Thursday, October 28, 2010

Admiral's freudian slip, or just a poor choice of words?

The more our leaders attempt to accomplish, the more mistakes (like every mortal) they are bound to make.

M.E. intends no disrespect toward Adm. Donnelly in bringing his recent, unmemorable quotation to your attention. There are 21 women in the first crop of submarine officers.

“From what I’ve seen of these women they’re very above average.” - Adm. John Donnelly, Submarine Force commander, Navy picks first 4 subs to get female officers, NavyTimes, Oct 24, 2010.

Consider the problems with such a description. Of all the possible interpretations, we would assume logically that the admiral would be comparing the 21 women only to the pool of all naval junior officers from which the females have been recently selected. How undiplomatic, you say?

Perhaps the admiral intended only a comparison to recently commissioned female officers, then.

Not very diplomatic, either, is it.

What pools remain to possibly comprise the average to which the admiral referred?
a) recent submarine volunteers of either gender: - This hardly works; if the women are very above average, everyone knows from Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon (where the children are above average) that unless some are also below average, the admiral refers only to a comedic myth. Again, still a fairly tactless remark.
b) recent male officer submarine volunteers: - Well, this would certainly not be a great omen for male officers, would it?
c) all submarine volunteers to date: - Undoubedly this would be the safest explanation for an admiral, or would it really? This one would be very poor, for it carries NEGATIVE implications for future recruiting success.
The admiral can amplify his throw-away description no further without slighting one or more of the named groups. All are left to assume that his description was merely a gratuitous effort toward heading off criticisms of the 21 later.
Submarines are always silent and strange.



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