Re: about this 'nuclear family' thingie

Holly Swyers (nesn-info@CCE.ORG)
Thu, 25 Apr 1996 19:55:16 GMT

Dr. Holloway:

You ask on April 25:
Do I recall some anthro jargon from 30-40 years ago regarding
"prescriptive" and "proscriptive" that refers to this sort of ideal-real
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I do not know about the use of these two words in an anthropological sense,
but in current educational usage (elementary and secondary school reform, at
any rate), similar jargon is bandied around with very different definitions.
"Prescriptive" has come to mean a reform initiative which throws possible
"solutions" (usually in the form of some program or another developed as a
quick fix) at a problem. "Proactive" is supposedly the opposite of
prescriptive reform - where a trend is recognized and reform initiatives
begin in an anticipatory fashion (I know you said "proscriptive" - I am
completely unfamiliar with that word). Proactive reform is supposed to come
from grass-roots understandings of issues (at least, that's how I've
understood it). I mention these definitions because it occurred to me that
people "borrow" jargon all the time and turn it to their own use ("power,"

Jargon is a good example of how words can mean entirely different things to
different people. Part of my job is to try to point out when jargon is
clouding an issue (e.g. the phrase "our program is designed to target
higher-level thinking skills" can and does mean several different things to
several different people within the same field - and is a nice way to make it
sound like something impressive or important is happening - putting a spin on
something if you will). If language is constantly evolving, how do we talk
about anything abstract at all? What aspects of language remain constant
enough to ensure a meaningful sharing of ideas? We have already seen terms
like "patriarchy" create firestorms on this list. I would greatly enjoy
input from any linguists. I know this isn't a focused inquiry, just late
afternoon thoughts.
Thanks for listening-