A little thought for thought

While batching up some photos I like to surf my favourite news and commentary sites. Tonight I stumbled across a piece on AlterNet.org by Chris Hedges of TruthDig. Here’s an excerpt:

“The Princeton Review analyzed the transcripts of the Gore-Bush debates, the Clinton-Bush-Perot debates of 1992, the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960 and the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. It reviewed these transcripts using a standard vocabulary test that indicates the minimum educational standard needed for a reader to grasp the text. During the 2000 debates George W. Bush spoke at a sixth-grade level (6.7) and Al Gore at a seventh-grade level (7.6). In the 1992 debates Bill Clinton spoke at a seventh-grade level (7.6), while George H.W. Bush spoke at a sixth-grade level (6.8), as did H. Ross Perot (6.3). In the debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon the candidates spoke in language used by 10th-graders. In the debates of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas the scores were respectively 11.2 and 12.0. In short, today’s political rhetoric is designed to be comprehensible to a 10-year-old child or an adult with a sixth-grade reading level.”

Amazing. I remember when I was editor of the high school newspaper, I was supposed to check all articles to make sure none were too complicated. At the time the policy was to put out a paper that had a literary “skill level” of tenth grade. Too low and it would look like a tabloid, and too high and most of the students would throw it away. So I see why the campaigns dumb down their material over time.

But that doesn’t excuse people from demanding better. I assume I’m not the only person who feels like smacking the smirk off George W. every time he opens his mouth. He talks down to his audience, and he uses “See Spot Run” words as if he’s talking to preschoolers. If your own president doesn’t treat you like an adult, who will?

This is another reason why I really admire Obama’s speeches. He uses advanced sentence structure, strong words, and filled-out concepts. He doesn’t speak down to his listeners. He’s reassuring without being condescending, and he pauses to think before speaking.

I hope the country can take the cue from their new leader and get back on track. Pick up a book! Warm up that brain! Do a crossword puzzle! Let’s put down the credit card and get back to work!

8 thoughts on “A little thought for thought

  • I’m a fan of Obama also. His speeches are so eloquent! It’s a nice change.

  • I assume I’m not the only person who feels like smacking the smirk off George W. every time he opens his mouth.

    I think the voting results kinda prove that you weren’t the only one…:D

    I don’t know if Obama will bring about all the changes I would love to see, but I feel like it’s at least a start. He’s got education as one of his priorities, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I just want to elevate the level of the discussion, no matter what.

    • “I think the voting results kinda prove that you weren’t the only one…:D”

      That’s very true. Pres. Bush was elected twice, but never unanimously.

  • one would hope, but with the Palin 2012 movement, you can see the dumbness creeping back up – you betcha.

    Can she see your window from her house?

  • “He uses advanced sentence structure, strong words, and filled-out concepts.”

    Actually, P-E Obama used advanced sentence structure and strong words to obscure vague concepts. That’s why you’re seeing so many stories discussing how he’s going to govern. He was all about “hope” and “change” but extraordinarily nebulous on “how” and “what”.

    “He pauses to think before speaking.”

    A common trait of someone who isn’t speaking from the heart.

    • Actually, I’ve found that people who are trying to obscure the truth don’t pause much at all. They just rattle on about whatever they think will fill the void, to stop others from replying.

      No candidate has concrete plans for “how” to fix things. Obama is already assembling his team though, and appears to be getting up to speed quite quickly.

      • On lying, I’ll refer you to #6 here:

        http://www.ehow.com/how_2256650_tell-someone-lying.html

        Obama is also big on #1…think how many different ways he described his relationship with Rev. Wright and William Ayers.

        The guy could end up being a great president. But, given that he is the least experienced, least accomplished person elected to he office in our 200+ years, I’d say the odds are seriously against him.

        This will be quite interesting to watch.

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