01 August, 2011

hey, it's bright in here

Oh good lord, this headache. Full blown migraine! Yay! That's because August 1 is the first day of miserable summer, here in SoCal. Ah well. We got an extra month of tolerable. I knew this was coming. But migraines suck, man. They totally do. Got the sparky eyes and the nausea and the every-muscle-all-locked-up-in-my-cervical-column thing going.

Of course I am going to yoga anyway. I won't feel any better sitting on my ass at home, and it will be a nice distraction to try and keep down dog from turning into upchuck. Ha! I only wish I were kidding.

OS Lion is weird and new, and I am trying like hell to be positive about the changes, even if it makes me feel all WTF? Argh! because I refuse to be one of those people who hates change just because it's different, rather than because it's bringing something hate-worthy to the table. I can get used to a different look in my email. Really. World ending? Nope.

This would be an ugly segue to something that is bugging me, as of yesterday, and so I will write about it here because hey! no one reads this! But it's related to changes and hostility there-to. There's a list I'm on, of writers (although the list is there for life outside of writing discussion), and this weekend one of the members wrote to ask why the word learner is replacing the word student in common usage. I wrote back, against my better judgement, and explained where I thought it came from and why (having to do with conceptions of learning, and how students were formerly seen as passive vessels in education, while the newer models of pedagogy--new, as in the last 15 years or so--try to conceive of students as learners, active in the process. The terms are interchangeable, IME). Clearly that was a mistake. I should've just deleted, like I always do, and moved right on. This unleashed a slew of snarky crap, with a bunch of people with panties in a wad about changing language and how back in THEIR day, etc.  My favorite was the woman who climbed up on her high horse and told me how it was at her university (where she is a student) and how only some people use the words this way. It was kinda baffling. Still ignoring my better judgement, I said something about hey, language changes, yay language! One person's jargon is another person's professional diction. If it doesn't stick, it'll go away. Whatever, right? I mean, seriously, this is anything to give a shit about? And I knew that wasn't the end. I knew it. And sure enough, this morning there was another post demanding that I defend why 'my profession' has gotten its jargon into the every day speech of those common folks who just don't need another word to use. And I lost it. Only a little losing, but still. Of the three people on that list who said something similar to me, I caught the shit for it. Because, clearly, I am the spokeperson for all educators, right here! BOW DOWN AND WORSHIP.  Also, I'm in charge of infecting common speech with jargon. Like learners, in addition to students. There's no more room for synonyms, people. There's a finite number of words in our language, and dammit, I (personally and professionally, as spokesperson for educators) caused it. 

It bothered me more than it should. Obviously. It's still bothering me. I have the list on digest so I have not seen any prevailing shitstorm. No, that will wait until morning, when hopefully the thread is old and stale enough that I don't see a point in dealing with it.

But I'm just fucking tired, people. I am tired of folks who complain because something is different than it was when they were kids, as if that isn't like saying omg! blue sky! yellow sun! wet water! Things change. Get over it. That any of these people are using a godsdamned computer is evidence that they can learn new things. Mostly, though, what chaps my ass is the hostility toward "my profession." I am a little baffled, a lot hurt, and a whole lot angry at the crap that gets thrown at education. You know what? Every profession has technical language. All of it creeps into common usage. I mean, my god! We say bacteria now sometimes, instead of germ! Or! Gasp! Virus might mean something your computer gets, instead of something you get. But if it's something related to education, why yes, it must be all shit and useless and pretentious. Words don't mean things, said one woman on the list. Words don't change things.

And while I know that's bullshit, I also think it's right. I mean, words don't change anything if someone doesn't want to listen. And I am tired of talking. I am two steps from just unsubbing and having done with the list, and not bothering to see what conversation transpired today. No flounce, no goodbye, just gone. Part of me says coward! Face them! and another part of me says Why? I already fight the good fight, 9 months of the year, in my classroom, trying to convince my kids that writing matters and thinking matters and omg! look! words are powerful. I don't need to waste my time, energy, and effort on these people. 

Because language does change, and meanings change, and societal thought changes as a result of the meanings we assign to words. Language evolves and takes culture with it (and vice versa). That's why it's so fucking cool. And if this list of people--ostensibly writers!--doesn't believe that, then I don't know what I'm doing there. Either they're wrong about language, or I am.

1 comment:

  1. I extend virtual hugs for migraines and dealing-with-stupidity. I now have a great deal more sympathy (literally) for the former. And you know my feelings on the latter.

    Funnily enough, we've run into the issue of what to call our customers. Are they "learners", "students", "customers", (as the UK office insists) "delegates", or something else? A significant portion of me wants to scream "who, in the name of Thoth's telekenetic testicles, gives a fuck?". I can see the point of thinking carefully for, say, a solid 27.9 seconds about it. But then... I'm totally all like whatever dude.

    But still, like you, I do actually think words matter. Also pictures, diagrams, analogies, and, generally, all methods of communication. I'd be somewhat in the wrong business if I didn't. And, because words matter, by "somewhat" I mean "completely, totally, and/or utterly".

    So I'm actually glad we settled on "attendee" for our materials. Because it's accurate. You are attending. I can't make you learn, I can't make you study, I can't make you ... um ... delegate? OK, that one's just stupid. What is this, a training or a G8 meeting? Delegate? What, exactly, is being delegated? Um. Anyway, where was I? Right, words. Choice of.

    One of the beauties of English is its bastard nature, resulting in virtually any concept being describable about 14 ways, each with subtle nuances of meaning and connotation. (Don't even get me started about choosing the name of our entry-level course.)

    Odd that a group of writers wouldn't get that.