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Friday, June 29, 2012

A Kick In The Teeth Is Nothing To Smile About | Corinne Wnek, NJtoday

I love the point of this column. It's not just about writing; it's also about speaking. It's about the use of terms and references to a person's occupation that can be hurtful, unexpectedly perhaps, by the speaker or writer. The "job descriptions" -- often cliches -- can belittle or denigrate the value or importance of a job.

As a writer and editor for an organization, for example, I've winced occasionally when I've been called a "spin doctor," even a "wordsmith." The speaker may not have meant to be insensitive (and I must acknowledge that, at least within my head), but those terms sometimes seem to minimize the effort and impact of my work.

And consider this caricature, from Wnek's article: "Those who can, do and those who can’t, teach." One implication of that statement, perhaps unconscious to the person saying it, is that the work of teachers isn't all that valuable or necessary. Or course, the fact is that no one would be where they are today if it weren't for at least one of their teachers.

Wnek writes:
The problem with this kind of caricaturing of occupations is that it doesn’t tell the whole story. Someone who works with their hands, for instance, is often portrayed as being not as smart as the person who earned a college degree. But do we ever think that the person who earned that college degree might not be as smart as the person skilled with their hands? Last I checked, the head and the hands work together.
I'm reminded of this type of caricaturing when I'm discussing the value of a college education, buying or ordering a product or service about which I have have no expertise, or even ordering a meal at a fancy restaurant.

While I certainly value my college education and believe it accomplished more for me than just providing a career skill, I do not believe everyone needs to go to college or should go to college.

We each depend on many important jobs in which the person serving us gained expertise on the job or perhaps in a technical or occupational school. That person at that moment is as valuable in our society as someone with multiple college degrees or a penthouse office with a walnut desk and gold-engraved pen and pencil set.

And that person serving us also must feed himself or herself and perhaps a family of four as well.


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