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Do We Have A Witness?

“The Penn State abuse scandal is prompting new legislation that could broaden abuse reporting laws.”  According to an NPR story, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Congress are considering proposals to make every adult a mandated reporter.  Traditionally, mandated reporters are determined by profession (i.e,. social workers, physicians, etc.)  Adults working in these professions are obligated by law to report suspected abuse of children.

Ordinarily, I cringe at legislating decency and/or common sense.  I am troubled that we need laws to enforce adults to differentiate themselves from children, and to exert their inalienable right and responsibility to protect children.  But I am choosing to only see the silver lining in this development.

There are some curious (if not disingenuous) arguments being made against this proposal.  One state commissioner of Children and Family services has suggested legislation is not needed because when; “you walk in and you see somebody sexually molesting a 10-year-old, you don’t need a statute to tell you that that’s a crime.”  Well sir, recent headline stories would dispute that assertion.  Some case managers are concerned about being inundated with unsubstantiated calls.  I would argue a) 18 states currently have mandated reporting laws and calls have increased in some states and decreased in others, and b) so what.  Do we even want to flirt with an argument that might at its core be: we don’t want to increase our ability to protect children because it might result in more work for us?!

The fact that rates of reporting have not increased uniformly in states which have mandatory reporting laws is not necessarily an indication of anything.  We simply don’t know if abusers are less likely to abuse when they know the whole world is watching.

Sometimes reports are unfounded, or simply can not be proved.  That is the nature of society and of law.  Being falsely accused can be devastating to an individual and a family.  However that has always and will always be true.  There is nothing in the world preventing any of us right this second from calling in suspected abuse.  What this new proposal changes is the legal responsibility to do so.  All this really means is that if anyone over the age of 18 should come across a child appearing to be violated in a locker room shower, they will now know exactly what to do.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Childhood, Cultural Critique

 

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Pow, Poo, Ooblee-pooh*

If you have waited in line to make a purchase in a chain store lately, I’m pretty certain you have been called forward by the nonsensical phrase; “the following customer.”  I admit, the first few times I actually waited to hear what came next.  The befuddling phrase does get my attention, I’ll give them that.  “The following customer will receive all of her items free.  Come on down Brenda!”  “The following customer really shouldn’t be buying those leather pants.  Sorry Brenda.”  What’s even more curious than the incomplete phrase is the fact that it has caught on like wildfire.  Is there some sort of chain store customer service standard of practice national convention.  Was there a vote?  How else do we begin to explain how so many salesclerks (not working for the same parent company) are spouting the same gibberish?  The trouble maker in me sees a wonderful opportunity for foul play.  We could sneak into the next (c.s.c.s.s.o.p) national conference and persuade them to beckon the customer forward with Ubbi Dubbi or Pig Latin.

I’m all in favor of creating or adjusting words.  Language should stay current to fulfill its mission.  But used incorrectly (which no doubt I’ve done several times already) just makes me nuts.  When did Americans decide that the word “anyway” needed an “s” on the end?  (Twenty years ago or so, if memory serves.)  Why?  What purpose does it serve?  It’s not just teenagers who add the letter, NPR commentators do it as well.  I can (mostly) ignore words such as “ironic” and “awkward” being thrown into the conversation willy nilly.  (Just so we’re all clear though, “ironic” is not synonymous with “coincidence.”)  Misuse is not the same as flat out cuckoo.  When I thank someone, what does it mean when the thanked replies “no problem?”  Who exactly has the problem?  I don’t even understand the origin of that reply.

I find myself starting to navigate my world as if I was in France.  I have mastered French at the level of a 4 year old slow learner.  Most of my request for directions, food and shoes in my size are pretty much dependent on gist.  As I go through my day in these United States, I must use all my senses.  Luckily, I know a smattering of sign language too.

My personal daily Nell ministrations aside, I worry about the apparent unconsciousness of this bastardization of language.  Like anything, if you’re going to do something, do it with intent.  My assertion of unconsciousness is egged on by the recent spate of “period” television.  I personally do not have memories of the Mad Men or PanAm time period.  But I will bet the farm that no one was slapping on an extraneous “s” to “anyway” in the 1960s.  I also don’t think people tossed around phrases like “workaholic” or “postpartum depression.”  It’s just a hunch.  Maybe I’m too binary, but what this says to me is that there isn’t anyone working on these shows who was alive during the portrayed period.  Not surprising by the way, is the fact that the British do a far better job at avoiding anachronism on the The Hour.  They did invent the language after all.

*Arthur Laurents’ slang for West Side Story (1956)

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2011 in Cultural Critique

 

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