As part of my job I routinely receive solicitous email from various corporate entities who are trying (successfully) to prey on higher education in various ways. The emails are uniformly poorly written, with misspellings and typos, but they also manifest a really chilling kind of circular meaninglessness that I think characterizes most biz-speak in our era. A case in point, received this morning:
Dear Faculty Member, Dear colleague,
Your university has significant value to offer its students. We believe that at our institution, your students will grow willing to pursue the opportunities embedded in studying Business and Finance in new York City.
– so, at this business summer camp, my students will “grow willing” to study business and finance? So my job as a teacher is to persuade students to develop a willingness to study business, and it’s just a given that any student’s unwillingness to study business is a negative trait to be overcome?
– why say “grow willing to pursue the opportunities embedded in studying Business and Finance,” given that that is an absurd and nausea-inducing series of made-up nonsense phrases? I’ll tell you why–because that whole sentence is tautological, and if you expressed it more simply it would reveal its fundamental meaninglessness: “students who attend our business education institution will want to study business.” Well NO SHIT
– what are these “opportunities” that are “embedded” in the STUDY of business, exactly? Just studying business gives you opportunities to pursue? What kind? Intellectual ones? Business ones?
– just a fun note that the “new” in “new York City” should also be capitalized, which is something everyone in America learns literally in kindergarten. Is a pathological lack of attention to extremely basic details one of the many opportunities embedded in the study of business and finance that my students ought to become willing to pursue?
– my school has “significant value to offer its students,” huh? Wow, thanks so much for the heads up, but also what exactly do you mean by “value?” Always a great question
– and finally, I mean, “Dear Faculty Member, Dear colleague,” I don’t even know what to say about that one. It’s quite poetic really
So much of my job entails negotiating with language like this, and with the soul-crushing anti-humanist value system that creates language like this. I try to work secretly within the system, like a cockroach, but I don’t think it is very effective. I get deeply depressed about my collusion with this value system, even though I know I am trying to do good in the world. “Do or not do, there is no try” or whatever the fuck Yoda says in that swamp.
I content myself with writing towering screeds in my responses to anonymous surveys about classroom technology and “effective content delivery” in my courses (DO YOU JUST MEAN ‘TEACHING’??)