"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Co-opted Vocabulary

While reading B3, several times I found myself circling the word “empowerment,” drawing an arrow to the margin, and writing “no, it's not!” Having worked as a community organizer, empowerment denotes a very specific meaning: individuals garner skills and a level of confidence that allow them to act in the best interest of themselves and their communities in order to achieve goals which they have set. It does not mean, as the hotel management contends, that you are empowered to achieve someone's goals set for you, for example to “empower yourself to satisfy your guest” (p. 112).

In addition to the program being a flop practically (Hunter observes only one instance of 'empowerment'), it fails rhetorically. No matter what the management wants to call it, the staff can see through the co-opted terminology and read that “empowerment” is not about their well-being; it's about company profits. Furthermore, ameliorating a situation involves an implication that you or another staff member messed up and cost the hotel money, and with a guest dissatisfaction scale that terminates at “suicide,” is there much of a semantic leap to guess how a serious guest complaint will impact your job (or lack of one)?


  1. Ah, tell us how you really feel, Seth! :) Your training in rhetoric will serve you well as we move info critical discourse analysis. Should be fun, hypertension aside....

  2. Hi Seth. Great reflections. Consider the thoughts below….
    • The goal of the company is to make a profit
    • Employees are paid to help the company make a profit
    • Employees should expect training/rules to ensure the company is profitable

    Above you summarize empowerment as “individuals garner skills and a level of confidence that allow them to act in the best interest of themselves and their communities in order to achieve goals which they have set”

    For the hotel employees they have set a goal to maintain a job. Although the hotel training and coaching initiatives were awful at times. They all trued back to the goal of the employee and employer (make a profit).

    When we enter the work place one must be there “professional self” At home you can be your true self. :)

    Talk to you soon Seth!

  3. I had the same internal response about that section of the book! Empowerment isn't about someone else's goals FOR you! Agree, agree, agree!

    I had a boss who did the same thing with the word "Opportunity." Any time something was a problem, or an issue, or even a total quagmire, it was always an "opportunity." The main network went down, we had a "network opportunity." Our telephone line got cut in construction, it was a "voice service opportunity."

    Those of us who worked for this boss started re-purposing the word, to make fun of it. Torn hose became a "wardrobe opportunity." Ordering lunch became a "meal opportunity." Once a toilet overflowed and someone called it a "plumbing opportunity" and we all died laughing.

    Maybe that toilet was empowered to achieve its own autonomy!


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.