Friday, 29 April 2011

Mark Rawson: Racketeer

Before temporarily retiring from the frontline however, I'm going to take a head-shot at the conceptually hamstrung Mark Rawson.

The bush he does his little war dance around in today's piece is the fact that many native English speakers are linguistically inept. I can recall, some six years ago, overhearing a conversation between two English teachers in which one of them complained of being asked questions on grammar at a then-recent job interview; not only was she offended at her interviewer's expectation that she should be able to answer the questions correctly, but she was bemused as to the expectation that anyone could be so bookish as to know the answers to such esoteric questions as the functional difference between the simple and perfect aspect, or the purposes to which a semi-colon might be put. Similarly, I remember a bulletin-board notice in a coffee shop in Kaohsiung which read: "Canadian, native English-speaker looking for private tutors". In a moment of misplaced kindness, I took her number down and explained her mistake to her.

Yet Rawson's piece is nothing less than a naked call for a "linguistic professionals" racket in which hiring decisions by "internationalizing institutions" are to be forced into compliance with the politically-leveraged diktat of the "linguistic professionals" industry. The TESOL racket is exactly that already - and anyone who feels they need TESOL certification probably needs a lot more else besides that. Even though I have had numerous letters mangled by over-editing in the past three years (most recently here), I would still, of course, oppose such blatant racketering largely as an ethical imperative of the freedom of association principle, but also in order to pour sand on the slavering politicist Rawson.


  1. You always get idiots saying we need English teaching professionals, but then you have a very different market than what they perceive. I was listening to Ben Domenech's podcast, Coffee and Markets" when he mentioned an anecdote of an academic saying that cows used to be raised everywhere, but now they are only raised in only 3 states, Vermont, California and Minnesota. Perception tends to distort and beguile the facts as they are to the closed ignorant mind.

    Most places want a teacher who can entertain a class and possibly get them involved. The real teaching is almost always done by a Taiwanese teacher who probably has ok to decent English and a degree in English lit or possibly basket weaving. One of my favorite hobbies is asking Taiwanese people what their degrees are in and then keeping a straight face and saying nothing when it has nothing to do with their current work.

    The nice thing today is that these things can now be rebutted whereas before the internet everyone bought the newspaper's line.

  2. Let's be accurate Okami - Rawson wasn't talking about schools, but about English QC in "internationalizing institutions" such as government agencies and the marketing departments of largish companies. I have little doubt he would include Universities in that list too however. He has something of a point, but he approaches it slyly from the premises of a rapist.

    On the value of degrees: the distortion of their market value has been the chief means through which higher education has become a de facto employment licensing racket.

    Handle English Lit grads with care though: I didn't read it at University, but I do think literature, like history or philosophy, is a very worthwhile subject due in part to its pre-disciplinary nature and integrative charge.

  3. I understand your point, but the simple fact is no one cares in those depts whether they be businesses, govt agencies or universities. It isn't even a measure of competency on the writer since it's often done at the cheapest price and then dutifully ignored. Many foreigners have offered to help the DMV edit/retranslate the written test, yet here we are over a decade later with the same bad English as when it was first put out.* He's arguing for a premium product for people that feel that premium isn't worth it at all. It's the functional equivalent of someone telling an alcoholic who wishes to drink himself to death to stop drinking alcohol. This is of course not true for companies like Acer/Asus. had a great article on the wastefulness of university. Unfortunately due to HR depts, licensing requirements and lawsuits, jobs that require no university education now often do or pay higher if you have a degree even if it has no bearing whatsoever on your job.

    The problem I have with English Lit and history graduates is they often haven't read anything over 10 years old. While they are both wonderful disciplines, in all honesty on my part reading involved mostly liberal claptrap about feelings, dolphins and red badge of courage in school. There's a very good reason why boys fail to read and are often disinterested in reading classes and it very much has to do with the material offered. Do I even have to mention the complete blank that covers the Korean War and what happened to South Vietnam after the US left? For universities and colleges it can be a real fight to just get something like The Great Books curriculum as an option for classes.

    *The DMV English written test is atrocious and should be ridiculed internationally as it seems to be the only way to get them to do anything.

  4. "He's arguing for a premium product for people that feel that premium isn't worth it at all."

    Crystal clear, although he isn't so much arguing for it, as demanding it.

    "The problem I have with English Lit and history graduates is..."

    ... that they're being manufactured by institutions controlled by the Left - which does not reflect on the subject itself.

    "Do I even have to mention the complete blank that covers the Korean War and what happened to South Vietnam after the US left?"

    No, not here you don't.

    "The DMV English written test is atrocious..."

    As is the driving "test" itself, which is one reason why I adopt a mistrustful attitude toward Taiwanese people driving unless I have good reason to believe they actually know what they're doing: I don't like to get in a car with a Taiwanese person unless I'm the one driving.

  5. Have you seen this video yet:

    The first was great, but I have to admit this one was much better.

  6. Good stuff - agreed: this one is better.

    In reality though, Keynes was bald and Hayek had plenty of hair. Strange reversal.


Comment moderation is now in place, as of April 2012. Rules:

1) Be aware that your right to say what you want is circumscribed by my right of ownership here.

2) Make your comments relevant to the post to which they are attached.

3) Be careful what you presume: always be prepared to evince your point with logic and/or facts.

4) Do not transgress Blogger's rules regarding content, i.e. do not express hatred for other people on account of their ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation or nationality.

5) Remember that only the best are prepared to concede, and only the worst are prepared to smear.