I caught a an episode of WHYY’s Radio Times on the topic of mentoring. On the whole, Radio Times is generally a good show. My biggest complaint is that host Marty Moss-Coane is often unwilling to challenge guests on claims that are technically true, but deliberately misleading. That wasn’t my issue with today's show, however.
What Makes a Mentor? Who in your life would you be willing to bestow such an honorific title upon? While there are many official mentoring programs that are devoted to helping people in need of guidance, there is also the more unofficial version of a mentor – a person at work, school, or elsewhere that takes someone under their wing and guides them to success. Today on Radio Times, we discuss these special people in our lives that, for one reason or another, feel compelled to enter into a mentor/mentee relationship. We’ll be joined by W. BRAD JOHNSON, professor of psychology at the United States Naval Academy, and by ALYSE NELSON, president and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership.Jesus Christ.
We already have a word for the junior partner in a mentoring relationship. It’s protégé.
If you’re going to replace a perfectly cromulent word, don’t do it with a word that sounds a billion times worse.
This was addressed when a caller asked much the same thing, just with less swearing.
The guests defended their use of mentee, and had two issues with the use of protégé, neither of which I found convincing.
The first was of the etymology of the word. Protégé is derived from the Middle French, protéger, to protect, and their argument was that the mentor is not always, strictly speaking “protecting” the protégé.
The other issue with protégé was that it implies that the mentor is training an apprentice or a successor, and that they will never be equal.
Each of these arguments is rather specious, in my opinion.
It’s silly to be bound by the literal meaning of a word’s antecedents, particularly when they’re so removed in time and space.
As for the second, this strikes me as a distinction without difference. A protégé could equal or surpass his or her mentor, just as an apprentice blacksmith could do the same to his master.
Other than their nails-on-the-chalkboard use of mentee, it was a very good show. They addressed the question, should men mentor women (yes, because in a lot of companies, if men don't mentor women, these women won't get mentored, as there are few women in positions to do so) and they briefly touched on having a good relationship with children, so that they may develop the proper schema to profit from a mentor.