RE: On Summer Help

Subject: RE: On Summer Help
From: Win Day <winday -at- home -dot- com>
To: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000 13:44:44 -0400

At 11:12 AM 4/18/00 -0600, Christensen, Kent wrote:

re: I may have missed something here, but what in the thread so far had ANY
cultural implications?
Initiation? Hazing? Starting an intern off on simple,
non-mission-critical projects is common sense, not hazing.

How about ... "Just mundane chores, or would you let them edit a few sentences here and

How about ... "It may be tempting to pawn off some scut work on this poor student, and I
say go right ahead."

How about ... "I was really lucky ... "

How about ... "You can't expect someone to produce quality work when they have no clue
what it is like to even be in a work environment."

I stand by my original statement: what do any of these comments have to do with initiation or hazing? They have to do with TRYING to find meaningful tasks for someone who is new to the work force, new to tech writing, may or may not have any applicable skills.

And as far as having someone do "scut work" be demeaning or deliberately insulting, well, then, I guess I had better start filing multiple lawsuits against my clients.

ALL tech writing projects have their share of "scut work". Lone writers like me, who handle a project from beginning through final deliverables (yes, I have stood at the cerlux binding machine and assembled docs when I had to), know that every project is going to have parts that we love to do and parts that we hate to do. It's not demeaning, it's a fact.

If you work in a large tech pubs department, where you have all kinds of support staff, maybe you don't do stuff like that. But are those tasks "demeaning"? I don't find them so. Boring, yes. But absolutely necessary, and not demeaning.

My Webster's dictionary defines initiate as "to teach the fundamentals of some subject to". In that respect, yes, an internship IS an initiation. At least that's exactly what it should be -- an opportunity for someone to learn the ropes, get their feet wet.

I get the feeling, though, that your connotation is more negative than that. So let's look at hazing: again, according to Webster to haze is "to punish or harass by forcing to do hard, unnecessary work".

The whole point of the tasks mentioned is that they are NOT unnecessary. They might not be the most fun things an experienced tech writer gets to do. And they probably are NOT difficult, or we wouldn't be able to have an untrained student do them.

Seems to me that the original post, and most of the replies, were trying to strike a balance between finding something within the capabilities of an untrained student and finding them something meaningful to do.


"Conventional thinking" and "common sense" are quite often confused.
There's a difference. Common sense is directly proportional to knowledge,
including knowledge of cultural issues. The more you learn, the more your
"common sense" changes. "Conventional thinking" requires little knowledge
and little experience and seldom changes. I don't find demeaning folks to
fall in the realm of common sense. And it's not required to make a point.
And it's effect and hardly intent that counts.

Now I'm really confused. This is a lovely paragraph, full of motherhood-and-apple-pie statements. It just doesn't seem to have any bearing whatsoever on the rest of the post, or the rest of the discussion.

And I still don't understand the references to "cultural issues". The original posts and most of the replies (except yours) mentioned nothing about culture. To what culture are you referring? A technical writing culture? Gee, what's the secret handshake so I can join too?

Win Day
Technical Writer

mailto:winday -at- wordsplus -dot- net

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