Friday, September 7, 2007

866 I Profess: Etymology and linguistics and the war of words...

Message no. 866[Branch from no. 857] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Tuesday, April 24, 2007 10:23am Subject:

Thanks Pat! As a professor I try to remain clear and aware of what the rights and obligations of our profession is. To do that I try to return to the ROOT of the words we use to define ourselves and our behaviors, because language is what separates us from the other animals, and in language we have the seeds of civilization.

PROFESSOR and PROFESSION both come from the word "TO PROFESS". Here is a string of definitions for the word:

pro·fess (pr-fs, pr-) v. pro·fessed, pro·fess·ing, pro·fess·es 1. To affirm openly; declare or claim: "a physics major [who] professes to be a stickler when it comes to data" Gina Maranto. 2. To make a pretense of; pretend: "top officials who were deeply involved with the arms sales but later professed ignorance of them" David Johnston. 3. a. To practice as a profession or claim knowledge of: profess medicine. b. To teach (a subject) as a professor: profess literature. 4. To affirm belief in: profess Catholicism. 5. To receive into a religious order or congregation. v.intr. 1. To make an open affirmation. 2. To take the vows of a religious order or congregation.

Note that definition 1 in both the transitive and intransitive verb categories equate professing with affirming openly, which means stating your convictions or beliefs. Definition three says "claiming knowledge" before "teaching". Only definition 2 is negative: "to pretend".

My fear is that many so called professors and professions involve people who are mere pretenders. I believe that we have an obligation to live up to our claims to knowledge. What is more, I think that, given the origins of universities as quasi-mystical places where the professors were usually priests who had "professed" vows to a congregation (v intr definition 2), we also carry the historical burden of having to reveal TRUTH through our "professions".

We "profess" to care, we "profess" to give support, so we are obligated to do so, in my view. Otherwise we can not claim to be "profess-ors". A professor is someone who professes. If we don't live up to our professions (which are like "confessions" -- think CONFESS, CONFESSOR, CONFESSION) than we are liars.

What is interesting to me is that by "professing" we create mental environments and draw cognitive maps for students who then must decide how to behave in the imaginary world of ideas we have constructed and professed. These environments have profound effects on the psychology of behavior.

I appreciate your constant feedback and support in my efforts to create a healthy and productive learning environment, and hope that all are benefitting from the eutopian construct I am striving to build with you all!


The Professor

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