Quote of the moment: Gen. Patton’s oddly non-profane explanation of profanity

February 18, 2015

Lt. Gen. George Patton with the signal corps, July 11th 1943, Sicily. (General George Patton Museum) - See more at: http://ww2today.com/10th-august-1943-general-george-s-patton-slaps-another-soldier#sthash.dVuHaPeg.dpuf

Lt. Gen. George Patton with the signal corps, July 11th 1943, Sicily. (General George Patton Museum) – See more at: http://ww2today.com/10th-august-1943-general-george-s-patton-slaps-another-soldier#sthash.dVuHaPeg.dpuf

  • When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can’t run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn’t fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag. … As for the types of comments I make, sometimes I just, By God, get carried away with my own eloquence.
    • Remark to his nephew about his copious profanity, quoted in “The Unknown Patton” (1983) by Charles M. Province, p. 184 (here, via Wikiquote)

One:

One glorious summer, after a couple of months of Scouting, I signed on to do air pollution research for several weeks in the field, in and around Farmington, New Mexico.  Hours were long, and the driving between sampling sites was more than 120 miles a day, between Farmington and Teec Nos Pos, Arizona.  Driving through the desert, passing the Shiprock every day, is rough duty, but somebody had to do it.

My mother’s brother, Harry Stewart, lived in Farmington.  Weekends I was royally dined and liquored, and got the opportunity to meet Uncle Harry’s friends, who included C. M. Woodbury, then city manager of Farmington.  Woodbury’s exploits on the golf course provided constant entertainment.  His opinions about having to measure air pollution from the Four Corners Power Plant and the then-under-construction San Juan Generating Station gave me great insight into local views on regional and national issues, as the Clean Air Act wended its way through Congress.

Woodbury had been an aide of some sort to General George Patton in Europe, as I understood it.  Sadly, I never did get back to Farmington to debrief him in detail about World War II, a loss of information that still stings from time to time.  I think he was with the 752nd Tank BattalionWoodbury retired in 1976.

The movie, Patton, still played in theaters, and one Sunday, over dinner, conversation turned to great leadership and whether I thought Patton was such a leader.  I hadn’t seen the movie.  I didn’t know much about Patton.  I asked what a definition of a good leader might be.  Uncle Harry and Woodbury settled on this criterion:  A good leader is someone whose followers will go to hell and back for her, or him.  Why did Patton inspire that sort of followership, I asked.

Woodbury rambled on about Patton getting gasoline for his tanks and trucks on a run through German lines that became legendary, and was portrayed in the movie.  He talked about how Patton’s troops always could count on a good, warm meal when they got a break from battle.  He talked about how proud every soldier was to be a part of that unit under Patton’s command.  He stopped, his eyes welled up and a tear, or maybe more, rolled down his cheek.

“We would have gone to hell for Patton because we knew he would have gone to hell for us. And he did.”

William Manchester once noted that, in battle, soldiers don’t die for great causes.  They fight to defend and save the friend to the right and the friend to the left.

It would have been interesting to know Patton.

Two:

We moved to Texas in 1987. Texas is a culture shock, I think, regardless where one comes from, even sometimes if one comes from Texas.  We moved directly from Cheverly, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C.

Describing the conservative, goody-two-shoes aspects of Texas culture of that time can’t be done in shorthand.  A couple of examples:  Duncanville at the time had about 35,000 residents, and 44 churches.  Bordering Duncanville were three or five megachurches, among the largest in the nation, which drew heavily from Duncanville residents.  It was rare to meet someone who wouldn’t ask early in any conversation, “And where do you go to church?” A great, personal and close relationship to Jesus is expected to be a feature of any “normal” person’s life in Texas.  The day I drove out of Utah, I remember thinking as I rose above the fog heading up Parley’s Canyon that I would probably never again live in a place where it was so difficult to get a drink with dinner.  Then we moved to Texas.  On the surface, and often below the surface, Texans worked hard (and still do) to demonstrate that they are straighter than Mormons, and blessed because of their lack of sinning.  We don’t need to get into the ironies and incongruities of country music, Dallas culture and other now-well-identified sins of the Bible Belt.

Let’s just say, profanity was not something one publicly assented to.

I came down here to work with American Airlines, which was headed at the time by Robert Crandall.  Crandall’s use of profanity was legendary among AA executives and workers — executives, especially.  Crandall ran a tight operation with high expectations of worker achievement, especially in competition with other airlines.  “Competitive anger,” Crandall called it — and he expected all employees to demonstrate that, in appropriate, customer-serving, money-making ways.  Failures were noted, and often enough one might expect to be in a meeting with Crandall where an explanation of how and why things went wrong would be cut off with an expletive-filled dressing down that both made the victim subject understand the nature and severity of the error and pledge never to make that nor any other error ever again.

Talking about these events later, witnesses almost never said anything about the profanity.  Living in Texas where profanity was thought to make even strong men faint and swoon, Crandall’s expletives were considered instead indications of the importance of his thought, and speech, and markers that he was to be listened to.  I remember one young MBA rattled by the profanity; he left the company within a few weeks, and he wasn’t even the subject of the discussion.  But among others, especially successful managers and executives, discussion of content of meetings focused on the subject of the meetings, what was said about that subject, with unconscious excising of the profanity.

One famous meeting involved cutting costs, and the subject was security for a warehouse in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Complaints about the cost for security the previous year led the local manager to beef up fences, get rid of the security company, and get dogs to roam the area at night.  Crandall pushed harder, and discussion turned to whether it would be even cheaper than dog food to get a sound system that would randomly play the sounds of big, vicious dogs’ barking instead.  I wasn’t in that meeting, but I heard several different accounts, all of them noting the boss’s exploration of options others might not think of, and how hard it was to please him — but not one story that included any comment about profanity, which I learned had laced the entire episode and probably made it memorable to everyone within earshot. And so they’d retell it. A remarkable piece of effective corporate communication.

How does one gauge when and whether profanity is necessary, or effective, in communication?

In one project, we videotaped Crandall talking on company issues and what he expected in the leaders the company hired as managers.  In several hours of video, I don’t recall a single time we had to retape, or edit, any profanity out.  Crandall turned off the profanity when it might pose a problem.  People who know him outside the company often express surprise that he’d ever use such language.

I sometimes wondered if Crandall was a reincarnation of Patton in at least some small way.  But Crandall was born in 1935, and Patton died in 1945.  Reincarnation is not the answer.

More:


No more than 3 points in your presentation!

February 28, 2013

Interesting video from Ethos3, a company that works on presentations and helping others make better presentations.

Um, no, I don’t think they aim at teachers and educators — it’s a for-profit group, not a charity.

That’s also one of my concerns.  Here’s one of a series of short videos Ethos3 prepared, to help you with your next presentation or, you hope, the woman or man who will be making that presentation you have to watch next Wednesday morning at Rotary Club, or at Scout leader training next Saturday, or kicking off the budget planning exercise next Monday (at 7:00 — coffee provided so don’t be late!):

98 views

Generally, I’d agree.

But what about teachers, who have to slog through 150 specific items for the state test?

Observations:

365 Project - Day 29 - I *hate* Powerpoint

Borrowed caption: “365 Project – Day 29 – I *hate* Powerpoint (Photo credit: mike_zellers)”

  1. Teachers could benefit greatly from learning presentation secrets, and making their in-class presentations much more effective.
  2. No school district in America, public, charter, parochial, or homeschool, will give you time to put together such an effective presentation.
  3. Most teachers get no coaching on presentation effectiveness, and their students lose out.
  4. Just because the administrators won’t cut you slack to do it, doesn’t mean a teacher shouldn’t learn about effective presentation techniques, and use them.

In a world of bad bosses, it’s almost impossible to get a really great principal at a school.  Teachers gotta slog on anyway.

You won’t have the time to do the presentation your students deserve, but you should try, anyway.

Dreaming for a minute:  I wish I could get a team like this to help out with designing a curriculum, figuring out where presentation work, how to give them real punch, and where not to use them at all.

What do you think?  Can you tell your story in just three points?  Can you reduce a lecture to three key points that would be memorable, and that spurs students to learn what they need to learn?

More:


Fight the Nerd Loop – science education and communication for a troubled and troubling world

October 14, 2011

See Hank Roberts’ comment in the post on another repeat of the old DDT/Rachel Carson hoaxes.

Clearly, performing the science and writing the journal articles isn’t getting the messages out that need to be gotten out, not on the continuing destruction of our environment, which leads to the continuing destruction of our climate, nor on health care, nor sex education, nor the destruction of public education in the name of “teacher accountability, nor evolution as the vastly superior and more accurate portrayal of life than creationism, nor the failure of supply-side economics, nor on a number of other issues.

Remember Flock of Dodos?  Andrew Revkin at Dot.Earth, a New York Times blog, interviewed Randy Olson about the Nerd Loop.  Specifically, Olson thinks we need to avoid it.  I like Olson’s use of graphics in this interview.

You should read Olson’s post at his blog, too:  “The Nerd Loop:  Why I’m losing interest in communicating climate change.”

Alas, Olson doesn’t offer us any pixie dust.  Maybe we need to stop waiting for pixie dust, eh?

What do you think?


Twitter for the secondary social studies class, and teacher

November 1, 2010

Some teachers desperately work to make sure that education doesn’t completely miss the computer, internet and telecommunications revolution, the way it missed the television revolution.

Twitter?  Sure it’s annoying — if you know it only as a tool for egotistical twenty-somethings to brag about binge drinking.

Can it be useful to support learning in the classroom, or for the classroom?

New Century History delivers information on Twitter to you on a platter.  Part 1 discusses the basics of Twitter, and the most common uses including communication that should be very useful to any classroom teacher.  Part 2 pushes the envelope a bit, discussion how to use Twitter in direct support of the classroom, and maybe in the classroom .

Well worth the read, if you have a lot of kids on smart phones, or a lot of kids with internet access at any place during the day.

This is good stuff, really.  I just routed the posts to our entire department.   I’m looking for allies who know how to use technology in the War on Ignorance of History.

More:


Watch my presentation or I’ll shoot this dog . . .

May 20, 2010

National Lampoon once ran a cover of a nice, spotted mutt, tongue out, looking sideways at a pistol pointing at its head.  There was a sort of a caption:  “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”

That’s one way to try to boost circulation!  I first saw the magazine on the rack in a small pharmacy in Colorado Springs, across the street from Colorado College, between rounds of the Colorado College Invitational Debate Tournament.  Being short of cash and in sore need of eye drops, I looked at the magazine but put it back on the rack.  The woman at the cash register watched me carefully.  When I got to the register, she said, “You know, they’ll do it, too!  They’re just the sort of people who will kill that poor dog!”

(I imagine that woman has led Colorado Springs’ dramatic move to the right in politics.)

The publishers got that woman’s attention, didn’t they?

Cartoon by Mark Goetz, on the failure to heed Edward Tufte

Comes an article in The Scientist, “Pimp your PowerPoint.” It’s a news story based on a book by Michael Alley.

In the middle of the 19th century blackboards were all the rage. According to Pennsylvania State University engineering communication professor Michael Alley, it was common for universities and research institutions to proudly advertise that they had the only slate writing board in a 100-mile radius. Scientific lectures became more engaging than they’d ever been.

More than 150 years later, there’s still room for improvement. “People are not anywhere close to tapping the potential that a PowerPoint presentation offers,” Alley says. “We have a tool that can do an incredible amount, and people just waste it.” Who hasn’t been lulled into a somnolent state by some well-intentioned scientist presenting his research to a captive audience by reading a seemingly endless stream of bullet points?

Any media, done well, can be wonderful.  P. Z. Myers’ paean to Prof. Snider and his color chalk artworks reminds us that even a chalkboard can be a place of art, in the eye and hands of someone who gives thought to the work and practices the skills necessary to communicate well.  Looking around my classroom today, I note that better than half the whiteboard space features paper maps held to the board with magnets (which the kids like to steal).

Sometimes a flipchart is all you have, and sometimes a flipchart is all you really need — again, with thought to the ideas to be presented and a bit of polishing of the skills.

The piece in The Scientist relates useful ideas to help somebody who wants to make a better, less sleep-inducing, communicative PowerPoint (or better, maybe, KeyNote) presentation.

Unplug, think, and write
According to Galloway, using PowerPoint to make a great presentation starts with powering down the laptops and writing out an outline on index cards or a legal pad. “People have to shut off their computer and go away as they’re writing their PowerPoint presentation,” he says.

Establish your assertion
Alley says that he starts planning each slide by writing down a single sentence stating the idea he wants the audience to take away. “You have defined what it is you need to support that statement,” he says. “That’s where it starts.” Alley adds that the sentence should only take one or two lines, should consist of only 8–14 words, and should appear in 28-point font when inserted in the final PowerPoint presentation.

Assemble the visual evidence
Let the assertion sentence for each slide guide your decision as to which visuals should accompany it. Use “explanatory images”—not decorative or descriptive images—to support each assertion, says Joanna Garner, assistant professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University. When describing the context or methods of your research, photos and movies are ideal pieces of evidence; when presenting your results, elements like graphs, tables, or charts (appropriately highlighted to emphasize key points) will do the trick.

Read more: Pimp your PowerPoint – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/templates/trackable/display/article1.jsp?type=article&o_url=article/display/57186&id=57186#ixzz0oSXiXCT6

Two things you gotta have first:  Something to say, and a desire to say it well.

Resources:

The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid, by Michael Alley, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2003. $39.95.

Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations, by Garr Reynolds, New Riders Publishing, 2010. $31.49.

slide:ology, by Nancy Duarte, O’Reilly Media, Sebastopol, Calif., 2008. $34.99. (She’s got a blog, too.)

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte, Graphics Press, Cheshire, Conn., 1983. $40.00.


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