The, um, Prize-Winning #&%^# Debate Team

June 11th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

Would you consider a resume sent as part of a job application to be business correspondence? So would I. Yet when my husband asked a young woman who responded to an ad for assistance why she did not capitalize (the word) “I,” she replied that she would know to capitalize it on work documents. He did not find that a convincing enough answer to offer her an interview.

The ad we placed, which prompted the above response, specified that we were looking for someone who pays meticulous attention to detail and English grammar. While we met some highly qualified and impressive people, the bulk of the responses inspired the immediate use of the delete button. The “i” was so egregious that we couldn’t refrain from asking about it, but it was by no means the only blatant error.

One woman insisted that she would be a valuable ‘edition’ to our team. More applicants than you’d believe didn’t read the ad carefully enough to note that a cover letter was required. Yet, all of the resumes touted their college education. How can anyone graduate college without learning the basics of acquiring a job? Quite easily—in fact, it seems that many colleges almost seem to set that as a goal.

If you haven’t seen the video (warning: offensive language) of the 2014 national debate competition won by Towson University, you should. If you are human, it should make you angry. If you are American, that anger should notch up to rage. As a female, my indignation ratcheted up to incensed. If I was black, I think my blood would boil. 

Did these girls win because of racist or sexist judges? Were these judges convinced that black females could never win on merit, so they held them to an inferior standard?  Perhaps the most intriguing question is why these girls sound more intelligent when interviewed (by a reporter who has no veracity after pretending theirs was a real accomplishment) than when they debated? Is the whole thing simply a “we hate America and traditional values” farce similar to President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after his election? 

I honestly don’t know. I do know that billions of dollars are being spent on providing a college anti-education for young people. My own children have told me that they came out of college feeling less intelligent than when they went in. Here’s a tip. Should you see a job opening placed by my husband and me in the future, play down college and emphasize your real-life skills.

I had to chuckle when I realized that our featured resource
this week was Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak.
Surely, someone should buy a truckful (bulk discounts available) and give them out at graduations around the country.

Peril cover 143


James says:

Yes, the debate you cite is a wicked disgrace. The debate was pandering shamelessly to a rabidly vocal lowest-common-denominator. But you seemed to have forgotten: it is nowadays more important and socially relevant to sport and spout an ethnic dialect, idiolect, patois or slanted argot. Express MY emotions and swollen-ego ethnicity and BLEEP communication! Let the antiquated, rigid and convoluted standard language fall by the wayside where it belongs, to founder in neglect and die an ignominious death.
All ‘ethnicity’ aside, sadly there exists a host of young adults out there, even ‘well’-educated ones, parroting an alternate pop-speak. For example, if you were to say (or write): ‘Congradulations on your excape from nucular negociations’ they would not bat an eyelash. Even a US President routinely said ‘nucular’ on the air. Remember who?
But you are so right. What one learns at the university / ‘multiversity’ is always dwarfed by the hard-knock lessons of existence, life and labor on this planet. Wishing you a suitably literate candidate for your open position!

James, the ‘nucular’ used to drive me crazy. Then I heard that it was universally accepted in certain parts of the country. You would still think that if you are on a national stage you might say it correctly.

kammi says:

This is incendiary! I’m an immigrant and even though I am considered ‘black’ by some people in the United States (the racial and ethnic lines of the United States are different than that of my own and I do not accept them), I was taught the Queen’s English and attended very selective schools in my home country.
I feel frustrated that so many people are surprised by my parlance, because I was always encouraged to have extremely high standards growing up. We learned cursive and wore uniforms in school, and our uniforms were checked every day by our superiors. Respect for seniority was a given.
I am also really frustrated by how awful the Mathematics curriculum is in this country; at our high school, everyone (even those who studied Business or the Arts) had to take both Science and Mathematics. I have also noticed that we have moved away from critical thinking and the act of making in favour of consumerism and a culture of vapid ego-centrism. Also, reading is not advocated enough in our academic institutions, and it is to our detriment as a society. When my father did his Master’s in the United Kingdom, he brought home a tonne of books that I read growing up, including the works of Nietzsche and Aristotle and yes, even ‘Mein Kampf’. I still read avidly today.
I fear for my children and the quality of education they will receive if this is the standard held by academic institutions in this country.

Kammi, What has happened to education in this country is truly scary. It has been decades in the making and we need persistence, courage and conviction to turn it around.

Carol says:

My mother used to tell me that anyone who uses expletives has a limited vocabulary and IQ. She was a stickler when it came to my writing and usage of proper English. In the last 50 years schools have continually gone downhill. My son graduated from high school unable to write his way out of a paper sack. Every time I tried to correct his spelling and English usage he would say to me that his English teacher didn’t care about it. I was appalled and finally took my three girls out of the system so that I could home school them. They are all good at spelling and English.
Years ago I worked in the HR department of a disk company. I could not believe the resumes that I would get from individuals who claimed to have a Ph.D. One resume in particular looked like it was written on the back of a napkin and of course more times than not, did not include a decently written cover letter without typos.
Even today, I communicate with individuals who have advanced degrees who either cannot spell or use spell check. This is absolutely ridiculous! I have a problem with dyslexia and make sure others read my work before I submit it. I also know how to use spell check. If the job requires attention to detail and excellent English skills, anyone applying for the job who cannot present themselves as an example of those skills is disqualified for the job plain and simple.

Carol, One of the reasons I was struck by the interview with the girls was because there they spoke properly. The profanity and poor articulation that won them the competition seem to have been put on! What a topsy-turvy world.

James says:

Right! I suppose protons and neutron reside in the nuculus! This word also punches one of my buttons and leans on it! Same for ‘congradulation’ (seemingly a fusion behind-the-barn of congratulation and adulation). All purist histrionics aside, this aptly demonstrates how language changes over time. For this reason Latin periculosus metamorphosed into Spanish peligroso (Sorry your website may not allow the appropriate italics!).

Language changing is one think. Being massacred is another.

James says:

Yet consider: every synchronic word ‘massacred’ is a candidate for survival as vocabulary of the future, and ultimately fuels the Realpolitik of diachronic transformation. Thus we can visualize the process, how language changes over time…. Most mutations perish, but some survive in the slow melting pot of popular usage… This is why we speak Modern English and not Anglo-Saxon or Chaucerian Middle English.

Jean says:

If you live west of the Rockies, the pronunciation of the word “nuclear” is commonly “nucular,” just as the pronunciation of the word “oil” tends to be “erl” in parts of Missouri, and the pronunciation of the word “Harvard” is “Hahvahd” amongst those in New England. It’s called “regional dialect.” People who are in broadcasting learn techniques to sound more Midwestern in order to overcome theirs – Pres. Bush obviously didn’t take those classes (nor did Ted Kennedy).

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