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TEFL In The Limelight For A Case Of Child Abuse

Dave’ ESL Café has made the mainstream press, but not for Dave’s new collection of family photos nor the Idea Cookbook. Instead, EFL’s most popular forum is in the limelight because a man accused of abusing children in Vietnam and Cambodia – who was just arrested – is thought to have been a posting member. Futhermore it is said that his posts gave some indication of his oddness.

This man will be tried in court and has of course not been proven guilty as of yet; I also haven’t searched for the posts in question and so can’t comment on whether they strike me as strange or indicative of a child predator.

Cases like these, though, regardless of whether this particular guy is the one they want or not, make my skin crawl. There are people in the world who are just predators and their actions can and do ruin lives and cause psychological trauma, not just for the victim but for their families and communities. The damage is not undone when “justice” is administered and the guilty party is punished with prison time or however.

As it relates to TEFL, it’s not surprising to me that articles written in connection with this case may not reflect the field in the most positive light. Some articles have asked whether the ease of getting a job, especially in countries which seem to have a reputation for attracting child predators, draws such people to those countries. This raises the question of “should EFL teachers, or certain categories of teachers in certain places, be held to more scrutiny?”

I also wonder: what larger factors precluded this particular individual from being caught earlier – and would presumably facilitate another sick individual “getting away with it”? It seems to me that while relatively lax regulations for EFL teachers may be a part of it, they do not explain the whole story. In fact further bureaucratic measures might just be the easiest step to implement, but would not touch on other important issues:

  • What influenced those who came into contact with him, including his victims, to stay silent – is the concept of “the young respect the older and don’t question anything” an issue?
  • Does the fact that, in many countries, westerners receive automatic respect and credibility have more negative possible consequences than we assume?
  • Will futher nominal but hard-to-enforce bureaucratic measures compel more employers to find ways around them and subvert them totally, as perhaps his did when they employed him without a police check?
  • Does it play a role that economic profit (“just hire a native speaker who will teach kids so we can sell classes”) is placed above all else – safety, following the law – and if so, is that out of habit or culture, or due to perceived or real economic desperation?
  • If something available on a police record reveals a danger of a repeat offense (ie a prior arrest for abusing children), why do we as society not deal with these types of offenders appropriately in the first place?
  • I don’t have answers to these, and I can’t say I’ve done enough research on what has been written about this case to note whether others have addressed these types of questions. But I do think it would be valuable to do so.