The wiki entry for John Haycraft CBE John Stacpoole Haycraft CBE (11 December 1926 – 23 May 1996) claims:
The main creation of John Haycraft is International House World Organisation. It was started by John and his wife Brita Haycraft in 1953. A fervent internationalist, John strove to promote international understanding through language learning and teacher training.
When he died on 23 May 1996, he left behind a network of 100 (now over 200) schools that grew from the first school in Cordoba in Spain to cover 40 countries (now over fifty). John influenced the lives and careers of almost everybody involved in present day English language teaching.
We would go further than wiki by arguing that John Haycraft is to Modern TEFL what Lenin is to Marxism or Freud to Psychology. This is not to say there have not been other contributors to the field, people who originated the idea of modern language teaching, but it was Haycraft who shaped the institutional structure that dominates the world of TEFL today, with its native speakers being dispatched around the world after only four weeks of training, with its reliance on self-reflection rather than supervision, with its eclecticism rather than a body of scientific knowledge, with its emphasis on private language schools working against the local education systems rather than with them. In this sense we can not disagree with but amplify the claim that he influenced the lives and careers of almost everybody involved in present day English language teaching. We would not disagree either that Haycraft was a fervent internationalist but we would argue that his internationalism was the “internationalism” of the British Empire and not a world of equals but a world shaped in the image of Oxford and Cambridge, in the interests of the rulers over the ruled.
Of course, Marxists do not see history as the result of actions of individuals but sets of social relationships, most notably class. This is not to say that key individuals (with their particular idiosyncrasies do not shape history, rather that history (social relations) calls them forth and they play their particular part in their own distinctive style, and that these particular nuances can themselves help to propel history in certain directions and at certain speeds. Without doubt, Haycraft is one of those men, a man befitting a proper biography. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources here at Marxist TEFL to do this and we will have to content ourselves with a sketch of what that biography might look like. In what follows we shall give some rough notes towards that biography
Part One. The remains of Empire
Haycraft was born in India in 1926, his father was serving in the British army. It is here where the roots of Haycraft’s internationalism can be found, beautifully summed up by a 19th century thinker qouted in Mad Tales and the British Raj:
The flowering, the highest peak perhaps in the lofty range of what the English have done, when a handfull of our countrymen, by the integrity of their character and with not much else to help them gave to millions for the first time for some centuries the idea that a ruler might be concerned with their well-being.
Now we don’t for one moment want to suggest that Haycraft believed in the continuation of the British empire in that same form; even despite the fact that our fervent internationalist served in that same army in the same country in 1947. Indeed, Haycraft was wise enough to know that the days of the Empire were numbered (even in 1947) that a new world order was coming into being, a world divided by the West on one side, under the military and economic tutelage of the US, and the Soviet Bloc on the other. He was also no doubt aware that, under the leadership of the US, new organisations and social relations were growing which tied those countries more closely together like Bretton Woods and NATO. He would have been aware that the intercommunication of these nation states would be key to thier “progress” in this new world, otherwise known as the cold war.
Indeed, it would have not have been lost on Haycraft that Nehru, the first president of Independent India, was educated in the Britain, first at Harrow then at Trinity College. For Haycraft then as Anthony Sampson said of this “post-imperailst”:
His remarkable career pointed the way to a new kind of British internationalism, with a dedicated professionalism in place of domination.
Otherwise put, the rule of ideas and the organisation of civil society, not the crude rule of armies. After all the Amerian army was now the the largest miltary force in the new world order, so that handfull of countrymen would have to find a new way to shape the world.
For anyone in any doubt, Haycraft’s class position is perfectly demonstrated by the fact that, after his father’s death*, he and his family were able to swan around Europe for 15 years on their father’s military pension. We can imagine few widows of British soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan being afforded the same priviledge today.
*Haycraft’s father was shot by one of his own soldiers but we are unable to find more information on this interesting historical footnote. Of course, we would welcome any information from readers.
Part Two The original TEFL Adventurer
John Haycraft was not the first person to set up a school outside the main teaching establishments, teaching students a new language only in the target language and not using the students’ own native tongue. No, what was particularly interesting about Haycraft’s project was the sense of adventure he projected into language teaching. Along with his wife, Brita, he established a language school operating out of a small apartment they rented in Cordoba, Spain in 1953. The school was suppposed to be a means to an end. A manner of earning money whilst Haycraft concentrated on his real passion, writing. This sense of TEFL as a means to travel and support other more worthy aspirations (maybe learn a language and get a good job when you “get back”) is exactly what Haycraft was to institutionalise on is return to London from Spain.
The Berlitz school had made its reputation for teaching business people, politicians and monarchs but Haycraft had travelled to a poor part of Europe largely ostracised by the rest of Europe (for the fact that it was a fascist dictatorship) and sought to teach all those willing to learn and even those in possession of relatively modest means:
We had all types of people as pupils, apart from labourers. For, although our fees were small, few workmen could have afforded even fifty pesetas a month, and their low standards of literacy would have made the learning of another language almost impossible.
Haycraft “Babel in Spain”
Making money would not, apparently, be of such a priority because Haycraft said of the “under-development” of Spain at that time:
it is easier to reconcile oneself to discomfort in Spain than in more northern countries, a fact which so often escapes those foreign observers who estimate …a country by the cars on its roads, or the washing- machines in its homes, forgetting that this is like assessing the soul of a bell- boy by the number of buttons he wears on his uniform
Haycraft “Babel in Spain”
Is this not reminiscent of a handfull of our countrymen, by the integrity of their character and with not much else to help them? Indeed, Haycraft claims:
I felt for my wallet which contained the odd £40 which remained to us. The return fare’s £26—£14 will probably last us about two weeks.’ ‘Anyway, we’re bound to get someone.’ Haycraft “Babel in Spain”
And of course, Haycraft was not short of students. The United States had just signed a treaty with Franco, effectively ending their isolation from the world. American soldiers were to be stationed in Spain and loans would be made available for Spain. This was part of America’s battle against communism, overlooking the human rights abuses in the country in order to secure another ally in Europe. This was the start of what is termed the economic miracle in Spain under Franco. Franco appointed a new government of technocrats to imporove the infrastuctue of the country and foreign money arrived in the shape of tourism and select foreign companies setting up factories throughout the country. One must remember that trade unions were illegal and, therefore, wages were very low and health and safety virtually non-existent. An excellent place to enjoy a cheap holiday or establish a factory. In this climate there was an upsurge in interst in learning languages. At this time too, many young workers and professionals were migrating abroad in order to escape repression and low pay. Paradoxically, the money they sent home and stories of another would also encouraged growth and stimulated language learning. Spain grew quickly from 1957 to 1973, ( only beaten by Japan) its progress halted by the economic crises of the early seventies.
So here we see the British Internationalism of Haycraft, seemingly disinterested in the fact that Spain was a dictatorship that tortured and murdered its political opponents, Haycraft like US president, Richard Nixon, believed that the solution to Spain’s problems rested in integrating itself with the new world order being constructed by America. A new world order where the suppression of workers’ rights and the supression of the cultures and languages of others (most notably Catalonia and the Basque country) were secondary to the fight against communism. By setting up his schools in Spain, Haycraft must have believed that his dedicated group of teachers were leading Spain to a new dawn. How else could one explain his comments:
It was interesting analysing the actual motives people had for starting classes. A few came for immediate commercial reasons. We soon formed a group of doctors who wanted to translate English and American medical reviews. Another class was sent and paid for by an olive distillery and became known as ‘the olive men’, which conjured up a picture of gnarled, brown little men, leaning over their books before creeping back to the olive groves to stretch up their arms, at sunrise, in postures of twisted agony. Many, like Vicente, came because they had a genuine interest in learning. Others, from the Army, wished to pass an exam which would give them a 15 per cent rise in pay.
Haycraft “Babel in Spain”
What exactly did students, these gnarled brown little men, have to learn, in addition to a language, that would satisfy Haycraft that they had a genuine interest in learning? What had Haycraft to teach them which exceeded that of language skills?
Parts 3, 4, 5 and 6 to follow.