Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dumb, Dumbing, Dumbed

Above is a graph from an interesting study on the changing use of language by congressfolk.

...[referring to] the 20 members of Congress with the lowest grade level score for their Congressional record corpus dating back to 1996. Of them, 85% (17 of 20) are Republicans; 65% (13/20) are freshmen, and another 15% (3/20) are sophomores. Additionally, 90% (18/20) are House members. The two Senators to make the bottom 20 are Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), both Tea Party-supported freshmen.

In fairness:

Republicans also outnumber Democrats among the members who speak at the highest grade levels. Among the top 20, 12 are Republicans, 7 are Democrats, and one (Joe Lieberman) is an Independent. And eight of the top ten are Republicans. There are also 14 House members and six Senators. And perhaps most notably, there are only two freshmen and three sophomores. More than half of the members have been in their seat for at least 15 years, which is well above the median of nine years across all members of the 112th Congress.

I'd say what it shows is not entirely clear: are the newly elected teabaggers dumber than average or are they smart enough to realize that the people who elected them are?* Or is it something else? It's a finding that fits nicely with certain preconceptions, but which really can't be explained by the data provided. Nor do the authors of the study try to -- although they do speculate that speeches nowadays are designed for YouTube as opposed to when they were actually intended to persuade colleagues on complex issues. (And, as charts are wont to do, the differences look worse graphically than they are, maybe: it's only a grade level difference. But who knows? It might even be worse than it looks: I'm guessing grade levels aint' what they used to was, either.)

Some might argue that it just reflects an attempt to reach a larger audience, which, in a democracy, is a good thing. I'd offer, though, that it's decidedly NOT a good thing if the best way to reach today's voters is to talk down and avoid using big words.

* I lean toward first-order dumbness. Witness the comments by a freshman teabaggR from Florida with the ironic name of Daniel Webster, regarding defunding the American Community Survey, which the R House voted to do, despite its value on many levels for the past 150 years or more: it's not scientific, he said. It's random. (For any teabaggers reading this: it's precisely the randomness that makes it scientific.) Shows you the profound effects forward to which we can look, as teabaggRs do everything they can to diminish science and ruin public education. People making decisions for us, dumber than a sack of teabags.


me again said...

Since for about two weeks you have had a total of about 5 comments, I thought this Christian pastor's sermon would be of great interest...on gay marriage and the final solution.
Charles Worley, North Carolina pastor, faces backlash, outrage over call for gays to be put behind electric fence

Sid Schwab said...

Thanks for the heads-up, sir or madam. I'm sure you're the sort that found it as objectionable as I did. Ironically, I wrote a post on the subject yesterday, and it's scheduled to appear tomorrow morning. Bate your breath.

I don't blog for comments. Fact is, readership continues to rise. Liberals, it seems, don't have as much need to comment when they agree, the way wingnuts do on their blogs. (Nor, for that matter, do they get their rocks off leaving trollish comments on other's blogs.) Maybe it's because they have better things to do.

But, since you mentioned it, the correct number of comments for the last two weeks is 78, if my additive skills are still more or less intact.

Sid Schwab said...

P.S. The number of comments left is higher than the number published: I have this thing about really stupid, or nasty, or simply insane comments: I reject them. Which, given some of the ones I let through might be surprising. But, really, I get some doozies, and I just can't let the writers embarrass themselves. Just the kind of guy I am. Empathy, it's called.

Sid Schwab said...

agiutk: It's not my intention to engage in dialogue with you. Long since, with hurtful and personal attacks on me and my family, you've made it clear that you no longer have any desire for friendship, and that you'd rather spend your time trolling here and playing stupid games than rekindling what used to be.

For a while I was angry, then sad, then worried about your mental health. Now, I'm just sort of dumbfounded at what you've become.

Since it's apparent that you enjoy being hurtful and even have gotten your friends to join in (remember when I made that certificate for Andy?), I no longer care, and certainly don't miss it. I admit I still worry about you, but that's because I'm a liberal and have non-selective morals based on humanity, as opposed to a book much of which is ignored by its self-described believers every day of their lives.

Turns out I'm more of a Christian than you are. Weird, huh?

I've given up the game of blocking you from reading the blog. Feel free. I know your need to hate is greater than what was once an interest in dialogue, so I know it'll only take you deeper into your darkness. But don't expect to see any comments appear here, nor any more responses, direct or indirect; and I've just about figured out how to have them identified as spam so I won't even have to see them anymore, nor take the time to delete.

Unlike you, I'm sorry it came to this. I don't even like writing this. On the other hand, the nastier you are the more you seem to like it. You obviously relish the idea that you're somehow getting to me. But, trust me, you're not. Repetitive nuttery gets old fast. You've become the inverse of who you once were, and I feel bad for you. Worse for your lovely wife.

I still hope you'll find a way to stop bathing yourself in bilious hate and paranoid fantasy; and that you'll devote your energy toward loving life instead of hating everyone who's not like you. Really. It's not healthy. And, for the record, nearly everything you seem to believe now has been debunked everywhere except among those who, like you, need to hold on with both hands, lest they fall and can't get up. Everything I say here is documented and real. When I editorialize (ie, all the damn time) it's based on demonstrable fact.

End. The window, briefly opened, is now closed. I'm sorry. You're not. Just the way it is.

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