Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Against Vulgar Professionalism (A Warning)

I understand a need for formality and presence when in certain situations. I would like to distinguish, however, between a "professionalism" that is a result of maturity and a "professionalism" that is a result of inhumanity.

When I would administer PRAXIS tests for my school (sort of a ACT for teachers), I am required to read verbatim to a room full of adults the test instructions written within the associate supervisor manual. The very first paragraph even says, "I am required to read these instructions and I cannot deviate from them." Each time I would read that particular line, I would quickly add, "So don't hate me." This lone addition would in turn result (without fail) in a distinct murmur of laughter from the test takers and a subsequently relaxation of the room's somewhat tense atmosphere.

Once, however, after I administered such a test, I was rebuked (not at all rudely) by a fellow associate who stated that I must avoid such humorous addendums in the future in order to maintain a sense of "professionalism" during test administration. Though my naturally amicable nature inclined me to initially approve of their sentiment, in truth I vehemently disagreed with it. If that is what "professionalism" is, then professionalism is for the birds; or better yet, for the machine, for only a machine can vomit any recitation without inflection or addition.

I am not a machine, nor do I address (in a test administration or any other aspect of real life) other machines. Speaking specifically to the test administration, I am a human addressing other humans who are currently in an environment of immense pressure and tension caused by (1) a test that holds their careers in its hands and (2) being in a room full of strangers. Nothing breaks such awful tension more than a sense of communion with other humans, and laughter is communion.

Thus is what I call vulgar professionalism, and I am defiantly opposed to it because it is a mechanistic adherence to inhumanity and therefore must certainly be a severe damage and detriment to one's soul. If your "professionalism" reveals a mature and advanced mind, capable of an acute awareness to environment or human needs and the communion that can address them, then you are guilty of no transgression. If, however, your "professionalism" reveals the machine, take heed to yourself and amend your ways. You continue at your own peril and the peril of others.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2009

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