Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Use of Original Style and the Effect it Can Have On Audience

            The profession of teaching is a vital part of our nation’s future through providing students with the skills and knowledge required in order to be a productive member of today’s society.  Therefore, educators are under constant scrutiny from not only parents, administrators, and students, but from groups at the governmental level as well, such as the Department of Education.  Although views regarding teaching strategies and what content is relevant to student success is constantly changing, the belief that educators, as a crucial member of society, are expected to behave with the highest professional standards.  In order to fulfill this guideline, a Code of Conduct for educators was created and is a crucial part in today’s quality of public education.  The National Education Association, an advocate for children’s right to an education and better working conditions for teachers, created this Code of Conduct.  Although the Code is not great in length, it absolutely defines the professional expectations of educators with regards to not only their profession, but for their students as well.  Through the usage of “Official Style,” the National Education Association has been able to not only make their beliefs apparent to those interested in the prose, but to protect their own interests, as well as those of the Board of Education and the National Teachers Association as well. 
            In 1975 the Code of Conduct for educators was adopted by the National Education Association, or NEC, in order to act as a crusade for the rights of all educators and children.  Not only has this group created a united voice for public education, but it also plays a crucial role in improving the conditions under which teachers work and children learn.  In fact, the NEC is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, with organizations in every state.  This group also pushed for a national Department of Education, which lead to the funding of training programs for teachers and creating equal educational opportunities for all children.  Members of the NEC include students, substitute teachers, administrators, Education Support Professionals, higher education faculty and staff, and also retired people of these professions.  Since the NEA is composed of representatives from multiple roles in education it may be assumed that the goals and beliefs of the NEA, including the Code of Conduct, are therefore shared by the majority of the profession.  The creation of the Code of Conduct may therefore be viewed as a tool for making the beliefs and expectations of members’ of the NEA apparent for past, present, and future teachers.  Ultimately however, being a member of the NEC does not mean that one will take part in the decision-making process.  Decisions are made by the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee, as well as individuals selected as President, Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer, and Executive Director of the Association.  These positions are first elected by members of the NEA at both the state and local level to become a Representative Assembly delegate.  These delegates then elect the previously listed top officers. Therefore, with this information in mind, it may be fair to question the idea that the Code was created to push a certain agenda that the Association had, or in other words, the views that those first elected held.  We must also consider the role of the government in education and how such influences from this group had on the contents of the code as well.  The outcome of the code is unmistakably clear; all professional educators need to not only adopt these beliefs and views, but to abide by these regulations in order to appropriately embody the responsibilities of a successful educator. 
            After an understanding of the context of the prose and the various activity systems involved, we are able to analyze the usage of a distant tone and complex sentences, in order to protect private interests of the NEA.  The first example of such writing is found at the very beginning of the code in the Preamble section.  “The National Education Association believes that the education profession consists of one education workforce serving the needs of all students and that the term ‘educator’ includes education support professionals.”  This introductory sentence is an example of a relative clause, which defines who an educator is, and is also a tool of the “Official Style” of writing.  We again see the usage of complex sentences in the next sentence as well: “The educator, believing in the worth and dignity of each human being, recognizes the supreme importance of the pursuit of truth, devotion to excellence, and the nurture of the democratic principles.”  This sentence is an example of a participial phrase, which again is a tool of the “Original Style.” Writing an introduction like this is not only setting the standard for the remaining prose, as well as the style of the writing.
            Word choice such as: “the educator,” is found throughout the prose, giving it a very generic, professional tone.  The obvious reason for utilizing such would choice in order to create professionalism is so that the prose will come across as credible and worthy of reading.  Also, considering that the NEA is an association that is affiliated with the government, it gives a more official feel to the prose as well.  On the other hand, such word choice also creates a distance between the reader and the text.  It is possible that the NEA wrote with this distant tone to not only remain professional and bureaucratic, but to remind the audience that all educators need to share the same beliefs and values and that those values are already predetermined by the Board of Directors as well as the Executive Committee of the NEA. 
            While considering the various activity systems associated with the code, the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the NEA, as well as their elected officials and members, it is reasonable to believe that the intended audience for this prose is most likely someone associated with education in some aspect.  Therefore, with this in mind, the introduction seems somewhat redundant, and causes question as to why the NEA felt the need to define something that should already be clear.   One possibility is that it was included because the NEA wanted to have one finite definition for all members of the various activity systems surrounding not only the NEA, but education as well.  Therefore, it may have been included so that educators as well as members of the NEA not only learn such a definition, but begin to use it in future discussions regarding the role of an educator, which would create a more universal definition.  Another possibility is that the NEA wrote such an introduction because it is the definition that the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee members believe, and therefore was included with the intent to push their belief upon the audience.  As stated previously, becoming a member of the NEA does not mean that you are a part of the decision-making process, and that only those elected do.  With this information in mind, it may be said that the definition was included in order to push a political agenda held by the elected officials of the NEA.  Yet another possibility may be that a parent who has a student enrolled in public education is reading the code to ensure that their child is getting the best education possible.  With this is mind; it may be safe to say that a parent knows less about the role of an educator, other than the fact that an educator is someone who teaches.  Therefore, it would be necessary for the NEA and its various directors and committee members to explicitly state who an educator is.  If this reasoning were to be found true then it may be said that the NEA wrote such an introduction with the intent to not only clarify, but to bring an understanding of the role of an educator to an audience that would include those not associated with the education profession.  To be fair, any one of these reasons are possible, and it nearly impossible to know the intent for including it without asking the writers of the code. 
            The second sentence in the introduction also causes question as to what the intent was for being included in the code.  For example, shouldn’t “believing in the worth and dignity of each human being,” be a trait that humans in general, not only educators, hold?  Even if this isn’t a universal belief that all human beings should hold, one would like to think that someone associated with education and the activity systems surrounding the NEA would sure believe such.  With this in mind, the word choice of that sentence may send off a belittling effect upon the reader of the code and send an off-putting message.  Then again, it is widely known that there are educators out there that do not share this belief, so the NEA may have felt it pertinent to include in the code. 
            Following the code is two Principle sections, each of which includes a definition of the principle followed by a numbered list of guidelines that an educator needs to follow in order to fulfill that principle.  Principle I places focus on the objectives that a teacher must follow in order to be fully committed to the student, whereas Principle II defines the commitment an educator must have with regards to the profession.  Again, considering that the most likely audience for this code would be those involved with education, it may seem belittling to some readers to include guidelines that would seem obvious before even reading the prose.  It is possible that the elected officials of the NEA felt the need to include such guidelines because they were not confident that all educators were implementing those guidelines, and therefore listed them with the hope that all educators would begin to utilize them if they were not already doing so.  On the other hand, it may be that those are guidelines that the elected officials deem important, once again reinforcing their political agenda. Then again, for a parent who is reading the code, these guidelines may not be as obvious, and therefore the inclusion of such was so that they can have a clear understanding as well.  Regardless of what the intent behind including such explicit guidelines within in the code were, it is clear that those elected to positions within the NEA felt them to be appropriate enough to include.  What was the reasoning behind the NEA including such guidelines?  Why did the Board of Directors and Executive Committee feel that these were so important? 
            Looking at the lists of guidelines further reveals an uncanny resemblance to the Ten Commandments, not only because of the numbering, but because of the word choice used as well.  Did the NEA and its elected officials intentionally write this way with the Bible in mind, meaning that there is not only a political agenda but a religious one as well?  Or, was this word choice used because of the time that the code was written and that the NEA believed that this was the best way to clearly list the guidelines of a successful teacher? 
Whether intentional or unintentional, the continuous use of the word: “shall not,” may not sit well with some audiences considering that it creates the allusion of a religious aspect.  This is somewhat ironic considering the separation of church and state, and it is curious as to why this aspect of the code has not been rewritten or updated as of yet. 

            Although there are varying intentions of the NEA and the text of the code, it was written with good intentions, to clearly define the role of an educator and the guidelines that one must follow in order to do so.  Through utilizing the “Official Style” of writing by including complex sentences, specific word choice, and a distant tone, the NEA has been able to create a piece of writing that has been utilized and followed for many years by many people associated with the activity systems surrounding all aspects of education.  The reason for this being so is because through this form of writing the NEA was able to create a credible prose that would find merit with the activity systems not only surrounding the NEA, but to those of education as well.   With that being said, it isn’t the form of writing that causes issue for some, but with the unknown and hidden intent behind the specific word choice, the distant tone, and the actual content of the code.  It is only through viewing and analyzing the prose from the viewpoints of the various activity systems surrounding the code that we are able to come up with possible reasons.  However, if we look back at the activity systems surrounding the NEA, it is clear that they are nearly all associated with the education profession, which causes question as to why the code has not been revised.  It is possible that such redundant, explicit guidelines were necessary at one time to ensure the success of public education, but considering that teaching methods and standards are continuously changing it is curious as to why the code hasn’t changed too.

-Celine W

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