Real-life stories that involve Stephen Krashen (Volume II)

As regular readers of this blog will know, I (along with at least a few others) didn’t see Stephen Krashen’s plenary at the 2011 KOTESOL International Conference. I did hear bits and pieces about the (well-received) talk from those who attended. One of the most quoted quotes I heard was about what Krashen sees as the difference between training and education. Considering I hadn’t heard the talk till very recently I didn’t think it would be fair to talk about it. Now that I have (finally!) seen the talk, I am ready to share a funny (in my view at least) conversation I had about it.

(The talk itself is linked below. I recommend it and think it’s a very good use of 45 minutes.)
(Perhaps I will save some comments on what I see as his oversimplification of Swain’s Output Hypothesis for another time) 

A few weeks after the conference I was talking to another friend and the conversation shifted (as it often does with the two of us) to some of the false dichotomies that we read/hear a lot about in the TESOL field. Things like theory vs. practice are always a hot topic. This particular time we we found ourselves talking about teacher training vs. teacher development. My friend, who I think had actually seen Krashen speak at the conference (even though he was part of the courtyard crew mentioned in my previous post) and mentioned how Krashen had said something about the difference between hearing your daughter had received sex education at school or the difference between hearing your daughter had received sex training at school. Now, this is a nice, memorable quote but I am not so sure how much we can take away from it. Does this mean all training is “bad?” Or does it just mean that we don’t want our kids to be trained how to do things we don’t want them to do. Does it mean that we learn best by education? I am still not sure, though I realize  I might be taking a funny quote a bit too seriously.

I just discovered that Krashen was actually talking about phonemic training (as opposed to teacher training) and what he sees as its inherent futility. He started on this part at around the 29 minute mark in the video above. Talking about phonemic awareness training he said:

This idea of training always bothered me. Training little children. Not education but training.The difference between training and education was explained to me by a colleague a few years ago…

If your daughter goes to school and she comes home and says they’ve had sex education that’s OK.

But if she comes home and says “we had sex training” you kind of wonder what happened. OK?

Again, nice quote. Funny. I was discussing this quote over coffee with my friend and our conversation went something like what I have written below.

At a coffee shop

Mike:  That is a good one, but I am not sure what it really says. I mean, it sounds to me that he is saying that these are wholly different things  but I don’t really think he is being fair about the potential benefits or situations where training, whatever that means,  might be helpful. (I was still thinking the quote had been about teacher training at this point)

Friend: Interesting point. It seems like the more popular term or concept these days is teacher development or education. That is something to think about.

Mike: Agreed. Jumping back to the example, I am really not sure whether I would want a teacher that has been trained or one that has been educated. I suppose a combination of the two is the key.

Friend: Exactly. This is also part of the danger of pretending that they are opposed to each other.

Mike: Right. And the example is interesting and memorable but… you know what? I think I would probably rather date* someone who has had sex training.

Friend: Haha, I see what you mean, but…I think I would prefer that my high school-aged son have sex education so he knows what the story is.

End Scene
(Thanks for reading!)

*”Date” may or may not have been the word that I used.


  1. mura

    there’s some interesting results when looking at the words which collocate with education and training –
    we see that – sex education is nearly 254 times more frequent than sex training. also of the 3 instances of sex training, 1 has a ‘negative’ connotation, 1 refers to same-sex training and one is used interchangeably with sex education i.e. –

    i was also thinking wether i would like to be described as an educated person or a trained person? :/ false dichotomies can be fun.


    • mikecorea

      Now that is a use of a corpus I’d not anticipated. Nice one! Thanks for helping me see the fun in false dichotomies.

      I had a chat with some teaching friends this evening and the consensus (well among the three of us) was that sometimes you need to be trained to perform certain tasks. Interactive white boards, computer systems and customer service (not in teaching) were some training situations that came to mind.

      When I think of being a trained person I think of being good at a craft (but perhaps a bit mindless?)
      When I think of an educated person I think of someone who is well-read but might not be applying this knowledge.

      I guess I’d go for being an educated person.

      Thanks for the comments! Much appreciated as always. Lately you have added some “thinking tasks” to my posts, which I really enjoy.


  2. Laura Adele Soraco

    Hilarious! I still need to watch the video, but I just wanted to say that you made me laugh with that dialogue… Sparked my curiosity as to what Krashen really meant by training vs. educating in this context.

    • mikecorea

      🙂 I am so glad you found it funny….especially because I sure did.
      Thanks so much for commenting. I really appreciate it.
      (I was feeling a bit silly posting this)

      I am still not really sure what Krashen meant but I think it was that we don’t need to (or shouldn’t) “train” kids to do useless things.

      Congrats on your new blog!
      Looking forward to reading more, especially because you will be in “my” part of the world!

      Take care!

  3. Rose Bard

    I read Krashen on Twitter and Facebook and I know he goes on and on about education which doesn’t surprise me as this is something that people go on and on in Brazil too – education system and its failure, how to solve the problem, etc.

    I’m curious know about the quote, so I guess I will have to find the time to watch it. Thanks for raising my curiosity.

    • mikecorea

      Thanks for commenting. I think the whole video is worth seeing, especially because he covers a whole lot of ground in the talk. He is also a funny/interesting speaker (don’t be fooled by the shots of the audience looking bored, i think the timing was off or something) who makes his points well.

      It seems to me a big focus of Krashen’s these days is about standardized testing craziness in the states and I am in full agreement on this stuff.

      Enjoy the video and thanks again for reading and commenting.


      • Rose Bard

        Hi Mike,

        “It seems to me a big focus of Krashen’s these days is about standardized testing craziness in the states and I am in full agreement on this stuff.”
        So, do I. 🙂
        I hope my “going on and on” didn’t sound negative towards the guy. It might have. Which wasn’t the intention. But I am more interested reading/learning about the theories around L than the general education aspect which seems to be always talked about, but in a practical sense very little really gets done. I like often I hear where I live about to offer quality education… but when comes to continuum teacher development, it comes down to lots of talk talk talk, they call “Pedagogical week” with a workshop here and there, lectures and more talk talk. But when comes to daily-basis nothing changes in the classroom. Everyone goes on doing things the way they always do. Another exemplo of mechanical technical skills training: when a new tool is implemented like moodle for example, you sit in a lab, are told the buttons you should click and not click, then the school term starts and the only thing you know how to do is login, upload documents and start a quiz with grading system. Our pedagogical coordinator (the one for the whole school back in 2009) implemented a development in which involved reflection based on research theory and class research, discussion with peers on a weekly basis, and so on. It was extremely demmanding program which I miss so much. This is the sort of uhmmm… can we say training here? I will use it any way because I understand it from the point where it makes you able to do something well. Education in university is much more about reading theory extensively and no much reflection and hands-on, then they come out of it so sure with words but not prepared for praxis. Then, it is about continuum teacher development to take charge, either you do it on your own and continue developing yourself and improving your teaching performance or you are luck enough to have a school that will support you all the way through until you can even help others.
        When comes to ELT we have a lot of courses that work with prescribed methods, I work 2 famous one for more than two years and what you get there is a mechanincal skills training. Like you are actually operating a machine. When training comes to that and education comes to blá blá blá and getting a diploma, then, the words matter very little.

        I still have to watch Krashen’s video. And I will. I remember my boss instructing me to use games to lower students affective filter back in 2008 and that was when I got acquainted with his name and theories.

        Impossible not to read your posts MIke. So, no need to thanks. I thank you for writing it. Interesting how you can present such matter in such an amusing way. Sorry for the lame comments yesterday. I wanted to say so much more than that, but it was late and baby couldn’t get to bed for mommy’s head to work properly. Thanks for the reflection on education/training.


      • mikecorea

        Ohhhh no… Rosie. I just erased some lengthy comments. Will have to get back to you soon because it is well past my bedtime. Thanks for the smiles and thoughts in any case.


        (ps I can’t believe I missed out on the 48 hour rule already)

  4. Rob Dickey

    False dichotomy where education includes some level of practical training. KOTESOL is starting a Professional Development SIG (special interest group) to help folks explore both formal and less formal forms of education and training and personal development related to improving their performance on professional (e.g., classroom) matters.

  5. Nicola

    If training is learning to do and education is learning about then Krashen has it the wrong way round for ELT and the right way round for children’s sex education. Attention grabbing but faulty analogy (I’ve not listened to the talk). That said, I think sometimes some kind of language appreciation/noticing/awarenenss raising makes students more able to learn when the teacher isn’t around.

  6. Willy C Cardoso

    Good thinking there, Mike.
    These tweetable gems that come from conference talks are many times, like you found out, just attention-grabbers with not much practical orientation.
    You also made me think that, well actually remind that because I’ve seen it elsewhere so many times and I’ve always thought about writing a critique of it; — anyway, that the difference between training and education, and development, can be actually pretty irrelevant when the teacher is actually teaching. It might not be only if for example the training s/he took was completely devoid of educational and developmental concerns, in which case, the training is rubbish and the teacher shouldn’t be teaching. — well, this a tongue-in-cheek comment perhaps, but it holds some truth.
    Maybe there should be more written on the topic.


    PS. you always write great posts with great food for thought!

    • mikecorea

      Hi Willy,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and adding to the conversation!

      You wrote (admittedly tongue in cheek), “the difference between training and education, and development, can be actually pretty irrelevant when the teacher is actually teaching. It might not be only if for example the training s/he took was completely devoid of educational and developmental concerns” I think you were onto something there. You also wrote, “in which case, the training is rubbish and the teacher shouldn’t be teaching” which is a bit harder to accept but I still see where you are coming from.

      I also liked your point about “tweetable gems” I am happy that I took the time to really examine this one as I might not have without talking things over with my friend. This is to say that it can be easy to except such clever quotes without thinking about them much, especially when they come from a big name person.

      Thanks again for commenting!

      PS-One of the most unexpected and awesome things about blogging for me has been the occasions when someone who I think has an amazing blog (like yourself) gives me a compliment about mine. Thanks so much. Very motivating.

  7. Pingback: Real-life stories that involve Stephen Krashen (Volume I) | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

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