good chance it won't be correct anymore. Take 'John and Dave are going to the party'. If we remove 'and Dave' we end up with 'John are going to the party' which is wrong. The sentence with the word removed though tells us nothing about the correctness of the original sentence. 

Secondly, a form may 'break rules' in certain contexts. Take for examples the sentence "I am lucky'. We note that the verb 'am' correctly matches the subject 'I'. However, if we tried to stipulate that 'I' must always be used with 'am' we would run into problems. In the very specific case of a contracted negative question form 'am' changes to 'are':

I am lucky 
am I lucky? 
am I not lucky? 
aren't I lucky? 

I defy anyone to claim that 'are' is the correct verb form to use with 'I'. But in this very specific case most people would accept it as correct. And so it follows 'me' might act as the object pronoun most of the time, but it may also act as the subject pronoun in a very small set of circumstance such as with the sentence 'me and John got pizza'. To see 'me and my wife' as problematic but none of the other instances of abnormalities in English 'rules' seems wholly arbitrary.  

3. It is polite to put other people before ourselves in a sentence. 
As noted earlier, supporters of 'I' being the subject pronoun and thus correct run into problems when encountering the sentence 'I and my wife'. to get round this the usual suggestion is that 'it is polite to put your other people before yourself.' On the face of it, this is quite an odd statement. We are at this point no longer appealing to grammatical accuracy but to 'politeness'. It is curious then that this 'politeness' rule doesn't seem to work very well when we switch to third person. 

my wife and I went to the party 
His wife and he went to the party 

No doubt, the grammar aficionado would stress that 'he and his wife' is correct in this case because we don't need to worry about 'putting other people before ourselves'. In that case, and since we are considering 'politeness', wouldn't 'ladies first' be a good rule to follow? 

Does all of this mean  that I think everyone should say 'me and my wife went to the party?' Not at all! The 'rule' is silly, but enough people know it that you risk looking bad by not following it. Rather, I would like people to stop insisting the perfectly normal subject 'me and...' is a 'grammar mistake'. It's really no more of a mistake than a split infinitive, 'healthy food' or saying 'I'm good' as a response to 'how are you?' 

It's rare for me to quote Chomsky in agreement but I think he is right when he says: 
I would certainly think that students ought to know the standard literary language with all its conventions, its absurdities, its artificial conventions, and so on …. I don’t think people should give them any illusions about what it is. It’s not better, or more sensible. Much of it is a violation of natural law. In fact, a good deal of what’s taught is taught because it’s wrong. (Chomsky 1991)

Monday, 13 November 2017

Try this, it works! Written Error Correction

I've come across a few posts on written error correction recently. ELT research Bites took on the topic in a two part post (2) and earlier in the year Gianfranco Conti (PhD applied linguistics, MA TEFL, MA English lit, PGCE modern languages an P.E.) wrote one. Conti claims that marking students books should be the 'least of a language teacher's priorities' but is he right?

Conti's post starts with a reference to Hattie who has suggested that feedback is very effective. Conti notes that giving corrective feedback on writing has now been given top priority in many state schools. He then goes on to write that his post is a response to the numerous teachers who have written to him asking whether the time and effort they put into marking is justified. Conti states:
I intend to answer this question by drawing on thirty years of error-correction research, my personal experience as a learner of 14 languages and teacher of five and, more importantly, neuroscience and common sense.
Impressive stuff. 14 languages! 30 years of error correction research! AND neuroscience! However when we get to the research we run into a problem. 

What jumps out initially is the age of the references. Conti promises 'thirty years of error correction research' but sadly those 30 years seem to be 1974-2004. The most recent reference, Conti 2004, is to his own writing. In fact, the only post 2000 references are to his own writing. I would have liked to read the works in question to evaluate the claims made but as Conti doesn't provide a reference list or hyperlink to the texts referenced in the post, this wasn't possible. 

Now, references don't have best before dates, and to this day E still equals MC squared. That said, the age of Conti's references does present an issue in this case. For instance, Dana Ferris, possibly the world's leading expert on written corrective feedback (WCF) is only mentioned in relation to a 1999 paper. She has, since then, written extensively on the subject including three books (Response to student Writing 2003, treatment of error in second language 2002, 2011, and with BitchenerWritten Corrective Feedback 2012). None of these are mentioned in the section called "What L2 error-correction research says". 

What's more, the research findings show a distinct change in the period Conti leaves out. For instance, Ellis and Shintani note that whereas in 1996 it was possible for Truscott to argue that the effectiveness of WCF could not be supported, this position is no longer tenable (2013:271). And as if spookily preempting Conti,  Ferris, in a 'state of the art' paper from 2004 notes that 'since 1999, I have done a considerable amount of both primary and secondary research work on the issues surrounding error correction in L2 writing' (2004:50). 

A lot is missed if we miss out the last 15 years of research. In a recent meta-analysis looking at WCF, of the 21 studies that met the inclusion criteria, only four were published before 2004. Conti's post does not include any of the 17 remaining studies. This is important as the research design of 'early (pre-Truscott, 1996) studies' contained design and execution flaws (Bitchener and Ferris 2012:50) perhaps indicating why 'studies published after the year 2000 showed a significantly higher effect size...than that of the studies published before 2000' (Kang and Han 2015:99). 

So what does the research say about corrective feedback? 

Research tends to suggest that error correction is effective. Ellis and Shintani state that 'both oral and written CF can assist L2 acquisition.' (2014:268) It has a positive effect on student writing (Ferris 2011, Bitchener and Ferris 2012). Kang and Han conducted a meta analysis of current research and concluded that "written corrective feedback appears to have a moderate to large effect on the grammatical accuracy of L2 students(2015:7)Research by Van Beuningen et al (2012) also points to the efficacy of WCF noting that it can improve subsequent pieces of research. This contrasts Conti's claims  that 'both direct and indirect correction do not impact students’ accuracy more effectively than no correction at all' (though it is perhaps possible that the bold font cancels out the research evidence).

It isn't clear from his post, but Conti may be talking about lower level students. As Schmidt notes on the ELT research bytes webpage, the Kang and Han meta Analysis found that '[WCF's] efficacy is mediated by a host of variables, including learners’ proficiency, the setting, and the genre of the writing task' (2015). Notably, Kang and Han's analysis suggests WCF is less beneficial among lower level learners. 

And what type of feedback is best? 

Conti claims that direct correction is 'pretty much a waste of time'  and 'Indirect correction, on the other hand, is not likely to contribute much to acquisition as the learner will not be able to correct what s/he does not know' (section 2) But what does the research say about types of correction? 

Direct or indirect? 

Direct correction, that is telling the students exactly what is wrong, and what they ought to write, 'is more effective than indirect' and direct feedback alone 'resulted in gains in grammatical accuracy' (Ellis and Shintani 2014:271). According to Shintani and Ellis 'Bitchener and Knoch (2010), Hashemnezhad and Mohammadnejad (2012) and Frear (2012) all reported direct feedback to be more effective than indirect' (2015:111In older studies no difference was detected, or indirect CF appeared superior  (Ferris 2011:32) but 'recent studies report a clear advantage for direct forms of feedback.' (Bitchener and Ferris 2012:74). As an interesting side note, teaching guides tend to promote indirect feedback (Ellis and Shintani's 2014:279). 

In conclusion, we can say fairly confidently that feedback of some kind is, in most cases, better than no feedback. Research suggests that even a 'single treatment', particularly if focused on a grammar point with a clear rule, is effective. (Ellis and Shintani 2014:271). 

indirect coded 
Coded or uncoded? 

Coded feedback is using some kind of code like 'V' for verb or 'S/V' for subject verb problems. These are usually accompanied by some kind of meta-linguistic explanation. Uncoded feedback, on the other hand, would just be highlighting that an error had occurred but not providing an indication as to what it was. The theory behind correction codes is that students will have to work a bit harder to work out what their errors are. 

indirect uncoded 
Interestingly, there is no evidence that coded feedback is superior to uncoded (Ferris 2011:34). Both teachers and students, however,  believe that coded feedback is more effective. (Ferris and Bitchener 2012:93) and there is some research supporting the idea that meta-linguistics explanations make feedback more effective (Ferris 2011:100). 

Focused or unfocused?

Focused just means concentrating on one type of error, verb forms or articles for example, rather than picking up different types of errors. The research is not that clear here. According to Ferris most researchers now believe focused feedback is more effective than unfocused (Ferris 2011:51, 2010:182). Shintani and Ellis (2015:111) are more cautious, noting that research has shown focused feedback to be effective 'in the sense that it results in gains in grammatical accuracy in new pieces of writing' and adding that it is more effective than unfocused feedback 'in some cases'. 

So the jury is seemingly out on focused vs unfocused WFC. However, whereas a study that compared focused and unfocused feedback found no difference between the two (Ellis et al., 2008) both were superior to the 'no feedback' group. A finding which seems to contradict Conti's bold statement. 

Doesn't error correction demotivate students? 

Finally, a common complaint is that error correction demotivates or humiliates students. This is certainly possibleConti quotes research from 1998 noting that 'an excessive concern with error treatment may affect students’ motivation negatively'. Well yes, it may, but (ready the bold font) it also may not. Ellis and Shintani argue that the case for this is perhaps overstated, pointing to the fact that 'learners typically state that they want to be corrected' (2014:275) a point Ferris (2011:51)  and Conti himself (see point 1) concur with. In my context (academic English writing) a study by Weaver (2006, N=44) suggests, like much research on this subject, that when students are asked, they say they like and want feedback. In fact, 96% of business students surveyed by Weaver agreed that 'tutors don't provide enough feedback'. Unless they actively enjoy humiliation (a hypothesis I'm sure someone could investigate,) then it seems unlikely that students mind WCF.  


Conti has written a great deal on this subject. His blog includes posts explaining how current essay feedback practices are questionable, '7 reasons why traditional error correction doesn't work', 'why asking students to self correct is a waste of time' and 'why teachers should not bother correcting errors in their students writing'. Clearly, there is a theme here (and no, it's not starting blog posts with the word 'why'). Conti doesn't think error correction is all that worthwhile. To be clear, he doesn't think it is worthless either, just that it shouldn't be given as much importance as it currently is. It would be really useful though, when making statements like "There is no conclusive empirical evidence that EC can be effective" (2.7), if he could explain why he chooses to only discuss evidence that is 15 or more years old. I don't know Conti's teaching context so can't comment on whether or not there is an overemphasis on WCF there. What I can say is that, on my reading of the evidence at least, 'there is a clear case for correcting learners written errors' (Ellis and Shintani 2014:276). 

*I realise 'I like dogs and I like cats' isn't a great sentence. 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

New Oriental debate

If you attended IATEFL or watched it online, you might remember a debate between Jim Scrivener and Jocelyn Wang of 'New Oriental' (NO) school in ChinaA recent edition of ELGazette features an interview with  Wang. According to the article:
British teacher-training guru Jim Scrivener was roundly defeated in his defence of Communicative Language Teaching by [Wang] who argued passionately and in perfect English for the benefits of traditional Chinese teaching methods
I'm not sure how the writer was able to ascertain who 'won' the debate, but to me, Wang's argument, that CLT was in principle a great idea, just not suitable for China, put me in mind of one of my childhood heroes, Jackie Chan. In 2009, Chan, who hails from Hong Kong, wondered aloud about his country's democratic future:
I'm not sure if it's good to have freedom or not...I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we're not being controlled, we'll just do what we want." 
In this post, I want to examine some of the arguments Wang made in favour of 'traditional Chinese teaching methods'. 

Traditional teaching methods with Chinese characteristics

As the trad/prog debate rages online and particularly on twitter, some have pointed to China's impressive ranking on the PISA tests and suggested that we could learn a thing or two about teaching from listening to Chinese educators who stick to very traditional teaching methods. In simplistic terms the approaches differ in the following ways:

This idea reached its culmination in a BBC 'experiment' (reality TV show) in which Chinese teachers were brought to England to teach British kids. (You can see an example of a rather bizarre grammar lesson here). 

The debate between Scrivener and Wang was the latest salvo in the ongoing prog/trad war. It wasn't billed as such, because progressive teaching has largely been victorious in the UK ELT world and what would be labelled 'progressive' is considered, by many teachers, as just 'teaching'. 

During the debate, and in her article, Wang makes several specific claims that push against the progressive ethos of UK ELT such as:
  • CLT doesn't really work in the Chinese context.
  • The communicative approach doesn't help students memorise language.
  • It is perfectly OK for teachers to speak entirely in Chinese in the lesson
  • Students do not need to speak in the lesson (i.e to practice the target language) 
All of these claims are specific and research to either back up or contradict Wang's claims could've been presented. For instance, if we believe that input is the only thing necessary for acquisition, it might be perfectly defensible to have a class in which students say nothing. In fact, CLT's application in Chinese classrooms has been examined by a number  authors (see for instance Yu 2001Liao 2004Hu, 2005) yet none of this research is referred to, instead Wang chose to argue that Chinese learners learn best when taught using a 'Chinese approach'. 

A Chinese-centric approach 

The New York Times reported that the Japanese "once tried to ban foreign-made skis because they were deemed unsuitable for Japan's ''unique'' snow". Anyone who has lived in Japan will be familiar with this kind of argument. Japanese Stomachs are unsuited to American beef (sorry we can't import any!) and so on. As stomachs digest, so brains learn. And as Long notes “the architecture of human brains varies very little among adults or among children”(2011:375). Yet when Scrivener points out that the kind of teaching promoted by Wang was "contrary to all contemporary theory, about how people learn languages", Wang shot back with "are [the studies] based on Chinese learners?" Perhaps, like left brain, or right brained learners, there are also Chinese brained learners?

As Wang is Chinese it seems difficult to argue with her 'insider knowledge', of what Chinese students needs. When progressive education tell us that that 'everyone learns in different ways', then it makes sense that Chinese students may learn in a 'Chinese way'. So we nod along as we're told "when Chinese learners learn anything, they value quantity" and "the whole idea of practice sits awkwardly with our view of learning". 

However, there are a few problems with what she presents as the Chinese approach to learning languages. Firstly, What she describes as 'Chinese learning' is the same 'transmission approach' of teaching which was common in many countries at one point and is still common in many classrooms. Secondly, is it unfair to point out how conveniently the homogeneous 'Chinese learner' she describes, desires the kind of teaching New Oriental offers?

A final criticism is that NO's methods bear no resemblance to those of another famous Chinese educator, Yang Li, creator of Crazy English. For while NO boasts "73 schools, 803 learning centres and 20,400 teachers in 61 cities across the country", Crazy English has over 20 million students. Unlike NO, Crazy English promotes massive amounts of student oral practice and somehow still manages to draw in huge numbers of students. Crazy English teachers conduct mass rallies with lots of chanting in English which seems odd as we are to believe "the whole idea of practice sits awkwardly with our view of learning". 

Ancient Traditional Chinese wisdom! 

Another line of defence employed by Wang was cultural and historical. She defended silent language classes by referring to an old Chinese proverb:

sān sī ér hòu xíng
Three think, then act. 

Which she translated as 'think 3 times before you speak' and made the point that China had a 5000 year old history and that the teaching style is Confucian in origin.  

This would be a bit like saying that the silent way is a good method because in English we say 'Silence is golden'. Actually, that would be a better proverb since the Chinese phrase she quoted would be better rendered as 'look before you leap' which is really unrelated to speaking in a language class. This is basically ideology disguised as best practice. Chinese people are different, the culture is different. Our ways are better because they're older (argument from antiquity), they come from Confucius (argument from authority). I have discussed the problem with arguments from authority here and it should be obvious but something being old is no guarantee it's any good. The same arguments are routinely used to defend questionable practices like traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.  

This post isn't a defence of CLT or an attack on traditional teaching. Wang is an eloquent speaker and it's good to hear a voice from one of the most populace countries in which English is taught. I think she and other Chinese teachers can give us an interesting insight into the Chinese context, but China and the Chinese are not monolithic and teaching practices shouldn't be defended with long dead philosophers or ancient wisdom.