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The dumbing of American political speech has truly apocalyptic implications

NPR reported it this morning, and I listened with rapt attention during my commute to work:

It turns out that the sophistication of congressional speech-making is on the decline, according to the open government group the Sunlight Foundation. Since 2005, the average grade level at which members of Congress speak has fallen by almost a full grade…The Sunlight Foundation took the entire Congressional Record dating back to the 1990s and plugged it into a searchable database. Lee Drutman, a political scientist at Sunlight, took all those speeches and ran them through an algorithm to determine the grade level of congressional discourse. “We just kind of did it for fun, and I was kind of shocked when I plotted that data and I saw that, oh my God, there’s been a real drop-off in the last several years,” he says. In 2005, Congress spoke at an 11.5 grade level on the Flesch-Kincaid scale. Now, it’s 10.6. In other words, Congress dropped from talking like juniors to talking like sophomores. Flesch-Kinkaid equates higher grade levels with longer sentences and words with more syllables.

— Tamara Keith, “Sophomoric? Members of Congress Talk Like 10th Graders, Analysis Shows,” NPR, May 21, 2012

This is of course right in line with the general trend of America’s linguistic devolution and infantilization that has been underway for several decades now. A few years ago I published a post here about its specifically literary manifestation. If you’ll pardon me the indulgence of quoting myself (since there’s crossover interest with today’s NPR story):

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Recommended Reading 8

This week’s link list is slightly shorter than usual, because my time and energy have been dominated for the past few days by the task of writing three essays for ABC-CLIO’s “Enduring Questions” academic reference database, in the enticingly titled category, “World Religions: Belief, Culture, and Controversy.” But there’s still plenty of worthwhile reading here, covering the categories of apocalyptic fears, the possibility (probability?) of a US military strike on Iran, the Wall Street-White House-Capitol Hill nexus of corruption, the rise of the American prison-industrial complex, the fate of paper books and speculative fiction genres in the era of the e-book, the influence of the I Ching on renowned Western intellectuals and artists, the role of Christianity in helping to launch Western science by shaping its philosophical foundations, a possible paradigm shift that’s in the offing for the theory of evolution, and the absolutely fascinating story of a man whose head injury from a mugging has resulted in his becoming a mathematical genius who sees mental image of mathematical diagrams and is apparently the only person in the world with the ability to draw fractals by hand.

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Silently Witnessing World War III

This morning, not long after sitting for 20 minutes or so of meditation, while I was drinking my coffee and checking my news feeds, I came across a headline announcing “US gives Iran ‘last chance’ warning over shutting down nuclear facility.” Right after that I saw a separate one announcing that “Russia Is Massing Troops on Iran’s Northern Border and Waiting for a Western Attack.” Naturally, this worked in tandem with the coffee to wake me up. Read the rest of this entry