Lawyers have their legalese. Academics have their own intra-academialogical post-linguistic theories. And it was only before the MBAs joined the fray with their own self-important syntax. If you've ever been in the sleek office setting of a start-up or some tech-savvy corporation, you've heard it. You may have even picked up on its tics to help you sound smarter, too; after all, that's how it works.
Molly Young has a great new piece at Vulture about this phenomenon, which she has coined "Garbage Language." Her article is full of insight not only into the ways that we do and don't communicate, but also how that reflects the other issues inherent in these kinds of office cultures:
Read the rest
[G]arbage language works because garbage is what we produce mindlessly in the course of our days and because it smells horrible and looks ugly and we don’t think about it except when we’re saying that it’s bad, as I am right now.
But unlike garbage, which we contain in wastebaskets and landfills, the hideous nature of these words — their facility to warp and impede communication — is also their purpose. Garbage language permeates the ways we think of our jobs and shapes our identities as workers. It is obvious that the point is concealment; it is less obvious what so many of us are trying to hide.
When we adopt words that connect us to a larger project — that simultaneously fold us into an institutional organism and insist on that institution’s worthiness — it is easier to pretend that our jobs are more interesting than they seem.
MBA programs are the origin node of a lot of ugly, exploitative business trends over recent decades (see this excellent documentary for more), and their star is in decline, with MBAs commanding a much lower wage premium after graduation, leading to declining enrollment in full-time MBA programs.
Read the rest
Wesley Scroggins, a business school professor at Missouri State University, wrote an editorial for Gannett's News-Leader condemning the teaching of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five in Republic, MO curriculum. He said that the Vonnegut novel (considered one of the best novels of the twentieth century and widely taught in schools across the English-speaking world) contained too much cussing for children. He also condemned Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer, a book about a girl who experiments with sex during summer holidays because it contained sex.
In response, the Republic school board has banned Slaughterhouse-Five and Twenty Boy Summer, removing them from both its classrooms and school libraries. Scroggins is disappointed that they didn't ban another book, Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak.
Scroggins's research specializes in international business and entrepreneurship (he teaches dull intro to management classes, apparently without much flair), and given those specialties, you'd think that he'd realize that, in most of the world, the material in all three of the books he's picked on wouldn't raise an eyebrow. It's also bizarre to see someone who worships entrepreneurship simultaneously embrace a color-inside-the-lines, nothing-objectionable-allowed approach to education: Scroggins apparently wants to raise a generation of local children who never meet a challenging idea or experience an uncomfortable discussion. As an actual entrepreneur (and not just someone who researches entrepreneurship), I'm here to tell you that this is not how you teach people the imagination and creativity necessary to the process.
As for the Republic school board, there is no sufficient shaming for education administrators who lack the courage to stand up for children's intellectual freedom. Read the rest