A Working Community – Ellen Goodman

Goodman quotes from her dictionary that geographically a community is defined as a “body of people who live in one place” and that in the past we “were members of precincts or parishes or school districts.”

Perhaps if people in the past were asked what “a community” was to them, this would be the definition they would give. Over the years however, people have been increasingly spending more time in their place of employment rather than in their home.

Goodman points out that in today’s societies many of us only use the community in which we live – our home – in order to sleep. Communities are becoming more a group of people who get to know each other and interact regularly. They gather around a concept or common goal or interest. Rather than belonging to a community in which we live, we increasingly create “a sense of belonging” in the workplace – within the community in which we find ourselves most of the time.
2.  Goodman also points out that not only has our “sense of community … moved from office house to office building” but that “the labels we wear connect us with the members” and that “we assume we have something in common” with them. In modern society this notion of assigning labels to oneself and others is becoming more evident.
People do this because they want to feel a sense of belonging, a sense that they have things in common with others. A problem not mentioned in Goodman’s article however, is that not only do we assign labels in the workplace, but we tend to describe most people by assigning labels. These labels most often contain assumptions, which in turn become stereotypes
3. According to Goodman, in the same way that we have “replaced our neighborhoods with the workplace,” we have replaced our “ethnic identity with professional identity.”
She goes on to state that the most obvious “realignment of community” is in the “mobile professions.” In today’s society many professionals are required to move from city to city in order to fulfill their work. They are able to “put roots down in their profession” rather than in their place of residence (residential community). This intensifies the shift from home communities to workplace communities and the sense of identifying oneself in terms of profession rather than self.
4. Goodman begins her article by providing a few scenarios of people she knows and how they belong to different communities. Most readers would be able to associate with somebody or some community, so by doing this she is setting the scene for her readers; she is appealing to their sense of belonging from the onset and involving them emotionally from the beginning.
In fact, she continues to do this throughout the article, especially by using the first person plural pronoun “we”. She does however, attempt to rationally appeal to her readers by presenting many scenarios and examples to support her arguments but she provides no real facts or figures in support.
Her examples need to be extended to give real examples rather than continually referring to issues in general terms. She makes reference to researchers asking Americans what they like best about work but again only in general terms; she doesn’t provide any real evidence of what Americans say.
Ethically, she appears to be knowledgeable and reasonable and she certainly tries to establish common ground with her readers but she falls short in not providing any consideration of opposing views.
5.  “Bi-cultural collision” as discussed by Nhu in “Becoming American in a Constant Cultural Collision” is similar to a “loss of community,” in that they both refer to a movement of people – a realignment from one “sense of belonging” to another.

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