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(NPR)   Members of Congress now have the vocabulary of 10th-graders, down a grade from five years ago, and before that Daniel Patrick Moynihan kept throwing off the curve   (npr.org ) divider line
    More: Dumbass, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, congresses, Dan Lungren, Frank Luntz, Chambers of parliament, Sunlight Foundation, open government, Congressional Record  
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5942 clicks; posted to Politics » on 21 May 2012 at 2:09 PM (4 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-05-21 02:43:12 PM  

TheBeastOfYuccaFlats: meow said the dog: This gives to me such anger. Writing and the excellent vocabulary are the keys to being the excellent leader. It is the skill we all must have to be the civil. servants and for this reason the outrage is here for me. You are welcome.

The days of the great orators in Congress are long, long gone.

Hell, it's difficult to even find a Statesman in Congress anymore. Just cheap, little people.


Yeah I would give your right arm for a Daniel Webster today. All we get from both sides now is screaming if you dont agree with them.
 
2012-05-21 02:43:43 PM  

phalamir: CheekyMonkey: Mr. Coffee Nerves: 10th grade?

Elitists. Primary them all out! The only letters a congressman needs to know are "U" "S" and "A!"

Dont' be an idiot. You can't spell 'Jesus' with those letters.

Why are you spelling some hippie Jew's name?


I can understand why you might think He's a hippie, since He wrote the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper, but don't you dare denigrate the Father of Our Country by calling him a dirty Jew!
 
2012-05-21 02:44:03 PM  
If only there were some way to get rid of these people, say on a biennial or hexennial basis.
 
2012-05-21 02:45:25 PM  

xanadian: Notice how Republicans were leading the pack until the switch (and subsequent plummet) in 2006.

Also, FTFA: "My mother will probably be embarrassed to hear this news," Woodall says, "but I'm glad to know I'm not obfuscating our challenges with words that are too complicated."

This could be another possibility: communicating on a level the average American would more easily understand. And he used the word "obfuscate." This gave me a boner.


That makes me even sadder. No, not your boner, I'm happy for you about that I'm sure.
I'm sad that we have to dumb down important discussions to 10th grade or less for the average American voter, who are adults (18+), and therefore should have completed the compulsory education up to the 12th grade or its equivalent.
 
2012-05-21 02:46:41 PM  

brantgoose: I

Heck, Jethro Beaudine could cypher better than the GOP's "Great Brains Trust".


I didn't spend 7 years of my undergraduate career at Arizona State not to recognize a blatant spelling error from the great unwashed.

Jethro's last name is spelled B-O-D-I-N-E.

Here's a dime. Take it, call your mother, and tell her there is serious doubt about you ever becoming a lawyer.

/I hope your sarcasm meter isn't broken. I keed.
 
2012-05-21 02:47:33 PM  

Cythraul: I wonder how long it'll take their speech to degrade to middle-school texting levels?

i flbustrd bil 2day, lol


Came to make a similar point.
 
2012-05-21 02:48:34 PM  

CheekyMonkey: phalamir: CheekyMonkey: Mr. Coffee Nerves: 10th grade?

Elitists. Primary them all out! The only letters a congressman needs to know are "U" "S" and "A!"

Dont' be an idiot. You can't spell 'Jesus' with those letters.

Why are you spelling some hippie Jew's name?

I can understand why you might think He's a hippie, since He wrote the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper, but don't you dare denigrate the Father of Our Country by calling him a dirty Jew!


Are you saying I got Jew blood in me, boy?
 
2012-05-21 02:50:05 PM  
I had a chance to visit Moynihan's office and meet with his staffers when I was in high school. He was an impressive guy. Too bad we don't have many statesmen like him anymore.
 
2012-05-21 02:50:24 PM  

phalamir: brantgoose: I'm not blaming Subby. The article does say "tenth". But tenth grade in 2012 is not tenth grade in 1960 or 1940.

Considering the teahadist and herpy-derpy AZ folks would have passed through your 1940s and 1960s 10th grade based on rough age demographics, you really want to be holding mid-century 10th grades as paragons of erudition? "Back in my day, we got a real education" begs "Then why are you a flaming moron?" and "Back in your day, you also lynched black men and gays."


The present isn't much better. We're now shooting black kids for wearing hoodies, and dragging gays behind pickup trucks...
 
2012-05-21 02:51:29 PM  
This "report card" on Congress doesn't matter much to me since these same algorithms are applied to Obama's speeches, and he's gotten an average of an 8th grade level. It makes me wonder if the F-K approach is even cromulent.
 
2012-05-21 02:52:48 PM  
Can you imagine what the Declaration of Independence would sound like if written today?
 
2012-05-21 03:00:03 PM  

Duke Phillips' Singing Bears: This says more about us than it does about them. They give us exactly what we want, and what we want is very, very stupid.


I concur. When the people of this country can name the last 10 "American Idol," "Dancing with the Stars," or "Survior" winners but can't even name 1 member of the Supreme Court of the United States or even their local representative to Congress, what do you expect?

And when you don't care to know the difference between "their" and "there," "its" and "it's," and "your" and "you're" why would you care about what goes on in your local, state, or country's government? Or even try to comprehend it?


Yes, I should have written out the numbers and I might have misplaced a few commas but you know what I mean. :P
 
2012-05-21 03:02:10 PM  

special20: This "report card" on Congress doesn't matter much to me since these same algorithms are applied to Obama's speeches, and he's gotten an average of an 8th grade level. It makes me wonder if the F-K approach is even cromulent.


The grading doesn't inherently mean much of anything. You can make your point accurately and clearly without using syllable-heavy phrases or particularly complex phrases. Just because you CAN use big words doesn't mean there's any value in actually doing so.

The problem is the precipitous drop. Many of us have been speculating for some time now that the teabaggers are less intelligent, less educated or simply less willing to participate in honest and intelligent ways than a large body of their colleagues and this is just another bit of evidence that suggests our fears may be founded.

I'm much less concerned with the fact that Congress is getting simpler in its speech and much more concerned that it appears the reason for that is that the people who are least honest and least willing to cooperate may be doing it on purpose to appeal more broadly.

It's real cute to say that the "salt of the earth" types should have every opportunity to participate and be heard, and they should, but they should be required to step up closer to everyone else's level, we shouldn't be dragging ourselves down to meet them. Their concerns need to be represented. They should not, however, be representative.
 
2012-05-21 03:02:49 PM  

WalMartian: Can you imagine what the Declaration of Independence would sound like if written today?

"Every now and then, you just gotta break it off with your former homies, and now's one of those times. We're talking about the King here, who's done hella nasty to us, and we ain't really in the mood to take it anymore. So screw him, we got our own place now, so y'all just leave us the hell alone. Out."

 
2012-05-21 03:06:04 PM  

sparty: There's always the Guam tipping over thing too. ..

/Why yes, of course he was re-elected.


WOW! I have seen NBA/NFL players wax more eloquently than that! And his mom probably worked four jobs to put him through college too!
 
2012-05-21 03:07:02 PM  

CheekyMonkey: phalamir: brantgoose: I'm not blaming Subby. The article does say "tenth". But tenth grade in 2012 is not tenth grade in 1960 or 1940.

Considering the teahadist and herpy-derpy AZ folks would have passed through your 1940s and 1960s 10th grade based on rough age demographics, you really want to be holding mid-century 10th grades as paragons of erudition? "Back in my day, we got a real education" begs "Then why are you a flaming moron?" and "Back in your day, you also lynched black men and gays."

The present isn't much better. We're now shooting black kids for wearing hoodies, and dragging gays behind pickup trucks...


Yeah, but at least we generally think of it as bad, as opposed to '" Hey, Sheriff Jones, let's go eat a picnic under a Negro we just hung and set on fire." at least we think of these things as crimes, and not social events.
 
2012-05-21 03:07:20 PM  

buckler: WalMartian: Can you imagine what the Declaration of Independence would sound like if written today?

"Every now and then, you just gotta break it off with your former homies, and now's one of those times. We're talking about the King here, who's done hella nasty to us, and we ain't really in the mood to take it anymore. So screw him, we got our own place now, so y'all just leave us the hell alone. Out."


Fo' shizzle.
 
2012-05-21 03:14:30 PM  

RexTalionis: "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use."
-Ernest Hemingway


I think this one is more appropriate:
"Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
-Mark Twain
 
2012-05-21 03:16:11 PM  

Splinshints: special20: This "report card" on Congress doesn't matter much to me since these same algorithms are applied to Obama's speeches, and he's gotten an average of an 8th grade level. It makes me wonder if the F-K approach is even cromulent.

The grading doesn't inherently mean much of anything. [spurious correlations]


It's well known that since Reagan got elected that the Republican intellect has notably declined in such shenanigans as Nancy's "just say no", and Papa Bush's "read my lips; no new taxes", and of course, in general Newt Gingrich, Santorum, and many other "family values" idiots that have fallen off the short bus and into politics. The F-K application is just misguided metrics, and are fairly meaningless to gauge intellect.

I'd rather see Congress take a test like the ASVAB. In fact, it would be extremely useful to create a test that all candidates must pass in order to even run for Congress. That, and give them the rigorous background check that the Government uses for top secret clearance roles.
 
2012-05-21 03:20:39 PM  

buckler: WalMartian: Can you imagine what the Declaration of Independence would sound like if written today?

"Every now and then, you just gotta break it off with your former homies, and now's one of those times. We're talking about the King here, who's done hella nasty to us, and we ain't really in the mood to take it anymore. So screw him, we got our own place now, so y'all just leave us the hell alone. Out."


"A sh**load of time ago, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and a bunch of other guys founded America on the belief that government should just stay the hell out of my life because we're a Christian nation, dammit!

Now, after a big ol' asswhipping we gave the South, we demand that they apologize for black people. But, right here, we dedicate a memorial to the asswhipping, because a good Christian always forgives.

But, we can't just plop a cross and call it good. We must stay the course. The rest of the world is too pussy or backwards to remember what we did, and we must remind them of it constantly! We can not falter in our pursuit of delivering another asswhipping. Only then can we remember that we are Americans, and cannot be destroyed over something as trivial as black people. Thank you, and may God bless America."

~Abraham Lincoln
 
2012-05-21 03:22:24 PM  
Two guys in the bottom ten from Wisconsin? A little effort next time guys, we're not Iowa.
 
2012-05-21 03:25:06 PM  

HellRaisingHoosier: Both basic and eloquent speech have their advantages and disadvantages. I like speaking and conversing with someone who is well-read and intelligent. But some of the time you don't need fanciness ... you just need information quickly and easily.


Are we thinking of the same Congress here?
 
2012-05-21 03:26:11 PM  
SplinshintsIt's real cute to say that the "salt of the earth" types should have every opportunity to participate and be heard, and they should, but they should be required to step up closer to everyone else's level, we shouldn't be dragging ourselves down to meet them. Their concerns need to be represented. They should not, however, be representative.

I agree. The problem is even simple, everyday words are starting to be beyond the comprehension of some people. It seems the whole "get the meaning of the word by context and topic of conversation" aka "inference" has fallen by the wayside. And along with it deductive reasoning and thinking for yourself.
 
2012-05-21 03:27:32 PM  

bdub77: meow said the dog: This gives to me such anger. Writing and the excellent vocabulary are the keys to being the excellent leader. It is the skill we all must have to be the civil. servants and for this reason the outrage is here for me. You are welcome.

Think, what was said by you is right. Its striven to us to be our ancestral likeness, our for fathers, which used bigger word and grammar in its proper form's. It is worrying to I that our education is bad; We must question thing's that seem wrong and it is to be justified in this for job creation.

In conclusion, lower taxes is all.


Hey, look everyone! Borat found a friend.

That's so sweet. :)
 
2012-05-21 03:28:14 PM  
FTFA: For example, just one sentence from the member of Congress with the highest grade ranking, Rep. Dan Lungren, a Republican from California, goes on for 62 words. (That sentence: "This Justice Department, in my judgment, based on the experience I've had here in this Congress, 18 years, my years as the chief legal officer of the state of California and 35 or 40 years as a practicing attorney tells me that this administration has fundamentally failed in its obligation to attempt to faithfully carry out the laws of the United States.")

It's even worse than they think, as the scoring method is flawed. Lungren gets good marks because of the number of words he uses. If you take out all the (gramattically incorrect) frippery, he could have expressed himself more succinctly (but less derptastically) in 24 words. I assume this may have resulted in a lower score.
 
2012-05-21 03:28:44 PM  
Most members of Congress have never impressed me as being particularly smart, so I'm only surprised the grade level isn't lower, like 6th grade.
 
2012-05-21 03:30:31 PM  
It's more important to use the right word than a big word.
 
2012-05-21 03:39:56 PM  
thatsmycongress.com

"He was executed for WWB"

and the classic

"My, my fear is that ah, the whole island (Guam) will become so overly populated that it would tip over, and ah, capsize."
 
2012-05-21 03:40:58 PM  
LCD folk choose & get LCD reps
 
2012-05-21 03:44:36 PM  
From the article:

"Flesch-Kincaid equates higher grade levels with longer sentences and words with more syllables."

Since when do we correlate wordiness with intelligence?
 
2012-05-21 03:51:14 PM  
Bottom 10 Name Grade
Rep. Mick Mulvaney R-S.C. | Freshman 7.9
Rep. Rob Woodall R-Ga. | Freshman 8.0
Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky. | Freshman 8.0
Rep. Sean Duffy R-Wis. | Freshman 8.1
Rep. Tim Griffin R-Ark. | Freshman 8.1
Rep. W. Todd Akin R-Mo. 8.1
Rep. Vicky Hartzler R-Mo. | Freshman 8.4
Rep. Tom Graves R-Ga. 8.6
Rep. David Schweikert R-Ariz. | Freshman 8.6
Sen. Ron Johnson R-Wis. | Freshman 8.6


To be fair to RAND PAUL,

Atlas Shrugged: 7.3
The Fountainhead: 6.0
Anthem: 5.4
 
2012-05-21 03:54:35 PM  

CheekyMonkey: The present isn't much better. We're now shooting black kids for wearing hoodies, and dragging gays behind pickup trucks...


We are? I've never done that. I don't even know anyone that's done that.
 
2012-05-21 03:56:25 PM  
You needn't be especially literate in order to screw the American public.

/Which says a lot about the "representatives" and the people who voted for them.
 
2012-05-21 03:57:28 PM  
I dun lik wen ma congrresser is so smert, mak me fel smrtr meself.
 
2012-05-21 04:02:00 PM  
DNRTFA - Do the HAVE the vocabularies of 10th graders, or do they USE the vocabularies of 10th graders?

They have to speak to their constituencies, after all. And I'm sure that plenty of those people would struggle to reach the vocabulary of a 10th grader.
 
2012-05-21 04:03:13 PM  

jackandwater: I agree. The problem is even simple, everyday words are starting to be beyond the comprehension of some people. It seems the whole "get the meaning of the word by context and topic of conversation" aka "inference" has fallen by the wayside. And along with it deductive reasoning and thinking for yourself.


You can blame the schools for that. Or, more specifically, you can blame the toxic stew of parents and lawmakers who have conspired to turn them into little more than assembly lines for future college degrees.

When you insist that everything has to be boiled down to a series of simplistic multiple choice test results that look good in campaign commercials and college transcripts, you lose the ability to teach in a manner that enables a child to learn on his own. When you just cram kids full of facts they become easily befuddled by even simple problems because they have no context for problem solving.

This country is getting exactly what it has asked for the last decade or two. Legions of drooling dolts who are extremely good at doing one very specific thing they trained for and completely lost and helpless the instant anything new or unexpected comes up. It shows in business, it shows in education, and it shows in government.

We're creating generations of easily amused and manipulated proles and nobody really seems to care.
 
2012-05-21 04:07:32 PM  

TyrannyOfThe3Squares: FTFA: For example, just one sentence from the member of Congress with the highest grade ranking, Rep. Dan Lungren, a Republican from California, goes on for 62 words. (That sentence: "This Justice Department, in my judgment, based on the experience I've had here in this Congress, 18 years, my years as the chief legal officer of the state of California and 35 or 40 years as a practicing attorney tells me that this administration has fundamentally failed in its obligation to attempt to faithfully carry out the laws of the United States.")

It's even worse than they think, as the scoring method is flawed. Lungren gets good marks because of the number of words he uses. If you take out all the (gramattically incorrect) frippery, he could have expressed himself more succinctly (but less derptastically) in 24 words. I assume this may have resulted in a lower score.


Hard to say. The article says that they took the entire Congressional Record from '96 until now, so while that's a particularly bad example the averages might be more representative.

That's too much data to comb through manually, and off the top of my head I'm not sure there's a better way to systematically analyze that. Counting words and syllables isn't too hard, but once you get into the semantic of language...
 
2012-05-21 04:09:05 PM  
Did they control for the grade level of the intended audience?
 
2012-05-21 04:13:27 PM  
Their corporate masters need dumbed down polititicians in their pockets, less messy scrutiny that way.
 
2012-05-21 04:16:10 PM  
"Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule."
-Stephen King

/That's not meant to say I don't think the members of Congress are idiots
//Because I do think many are
 
2012-05-21 04:50:56 PM  
The Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level score for this thread: 4:37
The Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level score for the article: 6.48

Useless analysis is useless.
 
2012-05-21 04:57:10 PM  

Soymilk: xanadian: Notice how Republicans were leading the pack until the switch (and subsequent plummet) in 2006.

Also, FTFA: "My mother will probably be embarrassed to hear this news," Woodall says, "but I'm glad to know I'm not obfuscating our challenges with words that are too complicated."

This could be another possibility: communicating on a level the average American would more easily understand. And he used the word "obfuscate." This gave me a boner.

That makes me even sadder. No, not your boner, I'm happy for you about that I'm sure.
I'm sad that we have to dumb down important discussions to 10th grade or less for the average American voter, who are adults (18+), and therefore should have completed the compulsory education up to the 12th grade or its equivalent.


Well, I guess we elect those we can most readily relate to. Or, put in another way: "We have met the enemy, and it is us."

/probably paraphrased
 
2012-05-21 05:00:20 PM  

ZoeNekros: Useless analysis is useless.


Indeed. They're making way too much of a highly tenuous, contrived tie to "grade levels", which carries with it the baggage of mis-ascribed intelligence levels. It's a formula based on word and syllable count and constants. It might be useful, but it doesn't tell anything like the whole story, and political attacks twist it even more.
 
2012-05-21 05:10:22 PM  
A somewhat Jacksonian pandering in the `punditry' of the pols. Floor speeches penned by lobbyists - oh, yes. Labels stitched to chests and beaten vigorously with little regard for the consequences accruing to those who imbibe to deeply of the ingredients, and even less worry for those who are blindsided by those so intoxicated.

It ain't Bill Buckley vs. Dan Patrick Moynihan engaged in cerebral sumo on Firing Line.

/still, on occasion, simple is best
//http://www.c-spanvideo.org/appearance/598060665 (bet Levin can spell it, too...)
 
2012-05-21 05:18:21 PM  
Can you imagine what the Declaration of Independence would sound like if written today?

F*%k You, England ! USA ! USA !
 
2012-05-21 07:23:44 PM  
tl;dr
 
2012-05-21 07:37:57 PM  
The article was written at an 8.2 level.

Oh noes.
 
2012-05-21 07:44:38 PM  
ISTR that Guam Guy was fighting Hep C at the time. Messed with his brain pan, possibly. Should have gotten the heck out of Congress, of course.
 
2012-05-21 07:55:30 PM  
I loved this story.
 
2012-05-21 08:00:30 PM  
P.S. And:

Religion is massage for the masses. You can see the dumbing down of America through hateful, limiting speech in Congress. You can see the intransigence, and you can hear it too. The question we must ask ourselves is whether this language, or lack thereof, signifies as much...

That is question.
 
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