Notes on the Generation Gap

by Jon Mandle on October 28, 2010

According to this Nielsen study, American teens between 13-17 years old are sending or receiving, on average, 3,339 texts per month, and teen girls send or receive 4,050 per month. (Obviously, this is among teens with cell phones.) It’s hard to believe that the average is distorted by a minority of massive users – that’s already a text every 7 to 9 minutes across the whole waking day. Of course, I could be wrong about how much they sleep. On the other hand, the study was conducted between April and June, 2010, so at least some of them were presumably in school – not that this necessarily eliminates all opportunities to text, I know, but it must cut down on them somewhat, right? I mean, we’re talking about high school, not college, here.

“Social cleansing”

by Chris Bertram on October 28, 2010

Thanks to some FB comments by Marc Mulholland, I see that there’s an interesting bit of rhetorical back-and-forth going on in British politics today. Labour claims that ConDem plans to cap housing (and other) benefit payments will have the effect of forcing poor people out of London and therefore amount to “social cleansing”. Useful idiot Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg “pretends to be outraged”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_commons/newsid_9125000/9125499.stm :

bq. To refer to cleansing would be deeply offensive to people who have witnessed ethnic cleansing in other parts of the world.

Unfortunately, for him, in a flanking manoeuvre from the right, London mayor Boris Johnson (Tory) then “repeats the charge”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/28/boris-johnson-kosovo-style-cleansing-housing-benefit , making it more explicit and destroying its metaphorical character:

bq. What we will not see, and will not accept, is any kind of Kosovo-style social cleansing of London.

None of this, including the faux-outrage from Clegg, would surprise anyone who has hung around the blogosphere since 2001, since charges of “moral relativism”, “moral equivalence” and “you are implicitly comparing X to Y how dare you!” are the common currency of wingnuts and “decents” alike. This one is mildly interesting, though, because it is a complaint about the adaptation of what was originally a piece of “unspeak”: a euphemism. The complaint depends for its force entirely on the euphemism being understood non-euphemistically, if you see what I mean. I see from some discussion at the Unspeak site, that Steven Pinker has a name for this: the “euphemism treadmill”.

bq. People invent new words for emotionally charged referents, but soon the euphemism becomes tainted by association, and a new word must be found, which soon acquires its own connotations. ( _Blank Slate_ p.212).

Graduate student unionization

by Henry on October 28, 2010

I’m pleased that the NLRB looks to be “reversing its position on graduate student unionization”:http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/10/28/nlrb

bq. The National Labor Relations Board, in a 2-to-1 decision, has edged away from its recent history of rejecting unionization rights for graduate teaching assistants at private universities.

In the decision, the NLRB found that the graduate students at New York University who are currently trying to unionize with the United Auto Workers deserve a full hearing on the merits of their organizing drive. In so doing, the majority of the NLRB reversed a regional director’s decision that the UAW could not organize graduate students at NYU because of a 2004 NLRB ruling in a case involving Brown University graduate students.

The decision is particularly piquant because it cites to NYU’s own policies as evidence supporting the grad students’ position.

bq. In its new ruling, the NLRB cites differences in NYU’s relationship with its graduate students now as compared with the past and with other universities today to suggest that they may be entitled to a union. For instance, the NLRB ruling notes that NYU has said that its graduate students who teach do so voluntarily and are free to join the adjunct union at the university for representation in their role as instructors. The NLRB ruling says that this is significant because it means that graduate students are being paid as employees, not simply as graduate students.