It is a source of deep frustration for me that so often, signs are interpreted wrongly by the neurotypicals – who read meanings into them that simply are not there! And, they get indignant when others, with better knowledge of either grammar or logic (or both), act in accordance with what the sign actually says instead of what they erroneously infer it says.
Let me give you an example: outside of one of the parking lots at my son’s high school, there is a sign:
In one way, this sign is pretty clear: it is a request that only staff members enter the area.
It is not a statement of a rule, nor an order, because it includes the word ‘PLEASE’ – this clearly indicates that this is a request, something that is being asked of me…and therefore within my power to either grant or reject.
Yet, when I drove into the parking lot not with the intent to park there, but simply to drop my son off at the door closest to his locker, two different school employees told him off for my perceived transgression.
The sign never stated that non-staff members are forbidden from even entering, not just parking in the area.
Of course, I am presuming that there ought to be a comma after ‘only’ and before ‘please’. As is, the sign is a sentence fragment which indicates that the staff is in the process of pleasing some exclusive element, but does not define whom the staff are in the process of pleasing, why, or how one can get on the list of those to be pleased by the staff….much less imply any rules about the area in question!
Now, if one were to interpret the sign as meaning ‘only staff members are allowed in the area’, why are students permitted to walk there? And, for that matter, if only staff are permitted there, why would the staff members presume that their vehicles are allowed there as well? It certainly does not state that vehicles owned by staff members are permitted to be driven/parked there.
Really, think about it: it says ‘staff’ – not ‘staff and their vehicles and students who are walking but not getting out of vehicles”.
I am not being silly here – this is something of a serious issue for us, Aspies.
We take a sign – or an instruction – at its literal meaning.
We do not see any ‘implied’ other meaning – yet, we are the ones who get yelled at or laughed at if we truly follow what the sign actually says. That only ads insult to injury…
Let me give you another example, from a math test:
“Write the 3 forms of a quadratic relation that you have learned in this course this far…”
It seems obvious that if you have learned any or all of these 3 forms of quadratic relations before you started this class, they are not eligible to be put down for the answer here. In other words, if you are good at math and already knew them, the only accurate and correct answer is to leave this blank or say ‘none’!
The corollary is that if you are still ignorant of these forms because you are bad at Math and have learned nothing in this class, your answer of leaving this blank or saying ‘nothing’ is also 100% correct: the question does not ask what was taught, or what material was covered, but what you had actually learned. If you had learned nothing, then your answer of ‘nothing’ would indeed be factually correct and deserving of full marks!
Yet, if you, as a student, try to point this out to a teacher, you will not be commended for your accurate interpretation of the question. You will be singled out, put down and even perhaps punished for some trumped up ‘disrespect’ charge…
To an Aspie, this is very, very confusing.
I know – I’ve been there…
November 5, 2013 at 22:28
On the other hand, public schools are being run by totalitarians these days.
Their faculty and staff are being paid by YOUR taxes.
While having reserved parking spots could arguably be considered a reasonable perk for public school workers, it’s quite another matter for them to forbid you to drive through the lot while picking up or dropping off your kid.
Just tell them that you’ll be voting against any further public school funding until they change their attitudes.
November 7, 2013 at 13:37
My son begged me not to make a big deal about it – as he is a student there.
And, I am one of those involved parents…who speaks up about so many things! This one just did not seem big enough deal as it does not involve direct teaching of anything.
November 7, 2013 at 17:17
There’s way more to this than what can be ascribed to any syndrome.
It has to do with the replacement of the authoritarian model of power with the therapeutic model of power – one of the least recognized aspects of the “tyranny of nice” – as part of the progressive encroachment of political correctness.
They did it the way they always sabotage concepts. First, the meaning of “authoritarian” was expanded from someone who orders people around for the sheer pleasure of it to anyone who gives orders in any manner whatsoever. It was lumped all together as “telling people what to do” and people were taught to resent it. Thus the tried-and-true ways of exercising leadership stopped working and were replaced by “asking people to do things.” This went together with all kinds of underhanded, manipulative tricks that are, by rights, beneath the dignity of any real leader.
The basic principle is as simple as it is deceitful: the underling pretends to be doing the boss’ bidding of his own free will, the boss pretends to be helping him do it better, and the underling pretends to be grateful for the help. There is no honesty or dignity in such a relationship.
Of course, the passive-aggressive weasels who excel at this kind of disingenuous posturing have no trouble using such tactics to do exactly what abolishing the authoritarian model was supposed to eradicate: “lording it over you” and rubbing it in your face “just exactly who’s in charge around here.” Only now they can cloak themselves in false virtue and pretend they’re only helping you.
It’s the real natural-born leaders who find such machinations cowardly and distasteful, and therefore aren’t very good at it.
Consequently, all the wrong people are attracted to positions of power, and many of those who really would make good leaders avoid it like the plaque.
In this way a clean, forthright chain of command, which both leaders and subordinates could easily fit into while maintaining respect for themselves and for each other, was replaced by the morally ambivalent “reporting structure” of today, which turns honest people into connivers and thereby sullies and demeans everyone involved.
This is what’s really behind the disconnect between what the sign says, and what the sign means.
I will never forget how surprised and betrayed I felt at the trouble I got into as a young schoolboy, after honestly answering the question “would you like to stay after school to clean the blackboards today?”
I will never forget the visceral revulsion I felt early in my career for a boss who told me “I’m not here to tell you what to do, I’m here to help you be the best employee you can be.”
I guess events like these were intended to condition me to submit to the devious dance of veiled coercion and compliance that we call a “reporting structure,” but the lesson I actually learned was this:
Politically correct organizations run on two-faced chicken shit.
And there is no way to participate without getting it all over you.
November 7, 2013 at 19:28
My younger son had an experience that parallels the one you had with the blackboards. A teacher said something to the effect of “Wouldn’t you like to sit down and be quiet now?” He asked what would happen if he wouldn’t – because it was phrased as a question, not a command, and he was honestly wondering about it.
He got sent down to the office to explain himself…
Luckily, he was clever enough to realize this meant big deal and tried to play dumb, saying he had misheard the teacher because he has a hearing problem (which he does). He’s learned that playing the victim card gets school officials to back off…